I want to start first on a note of gratitude for all who came here today. For the faculty and staff, parents and grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, friends.
And also a warm welcome to the members of the Board of Trustees.
And a special thank you to my mom and dad for always being there for me and supporting me, to my sisters for the same, and for never, ever failing to remind me of my shortcomings, and to my close friends, without whom I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
And finally, thank you to the Class of 2023. It has been a pleasure to be with you all for the past four years, and I can’t imagine having been through high school with any other group of people.
I hope that today is a day that you all will remember fondly. But I imagine that this ceremony holds a different significance and feeling for each and every one of you. For the parents out there in the audience, sadness that their children will soon leave the nest and start independent lives, but also pride for how far they’ve come—from babies guaranteed to ruin not only your flight, but that of everyone around you, to independent people capable of handling their own lives and pursuing their own dreams.
For the teachers, well, I just hope that you’re not too excited to be sending us off. At least you won’t have to worry about mixing up Aidan Collins and me anymore. But in all seriousness, thank you so much for all that you’ve done for us over the past four years. You are the foundation of what makes this school such a special place, and for that, we all owe you a debt of gratitude.
And I know the graduates are happy to have finally arrived at this moment. And we should be. Because we did it. We completed high school. So please take a moment to give yourselves a round of applause.
I have been a student at Colorado Academy since Pre-K. I have friends today who I met 14 years ago on the old playset of the Pre-K building, just on the other side of campus.
Back then, every year seemed to bring something new and exciting. In Kindergarten, we got a new playset, a new building, and, most importantly, the freedom to walk to the bathroom without an escort. In Sixth Grade, we got to go on our first Interim trips, and some of us even had the privilege of experiencing what it was like to be kicked off those Interims. Freshman year, of course, brought its own surprises with the pandemic and the excitement of doing school from the comfort of your bed. And then a year later, we found ourselves surprised at just how much that fantasy of at-home school sort of sucked.
But if there was one constant throughout those many years, it was always the awe I had for that seemingly ever-distant finish line of graduation. The time when I would be freed from the tyranny of bedtime and chores, or at least that’s what Fourth-Grade Noah imagined.
However, as that date neared closer and closer, that glorified future became more and more uncertain.
I remember as a Pre-Kindergartner occasionally seeing the Seniors walk the grounds of campus and being struck with admiration for these people who towered over me: They seemed like giants back then, so it’s hard to believe that we have now walked in those shoes—although I will concede that being towered over is something I never quite managed to outgrow myself.
You all should be proud of yourselves. The fact that you sit here today is an accomplishment in itself. The countless hours you have spent sitting in class, doing homework, and studying for tests have finally brought you to this moment. So, now that that’s all over, the question of “what next?” looms ahead. Triumph, tragedy. Success, failure. Bliss, misery. A combination? I’m afraid that I don’t plan to stand up here and pretend to have the answers.
I’ll be honest. When it first came to writing this address, I was totally clueless. I had no idea what to write about. My blinking cursor begged the question: What could you, an 18-year-old, possibly have to say to all of those people? So I eventually decided to ask my very wise uncle, as he had given his commencement address all those very many years ago, for some guidance.
And when I asked him what I should talk about today, he responded affectionately and eloquently in eight words: “You don’t know squat; you haven’t done squat.” I was, of course, immediately taken aback by just how thoughtful Uncle Eun had been with that response. But while his words were perhaps not the most inspiring, I think this is what he was trying to say:
Some of us think that we already know our future. Who we want to be, what we want to do, the legacy we want to leave behind. Some of us may even believe that we’ve found our purpose.
But the truth is that none of us is anything more than a blank canvas. The empty canvas is freedom to do whatever you want, it’s the stretching blank landscape of possibility. But it is also terrifying. I know that menacing white stare. The feeling that with one misplaced brushstroke, one mistake, its perfect blankness will be ruined.
As many of you already know, making art is something that I have held dear since my little hands were first able to grasp a pencil, and over all those years of making art, I learned that first and foremost, it is the artist’s duty to defeat the blank canvas and turn it into something alluring—to take the bold step of making that first, uncertain brushstroke and grow it into something with a unique purpose, meaning, and beauty.
The truth is this: You are your own artist, and the hardest part of creating your masterpiece, your magnum opus, yourself, is just ahead of you. That daunting first stroke of the brush.
So here is my advice: Take that brush and make something with it. A line, a swirl, a dash, anything. The important thing is this: Don’t let your canvas stay empty. You are the master of your own destiny, and if there’s anything I have learned from being your classmate over the past four, ten, fourteen years, it’s that you all are going to make something beautiful.
Thank you. And congratulations to the CA Class of 2023!