The following speech was given by Mr. Asa Church, to the middle and upper school, as part of a series of senior and faculty speeches. Additional speeches by Mrs. Odell and Mrs. Spangler can be found here and here.
I believe… in you. I believe in the inherent dignity and worth of every individual as one special and important piece of a grand design. You are not an accident. And in so far as I have had the privilege of being a part of your life, I am extremely grateful.
This past August, 2017, I paused in the midst of a busy week to look up at the sun (not without protective glasses of course!) to watch one of the more awe inspiring natural phenomena on our planet: a total solar eclipse. This fantastic convergence of two celestial bodies had me holding my breath, and gushing about it afterward. It was a moment of awe, and a moment of humility.
Many of us worshiped in the temple of science, capital “S,” on that day. But the joke’s on us if we miss the forest for the trees. Such awe inspiring events in the natural world ultimately guide me to the mysteries of the supernatural world. And I see the hand of a greater purpose amidst all of life’s calculations, hypotheses, and datasets. It seemed to me that the greatest lesson of that day was a reminder of just how small we really are, and yet, how precious.
As a Jewish poet King David once wrote,
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
I am taken back to summer days at sleep-away camp, not far from here at French Creek State Park. Adolescence was at a fever pitch- camp crushes, pillow fights, and cabin raids. We thought we were at the center of the universe, like the whole planetary system revolved around us.
But on warm nights, we would lay out in the upper field under a blanket of stars, belted by the Milky Way and spell bound by ephemeral falling stars. We could feel how tiny we actually were. We could feel the rotation of earth and the dizzying sensation of perpetual falling. We could feel what it meant to love… and to be loved.
Just above the door of my classroom, to the right of the clock (fittingly), is a quote from Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day.” She asks, as I ask each of you now: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
I believe in you. And you should too.