US Teacher Travis Menghini Addresses the Class of 2022
Upper School Math Teacher Travis Menghini was chosen by students to serve as the faculty speaker for the Class of 2022 Commencement Ceremony. Here are his remarks.
Good afternoon faculty, staff, families, students, and of course graduates. It was only a little while ago when the senior class president presented to me the news that I was selected as the faculty commencement speaker on behalf of the Class of 2022. Although it is an absolute honor to be selected as the faculty speaker, I had to think to myself, what on earth could I share? How am I supposed to give life advice when I feel that I have not lived life myself?
Writing this speech was tough, but I reflected on some of the moments that I have had with the Class of 2022. It wasn’t until the next day in school that I caught myself going off a secant during class. Tangent is probably the word I’m looking for here, but according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of secant is “a straight line cutting a curve at two or more points.” But the definition of something that is tangent means it only intersects once, implying I never get back on topic. Yes, I teach math.
These secants are stories. Whenever there is a little downtime, I always have a story to tell. These stories are a collection of my own life experiences as well as some others that I have either witnessed or heard from family or friends. I feel as if it is only appropriate to share a few stories with you today. So, for the final time, Class of 2022, it’s story time.
I want to begin by sharing a story from when I graduated high school which is a moment many of you are living through now. I was excited to move away from St. Louis where I grew up. I was excited to meet new people, and of course, be away from my family. It was a chance to live a new life. But with this, came one of my biggest regrets. As I started to move, I decided to cut people out of my life. I wanted to start over. I told myself I was never coming back to St. Louis. But, you can clearly see how well that worked out because here I am. I realized that these people I grew up with were my roots. They taught me everything I know. While I was in college I started to miss home and the connections I had.
During those long walks to and from class, I found out they were best utilized by calling family and old friends. You would be surprised how much you can make someone’s day by reaching out to someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. However, be wary of old friends contacting you saying something along the lines of “Hey, have you ever considered being your own boss? You can set your own hours and make six figures from home!” Graduates, this is called a pyramid scheme and it leads to absolutely no good. But on a serious note, value the relationships you have built. Never burn a bridge. You are headed to a new chapter in your life, you will find new friends and go on new adventures. But don’t forget that your old friends are still your friends no matter where life has taken you both. As life changes, you may find that you only have the memories of your childhood in common, but there will always be new memories and stories to share with each other.
Now a story for the parents. My father once got a piece of advice from a colleague of his named Mark Gale. Mr. Gale’s son went to college to pursue a degree in engineering. After having a rough first semester, the son told his dad that maybe engineering wasn’t for him and that he wanted to chase his dreams in Hollywood. As you can imagine, his father had reservations about this idea. However, he sucked it up and decided to give his son his full support. Within a few years it turned out that his son, Bob Gale, did indeed find success in Hollywood—he wrote the script for Back to the Future. The important message here is that as a parent you should always support your kid’s dreams. Your kids are going to think big and have great ideas and plans that might not be in line with your dreams for them. Regardless, do your best to help them achieve their dreams. And always make sure that your kids know that no matter what happens, you have their back in both their successes and failures.
I have a confession to make to everyone. I am a Trekkie. I’ll admit, I considered reciting a few of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition for this speech, but I couldn’t pick out which ones to share. But when thinking about Star Trek, I couldn’t help but reflect on one of the episodes I recently watched from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The premise of the episode was that one of the younger characters, Jake, experiences a spaceship accident that seemingly kills his father. Jake struggles to move on from this experience even though he goes on to have a family of his own.
Jake eventually discovers that, through a subspace anomaly, his father was only frozen in time. About once a decade, his father randomly appears for a few minutes. Jake eventually decides to study subspace mechanics in an attempt to save his father and sacrifices his own career and family to do so. At the end of the episode, Jake is an old man who was unsuccessful in bringing his father back. In Jake’s final moments, he reflects on a quote his father said to him before which states “…Poke [your] head up [every] once in a while and take a look around, see what’s going on. It’s life, Jake. You can miss it if you don’t open your eyes.”
This episode made me reflect on a conversation that I had with a colleague of mine. My colleague said to me, “Travis, you spend a lot of time here at MICDS. I notice and appreciate you putting in so much work, but I want you to consider taking some time off. I suggest you find something you enjoy doing outside of work. I don’t want you to look back at your twenties and realize that you spent them all at your job.” The colleague who told me this was none other than Jay Rainey.
After I had some time to consider this advice, I couldn’t help but notice how this has been exhibited by many of my colleagues here at MICDS. I have witnessed unselfishness and commitment from this great group of people I am so lucky to work with. I’ve seen my colleagues help countless students develop into extraordinary writers, become excellent problem solvers who experience and embrace other cultures, put on amazing performances and complete complex projects, and those who have become state champions. Graduates, your accomplishments are not an accident. The adults in your life have sacrificed so much to ensure you have the knowledge and power to embrace this world with confidence.
As I mentioned earlier, don’t forget your roots. It’s not just your friends, but also these mentors who have made an impact on your life and helped you become the great young adults you are. Make sure to thank them. And I’m not only talking about the present, but also about the future. Keep in touch and tell us what you have accomplished. We love hearing from you, and it truly makes our day.
But believe it or not, your teachers also have lives outside of school. I was reminded about this last week when we lost power to parts of our campus and I noticed that some of the Upper School teachers were eating lunch with their own kids. Or a few weeks ago, when I saw another colleague enjoying a special night out at the Elton John concert with their family. Or even various hobbies some of my colleagues enjoy like pottery, reading, and running. As I stated before, it’s important to lift your head up every once in a while away from the important academic work or career you are spending time on.
Class of 2022, you are heading into the real world. I know that you will accomplish great things, but it is not going to be without its challenges. I have come to realize that we as humans will encounter struggles, but our experiences help us learn to overcome these challenges. I am positive you have the foundation to overcome these hurdles to achieve your goals. You are ready. Thank you for allowing me a chance to share a few stories with you that I hope can help guide you. On behalf of all of us at MICDS, we look forward to hearing your stories as you develop your own lives and careers in the years ahead. We wish you the best of luck. Congratulations, Class of 2022!