Tim Bazemore on "Embracing the Beauty of Life"

Head of School Tim Bazemore’s Commencement Address to the Class of 2021

According to the poet Billy Collins, Vladimir Nabokov always said he knew only two things: one, that life is beautiful, and two, that life is sad. This year confirmed that observation, as life served up both at once. It has been hard not to feel a sense of loss, opportunities missed, memories foregone. 

But today, we set aside sadness, and embrace the beauty of life. It’s a day to be together, to shout out and laugh, to sing and cry with joy.  It’s a day to recognize your good fortune at being alive, together here on this field, in this forest; to recognize the privilege of having gone to this school, with these classmates, guided by these teachers, and loved by these parents and family members. 

We teach you many things at Catlin Gabel, from the language of geometry and the structure of an essay to how to blend colors on canvas and use a band saw. All of these have value.  But above all else, we teach you how to find your voice, what Dr. Cornel West calls “your originality, like a fingerprint.” In every learning experience here, over the years, we have sought to draw you out, to ask what you think, to challenge you to speak up in your own unique way. 

And you have responded, with fierce convictions and passionate beliefs. Your voices push, delight, surprise, and enlighten us. As the world tosses and turns, beset by inequity and division, we need your 81 voices, speaking out, for inclusion, integrity, and kindness. 

Your teachers and parents and classmates have helped you develop your unique voice, your fingerprint. Use it wisely and with humility. And as you wield your independent and proud Catlin Gabel graduate voice, I ask you to remember two things: one, use it to share your gratitude for life, love, and others; and two, know when not to use it, for we learn more by listening than by talking. 

Today, we celebrate your journey so far and what is yet to come, the boundless opportunities that lie ahead, and the choices you will get to make. Congratulations on all you have learned and all that you will come to understand.