Cal Barton ’21, Student Speaker at Senior Night
Cal Barton ’21 was selected by his classmates to serve as the student speaker at Senior Night in May. Here are his remarks.
One of my first high school memories was with my grandmother. After moving back to St. Louis, my family invited my grandmother over to see our new home. She came over—but I’m not sure she really came over to see the house. What she really wanted to see was my new school. So, we all climbed in the car and took the trip down Ladue Road, eventually coming upon the MICDS campus.
My Nana couldn’t believe a school could be so expansive, so nice, and when we got to A Lot and I explained that the sports fields were down there, the new pool straight ahead…she said:
“I wish I could have gone to a school like this.”
This quote wasn’t addressed to me; it was just a reflection from a woman whose life would end in a few months’ time, a reflection from someone who had come to recognize what truly mattered in the end.
I’ve thought about that moment a lot over the past four years. It helps me ground myself, and it helps me remember just how much of a privilege it is to be a part of this community.
Dean Ludbrook, Mr. Small, Class of 2021 Advisors and Students…I want to begin with a personal thank you. Thank you for making my MICDS experience so special. I’ve thought long and hard about what to say tonight. Because you all actually wanted me to speak, I feel the stakes are higher, so thanks for that. Just know that if my experiment of a speech tonight is a flop, the blame is partially on me, but also on you.
In junior year English, I read a poem by Billy Collins titled Aristotle. You might’ve read it, too, if you had Mr. Tourais. The poem stuck with me because of how it deals with time, how things begin and end. But simply reading some poet’s work tonight would be boring, so I’m not going to do that. Instead, I reimagined that Billy Collins poem—keeping the structure but changing it to specifically concern the MICDS experience.
Might I say, as a disclaimer, that I am not a poet in any capacity, and the last real poem I wrote was a haiku in elementary school, which was written in blue crayon. So with that high bar in mind, I am going to invite you all to close your eyes, if you’d like. We’re going to go into a time machine, revisiting the past four years over just a few minutes’ time. We’re going to some happy places and some difficult ones, but I know the way, and so do you.
Ready? Here we go:
This is the beginning.
Almost anything can happen.
You’re seeing new faces, hearing new names;
shaking hands with smiling strangers.
This is where you’re told not to step on the seal;
where you learn math classes are in STEM, languages in May, English in Olson Hall.
This is the thesis statement. The framework.
This is where you’re sitting in the Brauer balcony,
trying to stay awake as some old guy goes on about
atoms, or honor, or driving with both hands on the wheel.
The hallways buzz.
The ground is littered with unattended backpacks.
You’re happy to learn how near freshmen sit to the ice cream machine at lunch,
and you frown when you find it to be off-limits every other week.
Everything is so simple in the beginning:
Paragraphs instead of papers,
science is about plastic cars instead of sine and cosine.
English class is spent doing grammar work on No Red Ink.
You go to the bookstore frequently, getting fruit snacks,
or CODASCO merch, or a replacement copy of Lord of the Flies.
This is where you graduate from BOOM—remember that?—
and learn the difference between proper paraphrasing and plagiarism.
This is the opening, the gambit,
bagpipers marching solemnly towards a roaring bonfire:
This is only the beginning.
This is the middle.
Things are messy now;
The quick comments pile up,
late work notifications, too.
You’ve lost your stylus but refuse to buy a new one.
The days are long.
Out of bed at 6, at school by 8, lacrosse at 4, Troubadours from 6:30 to 10.
You get a text from Gary Moss with those stupid emojis,
and it’s the last week of T2, but at least there are therapy dogs in the breezeway.
There’s a new Head of School now,
with more height and less hair than the last one.
This is the passing period
where you somehow must get from US History to AP Calculus
in five minutes.
Things are fuzzy. There’s too much going on.
Here you learn to discriminate between “evidence” and “analysis.”
A pair of gloved hands passes you a frozen turkey;
an older kid is thrown in the pond.
This is the thick of things.
You forget the new door code, and
your phone is blowing up;
a text from a friend about last night’s homework, an email
from a dean about a freshman girl who’s lost her necklace.
The middle is dominated by concern for the future;
SATs, ACTs, GPAs, college visits;
The middle is a lot to think about.
And this is the end.
English isn’t in Olson anymore,
and those handshakes with strangers
have turned to fist-bumps and waves from solitary Zoom boxes.
The Hearth room is yours now,
but you’re supposed to scan a code before you sit down.
You begin to notice the last of things:
last soccer game, last paper, last advisory.
You’ve started to count down the days, wishing
there was more time for the good things,
less for the bad.
This is where you pack up your bag while Mr. Tourais
tells you there’s still two minutes left of class.
This is where you walk out of the room,
elbowing classmates after a difficult test,
asking if they answered with a positive or negative number on Question 4.
Here Mr. Small says some final words in an assembly, followed by a
“Seniors, please rise.”
You’ve gotten out your cardboard and paint to
make a Prom poster or a shoddy one-man boat.
Here the stands clear after a game against Burroughs;
you wipe the white paint off your face.
In the end you take some pictures, order a college sweatshirt,
play spikeball if the weather’s nice.
Someone asks what you’d like to major in
as you wait in line for your white dress or navy sportcoat.
This is the end,
what we have all been waiting for,
what everything comes down to,
the destination we cannot help but imagine.
This is the end—
—But it’s also only the beginning.
Good night, good luck, and congratulations to the MICDS Class of 2021.
Thank you for your time.