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Adjust Your Compass

By Gary Krahn, Ph.D., head of school
Head of School Gary Krahn’s welcome speech for the 2020 commencement ceremony.

It is my very great pleasure to welcome you all to the 56th La Jolla Country Day School commencement. Yes, it is in a parking lot. Along with Lucy Conroy ’90, chair of the board of trustees, I extend my warmest congratulations to all those receiving diplomas and acknowledge the support that has helped you along the way. 

To all the families and friends watching today, thank you for the encouragement you have offered, and in many cases, for the sacrifices you have made so that your child could earn a La Jolla Country Day School diploma. Graduates, please take a moment this summer to acknowledge all those who supported you, near and far, including your own classmates and the faculty. Let’s not forget that we would not be having this celebration if it were not for faculty who have guided and mentored you with wisdom and love. 

Class of 2020, you are the most memorable class in the history of La Jolla Country Day School. Our hearts hurt for how COVID-19 has impacted your lives. And in the midst of a global pandemic, our hearts are heavy as we witness the recent acts of violence, brutality and racism toward black and African American people in our nation. 

Nike captured the Black Lives Matter vision best in their recent posts: "Don't pretend there's not a problem in America. Don't turn your back on racism. Don't accept innocent lives being taken from us. Don't make any more excuses. Don't think this doesn't affect you. Don't sit back and be silent. Don't think you can't be part of the change. Let's all be part of the change.”

Class of 2020, you will be part of the change because of who you are. In fact, as we reflect upon your accomplishments, attributes and abilities, a wave of joy and hope comes over us. The stage for the graduation of the Class of 2020 has been elevated because of this pandemic and the challenges we have before us. 

Who would have imagined that your graduation would include celebrating “drive-in style” outside Petco Park with your family? I suspect this will be an event that you will never forget.

With great challenges, however, comes inordinate opportunities. You have become the first class to lead LJCDS and our society into the novel future. Today, we wear masks and physically distance from each other because we are positioning ourselves to determine how we will fit back together within a world that we share with all things. You will continue to reach the highest standards and benchmarks in all you do. The ultimate standard, however, is that of human dignity. 

The powerful advances in genome sequencing technology, informatics, automation and artificial intelligence, and the arts, are propelling humankind to a new beginning in understanding and utilizing the untapped power of diversity. You will likely be asked to leverage your curiosity and pursuit of knowledge to focus on the plurality of humanity living in greater harmony.  

We are confident that you will lead us forward. Here is a glimpse of why we are so certain. Members of your class:
  • pitched their inventions at the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago; 
  • established the LJCDS computer numerically controlled machine;
  • dazzled the world with their singing, passion and love of humanity on YouTube;
  • made an extensive impact on Rady Children’s Hospital by giving back to a place that gave so much to him; 
  • collected personal protective equipment and delivered meals for health care workers in San Diego; 
  • published work in The New York Times
  • founded non-toxic San Diego (nonprofit promoting green initiatives like going chemical-free for our city parks); 
  • testified in Sacramento about the impact of early start times in schools; 
  • and united a WWII veteran’s long-lost letters to their family. 

And through it all, you have developed meaningful and lasting relationships. You have stood strong together to support each other in joyful and challenging times. You have shown us how to be human. 

As a class, you led our school forward for the right reasons: to create transformative change. I hope you have seen that effective leaders coordinate and unleash the creative contributions of remarkable people. You should note that coordinating and unleashing are opposing actions and will, therefore, cause friction. Learn to accept friction. Without it, very little happens.  

Another duality that is important to recognize is the interplay between individuality and community. We don’t have a community without individuals, but we can’t have a community with dominating individuality. Within communities, there will also be friction. During your life, you will be surrounded by dualities and tension.  

Throughout these conflicts, remain firm to live your life and not the life of someone else. Be you, except if you can be Batman, be Batman. In other words, don’t be trapped by doctrine, tradition, policies and procedures, which is living the results of other people’s thinking. 

Don’t let the constant noise of social media and different opinions drown out your own voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Have faith in how far you can go being authentically you. Make your mark on the world with your own style and grace. Live your life; everything else is secondary. As you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Class of 2020, we know that you are going to inspire greatness for a world a better world. You will travel, prosper, thrive, innovate, lead, make mistakes, fail, make a difference, serve others, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, but as you do, to the extent that you can, adjust your compass to always err in the direction of kindness and dignity. I wish that for you, too.

It has been an honor and privilege to be part of your life.

Watch Dr. Krahn's speech here.
 
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