By Winslow Jeffery
Hello, Class of 2020! I would just like to start this off with a huge thank you to Mr. Haney, and to all of the staff and students and parents who have made this week truly special.
Thank you to Tasha Higgins, your sandwiches are unmatched and deliciously nostalgic; and to Hatsana, whose kindness and noodles will go down in MDI history; to Udder Heaven for your delectable ice cream and endless fun milking the wooden cow out front; and finally to Pirate’s Cove, mini golf is a true gentleman’s sport. May your greens be forever perfectly trimmed.
My name is Winslow Jeffery, and I would like to thank you for choosing me to speak to you today. Though I would give anything to be looking out over your beautiful faces as I give this speech, it’s still an immeasurable honor to be chosen by you to speak on such a huge day.
So, here we are. I know, I know, this moment is anticlimactic for all of us. I also happen to know that you are all tired of hearing “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey, man”. But I’m gonna pound that into your ears just one more time, because the way I see it, today isn’t just about our futures, it’s about our pasts aswell.The future looks pretty great. Maybe getting out of this quarantine one day, getting off this rock, getting to see the world… given the situation right now, it seems like we can only really go up from here. Right now, the world is at our fingertips, but no way did we get here alone.
I was born in the Bar Harbor Hospital, just a few thousand feet from the house I’ve lived in my entire life. When I think back on my childhood, on what inspired me and created the dude speaking to you today, I realize that the Island wasn’t just a backdrop, it wasn’t just a setting. It raised me as much as anything. From exploring the endless forests and rocky coasts to playing in the streets on hot summer days, this island has taught me so much of what I know, from my love for being in nature to my fascination in the people around me. This island has a spirit, and I know that each of you have felt it, if you were raised here or if you’ve only just moved here. I’ve met tourists who have felt it. And yet, I take it all for granted; all I can think about is the future, what’s next, where I’m going. I’d have none of it if it weren’t for the launchpad that is MDI.
And, of course, we can’t forget the fabulous families who raised us. Now, of all times, I bet that some of you guys are ready to be as far away from your family as possible. Being stuck inside for months with anyone is absolutely a recipe for disaster. However, we are so lucky to have these amazing people standing behind us every step of the way. Our parents have helped us up from our hardest falls, and, as much as we might hate to admit it, we’ll be falling back on them for years to come. Sorry parents, you’renot off the hook yet.
I’m 18 now, so I officially have the authority to give you all some advice. And here’s my first piece: never forget where you came from. For me, that doesn’t just mean MDI. That means the community; the friends, the teachers, and the family that raised me, and the experiences that I’ve had with them. Because no matter how good or bad these experiences are, they define who you are today, and they will define who you are forever. I know, we’re going off to do beautiful things and see beautiful places that we’ve only ever dreamed of, and, for a while, don’t look back. Months, years, however long you need to be immersed in the massive world out there. But when you do get around to looking back, I encourage you to remember everything about these times that made you who you are today.
I mean, these are crazy, unforgettable times. In uncertain times like this, it can be really easy to focus on the tension and fear and hatred. My second piece of advice is to not let it all consume you. In times like this, we must understand the horrors of this world right now, but we must also be able to see and support the love and the strength of those fighting for what they believe in all over the world. Being born in the early 2000s, our lives have been full of change. We’ve seen wars begin and end in faraway lands; we’ve seen the first ever black president; we’ve stood for our society’s futures in climate change and Black Lives Matter protests. In many ways, it seems like we’ve already lived long lives, and we still have so much ahead of us. As Gloria Gaynor one said, “I’ve got all my life to live, I’ve got all my love to give”. We cannot forget to give our love every step of the way.
In a similar vein, my third piece of advice is to form your own opinions. It can be so hard to pick out the truth these days, but finding unbiased facts and creating from them an original opinion is the mostpowerful thing a person can do. Then, stand for what you believe. You are all absolute geniuses in your own ways, and your voice deserves to be heard. However, be open-minded. Listen to others, even those you do not respect, and at least try to understand where they are coming from.
My fourth and final piece of advice is to make some art. Man, the emotions flying around right now, be it from lost jobs, or protests, or being trapped in your homes; they’re strong, and they’re confusing, but we cannot suppress them. Art is the best way to work through your emotions and better understand them. It doesn’t matter what kind of art you make, and it absolutely does not have to be good. Just let yourself go for a while, hold the brush or the guitar or the whisk or the pen – anything – and just create. Make it for yourself; you don’t even have to show anybody! These really are times that the world will want to remember for centuries; who knows, maybe you’ll make a masterpiece and become incredibly famous in a few hundred years. But these emotions deserve your utmost attention. If we cannot understand our own emotions, we cannot hope to change the world.
All right, you’re probably all fast asleep by now, but I have just one last thing to say, and this one’s important. This is a quote from Da Mayor: “Do the right thing”. I believe in all of you. You got this. Know your truths, love yourselves. Kids, trust your parents, and parents, trust your kids. Hang in there, because we will see the other side of this one day, we just have to keep fighting. Thank you so much, MDI! I love you all, and I will see you all soon.