Editor’s Note: The following is the text of the closing remarks the author delivered at the commencement ceremony of Mount Carmel School’s Class of 2021.
Thirty years ago, I sat where you’re sitting, having just graduated and ready to go out there and conquer the world. Twenty years ago, I stood here delivering my first commencement speech ever, right as I celebrated my 10-year class reunion and was getting ready to marry my beautiful wife. And about 10 years ago, I stood at that lectern right over there, my first year as president, welcoming you as third graders with the greeting you’ve come to know and love: “Good morning Mount Carmel School…”
And now, in just a few minutes, instead of welcoming you to Mount Carmel School, both you and I will say goodbye to our beloved alma mater. Funny how the time just flies by, right? One day, you’re sitting in class, having a good laugh with dear friends, and the next day, you’re here, shedding tears as you cling to each other, unwilling to let go.
So how do we say goodbye? How can we? To tell you the truth, I have no idea how. But, maybe the how is not as important as the why. And, standing here, before you, I find myself compelled to explain why I, myself, am saying goodbye to Mount Carmel School. Perhaps, in sharing my reasons, you will find reasons that resonate with you.
Many people know why I’m heading up to NMC. But that begs a question: Why leave MCS? I’ve been telling a lot of people a lot of things. It’s my chance to grow professionally. I’ve given so many years to the school that it’s time that I moved on to other things. I feel like I can help NMC in the same way I’ve helped MCS. Those are all true, but they’re not the whole truth. No, in order to get at the whole truth, we need to take a field trip…to the Hundred Acre Wood.
Do any of you know where that is? The Hundred Acre Wood is the fictional home of Winnie the Pooh, created by the author A. A. Milne. It’s a forest where Christopher Robin would retreat to as a child in order to process important lessons about life, and death, and everything in between, with Pooh Bear and all his friends.
Indeed, like with most children’s literature, there is much we can learn from the fictional world of the Hundred Acre Wood. So, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to take us there and share some valuable life lessons as articulated by the colorful characters that live in that magical forest.
Lesson #1 comes from Piglet: “The things that make me different are the things that make me, me.”
What I love about Winnie the Pooh and his friends is that they are such a diverse set of characters that reflect a diverse set of characteristics. You have Pooh Bear, who is a little slow and somewhat naive, but also very thoughtful and very caring, and always very, very hungry. You also have Tigger, who is full of energy and constantly bouncing around, but sometimes is too fast and too careless for his own good, occasionally causing mayhem and accidents. Then there’s Eeyore, who is pessimistic and depressing, but also very compassionate and empathetic to others experiencing sadness or misfortune. And you have many other characters, like Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga, and Kanga’s child, Roo, all of whom remind us that we all come in many shapes and many sizes with many personalities. And, as Piglet notes, what makes us different is also what makes us who we are. In that sense, the Hundred Acre Wood teaches us all the value of diversity and inclusion and how to respect differences.
Lesson #2 comes from Christopher Robin: “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
What a powerful lesson to teach young children. What a powerful lesson for all of us grown-ups to learn ourselves. What I appreciate about the tales and adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood is that no matter what challenges or disasters come their way, Winnie the Pooh and his friends bravely stand strong, and they always cleverly figure a way out of their problems. It can be as simple as helping Eeyore find his missing tail or as scary as facing the much dreaded Heffalump. Whatever it is, they always prove to be braver than they believe, stronger than they seem, and smarter than they think. So can we all.
And, finally, Lesson #3 comes from Eeyore: “After all, one can’t complain. I have my friends.”
The pack pessimist gives us this nugget of wisdom to remind us all that no matter what problems we may face, no matter what struggles we may encounter, as long as we have friends, we can’t complain. That’s probably the most endearing and enduring thing about the Hundred Acre Wood. It really is about this group of friends who always come together to help each other out. Or, as Eeyore so eloquently put it: “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” It does make a difference, all the difference in the world.
Which brings me back to the original question I started with: Why am I leaving Mount Carmel School? Why am I leaving all these friends? Let me tell you why: Because these friends, they leave too.
As great as the Hundred Acre Wood was, there came a time when Christopher Robin grew up and had to leave the forest and his friends. That is true of every single AlumKnight that has graduated from Mount Carmel School, which has been, in a way, our own Hundred Acre Wood. We’ve been here, a diverse group of close friends, helping students learn that they are braver, and stronger, and smarter than they ever realized. And, just as Christopher Robins grew up and left the Hundred Acre Wood, so have many AlumKnights.
And, to be honest with you, I have often felt sad, like Pooh Bear, after he’s been left behind by his good friend, Christopher Robin. Despite all their adventures, despite all they’ve learned together, despite all that they’ve been through together, Christopher still leaves Pooh Bear behind. That hurts. It hurts a lot.
Most AlumKnights say they will stay in touch and will stay connected to us, their friends here, in Mount Carmel’s Hundred Acre Wood. But most don’t. Most just move on with their lives, leaving us—leaving me—behind, forgotten, abandoned. And even when they do come back to visit or when they reconnect, I’ll admit: it’s never the same, and it never will be. And that’s really okay.
So, you ask, why am I leaving Mount Carmel School? Well, it’s because I’m tired of being sadly left behind like Pooh Bear, and excited to move on like Christopher Robin. So should you. So should all of us.
We all need to grow. We all need to chart ahead. We all need to move on. Or, as Pooh Bear put it, “I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I have been.”
When we leave, you and I can take comfort in knowing that, like the Hundred Acre Wood, our alma mater will always be here. And so long as it’s here, we must never forget where we came from, all that we learned here, everyone who has been there for us, and who we are, deep down inside, whether that be an optimistic Tigger, a pessimistic Eeyore, or an inquisitive Pooh Bear. Deep down inside, we are all Knights, and, together, we are Knight Strong.
So, as we say goodbye one last time, remember this final lesson from Pooh Bear: “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
This truly is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Fellow AlumKnights, thank you, congratulations, and goodbye.
Galvin Deleon Guerrero (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Dr. Galvin Deleon Guerrero is president of Mount Carmel School. In a few months, he will be moving to the Northern Marianas College where he will be its new president.