2020 Commencement Remarks – Student Speaker Jack Bay and Valedictorian Benjamin Hollander-Bodie

The Class of 2020 valedictorian, Benjamin Hollander-Bodie `20, and the student-elected student speaker, Jack Bay `20, both gave engaging remarks at a special, socially-distanced Commencement ceremony on June 14, 2020. They spoke of these unusual times, and how their classmates persevered and will continue to create a positive impact on the world. Enjoy their remarks – both in written and video form below.

Below is a video of both of their remarks.

Photo by Tim Parker

Here are remarks from Jack Bay `20, student speaker:

Hello everybody and everybody’s parents. First of all, I’d like to say thank you for choosing me to speak at our graduation. I’m honored that I was elected to represent the Class of 2020. Now, when I was writing this speech – which, for the record, is not something that I know how to do – naturally I didn’t really know what I wanted to say. 

There were two things that came to mind, however, that I knew I didn’t want to dwell on – first of all, offering generic congratulations, of which each one of you will receive plenty in coming days, and you don’t need to hear it from me. The second was the fact that we didn’t get to experience the end of our last year of high school. It’s extremely unfortunate, and absolutely not fair that we were cheated out of what should have been an amazing experience, but all of you already know that and frankly, I don’t want to be a bummer. 

So I think I’ll talk a little bit about what I’ve learned since August 2016, when we began high school. You may ask yourself if I’m qualified to share life advice with people my own age who’ve experienced the same things as myself. And the answer to that is, I don’t know, but I’m going to do it anyway. The first thing is that if there’s something you want, you can get it if you work hard enough. I know it sounds simple, but it was crazy to me when I realized that I can just do the things that I want to do if I work at it. You don’t always have to just aspire for things, you can actually get them. Like I said, I know it sounds simple but it was kind of a big deal for me when I realized this. 

The second thing I learned is that sleep is a luxury. If you receive a healthy amount of sleep on a regular basis, you’re either doing something very wrong or very right. Third, I learned the value of independent thinking. It’s crucial for us to possess the ability to formulate original ideas and distinguish between what is correct and what is not. I believe the science channel offers great advice when they say “question everything”, but there are many people who do not do that. So next time you start a sentence with “I was today years old when I learned…”, make sure that what you learned is actually true. News is not an acronym that stands for “notable events, weather, and sports”. 

Finally, I learned that it’s ok to be yourself. Everyone is their own independent person, and everyone should like what they like and believe what they believe. If you have to change yourself in order for someone else to respect you, then you shouldn’t concern yourself with that person’s opinion. Find people who like you for who you really are. 

The last thing I’d like to say is that all of us have been presented with an amazing opportunity in the form of a great education, and I’m confident that many of us will take full advantage of it. I think that big things will come from this class. We have unimaginable potential, and I’m sure that many of us will go far. This is not the last you’ll hear from the Class of 2020. Thank you.

Photo by Tim Parker

Below are remarks from Benjamim Hollander-Bodie `20, valedictorian:

I want to begin by thanking all those who have made it possible for me to give this speech – my parents, brothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins; and my teachers, administrators, staff, and classmates here at MICDS.

I’m sure most of you have heard at least one remark about not knowing what day of the week it is due to quarantine. The good thing is that today, at least, we know what day it is. It’s graduation day, and also a Sunday.

But with so much of what gave our lives structure before the pandemic now restricted or unsafe, I know I sometimes feel that we’re stuck in limbo, with no recent past or near future, just the present, the pre-pandemic times, and an uncertain light at the end of the tunnel.

Adding to the problem for our Class of 2020 is how rituals of transition have been disrupted. We have been fortunate to have administrators working very hard to deliver safe events for us, but with so many traditions taking a hiatus, it’s hard to feel we truly finished the MICDS experience, hard to feel time is ready to continue.

All of this disruption makes it easy to feel disoriented and defeated—to have an “end times mentality” that many of us, including myself, occasionally share. I’ve heard a lot of jokes about how the world will end within 20 years due to climate change or nuclear war or some other societal-collapse-level event. Perhaps an asteroid, or a gamma-ray burst, or the eruption of Yellowstone. But now, when protestors are attacked in the streets for asserting the truth that black lives matter, when the battle lines of the culture war are drawn over how to handle a pandemic, when 80% of polled voters say they think America is out of control, it’s easier than ever for many people to see the end as nigh. To interpret this either as a trial whose outcome determines the survival of the world, or as a doomed enterprise in which we are subjected to watch as the planet burns.

But an apocalyptic affect inhibits our abilities to make plans for the future and to make sense of our place in history. We have much to be thankful for, but I don’t think we’re a lucky generation. Because we also stand to inherit the job of fixing a deeply broken world. Our world will indeed change, possibly for the worse in the short term. Right now, it can feel like history is making a mark on us much more than we will ever be able to mark history, but that’s not true. Because time will go on, and when it does, we will make a better world ourselves.

That’s what the MICDS mission is about – building the kind of people who can fix these kinds of problems. I’m really proud to be part of this class, because over the course of my time at MICDS, I have seen my classmates embrace the task of bettering the world in many different ways. And that’s how I know that not only will we survive these ordeals—our generation will learn from them. And we will change our world for the better.

Thank you all so much, and congratulations to my fellow members of the Class of 2020!