Willy Carpenter ‘24 Addresses Peers at Senior Night

At Senior Night, the penultimate gathering of the Class of 2024, Class President Willy Carpenter ’24 addressed his peers for the last time. Here are his remarks.

Well, folks, if listening to me badger you all night hasn’t satisfied you, get excited because I’m about to deliver a five-minute speech. Oh boy. I would love to stand up here as Class President and tell you all that I have prepared a manifesto, or my State-of-the-Union address, but I wrote this on my Mum’s laptop two nights ago. Matter of fact, I only forced myself to sit down and begin writing it on Wednesday night because Dean Trueman had emailed me that morning asking to read over it. How fitting.

Sitting on my living room couch, I was puzzled. Various thoughts came and went, but my fingers didn’t touch the keyboard. They couldn’t. How could I say goodbye and best of luck to a community at which I have spent the last fourteen years of my life? How does one thank a parent team that has gone above and beyond at every event? Or what about the teachers, whose days last longer than ours? We yearn for late starts and pajamas, for half-days and days off, complaining that we have to be seated in Chemistry by 8:00. I’m sure Dr. Meg wouldn’t mind a day off. That class is hard enough to learn as it is (trust me), I can’t imagine what it’s like teaching some of the people in this room. And by people, I mean me.

If you don’t know, our very own AP Chemistry teacher, Dr. Meg, is from Japan. Between titration experiments and electrolytic cell demonstrations, I found myself asking her questions about her journey from Japan to the United States. I’ve always been in love with certain aspects of Japanese culture: when I was young, it was Ninjas; as I aged, it became Bonsai trees. I admire the practice of tranquility, the looks, and the generational commitment to care that is required by these little trees. So I got one, except it’s plastic. Mine has a color-changing canopy, came in a cardboard box, and took about an hour to build; it’s from the LEGO Icons series. It’s been one of my all-time favorites, because when I look at it, I see a symbol for childhood’s eternity.

In December, my plastic eye for architecture was rebooted when given a pirate ship from the LEGO Creators collection. I’ve worked on a number of projects since, including a jazz quartet and a typewriter, but something about the pirate ship brought me back full circle. There are two things I’ve always loved: LEGOs and pirates. If I wasn’t going door-to-door as a Ninja, it would’ve been because I had a peg leg and eye patch. Growing up, I watched Pirates of the Caribbean religiously, built pirate ships out of Starbucks trash, and built pirate-themed LEGOs. At some point throughout my 14-year tenure at MICDS, I must’ve thought pirates and LEGOs weren’t cool anymore. It’s hilarious how wrong I was. Pirates and LEGOs are sick.

I mention all of this because it occurred to me the other day how, right at the end of high school, when graduation means not only moving on to university but also closing the chapter on childhood, that I’ve started to go back and re-read some of my old pages. It occurred to me that right before childhood ends, I’m spending hundreds of dollars on plastic squares to try and squeeze out whatever few ounces are left. On our last day of school, I spent the morning at the Starbucks on the corner of North & South and Delmar, building a pirate ship with my mom, just like I used to.

I realized all this just a few nights ago when I was rearranging my LEGO collection and knocked over my Bonsai tree. For one brief, poetic moment, I looked down at my crumbled sculpture. I saw on the floor beneath me broken limbs, spilled dirt, and crumpled leaves. I saw the remnants of a Bonsai tree, a piece which, by nature, is long-lasting and meant to symbolize peace, destroyed. I questioned if this was some sign or indication that the time to move on was approaching, that perhaps my youth and curiosity was, in fact, not never-ending. However, that moment was fleeting because I awoke the next day and rebuilt it with fervor and pizzazz.

It was during this reconstruction that I decided childhood actually doesn’t have to end. Parents will tell you to grow up, to move on, but it’s not their choice. In his novel Tremor, Teju Cole writes, “It is by being grounded in what we know, and what we have experienced, that we can move out into the great complexities of life.” For a long time, this quote has resonated with me. I believe it speaks to the very nature of childhood, and this moment in our lives. If we are to walk off campus on Sunday and never look back, we won’t go very far. The people you’ve met, the challenges you’ve faced, and the experiences you’ve had at MICDS are formative. For someone like me who’s been here since the start, it’s practically all I know. If we are to interpret Teju Cole properly, then we should recognize that MICDS is what grounds us. That having this institution as our foundation propels us forward.

Come Sunday evening, I ask that you all don’t let go of this place. It’s okay to move on, to take the next step, to open the next chapter. But do not look forward in fear, for you all have maps unique to you, curated by you. Every day for the last x-amount of years that you’ve driven on campus grounds, you’ve likely driven on Carpe Diem Drive. MICDS has justly named this avenue in front of Olson Hall to serve as a daily reminder. However, chances are you won’t have this daily reminder when you leave for university. So, I say to you now: be childish, don’t take yourself too seriously, and seize the day.