The sun was shining Sunday on Burlington High School's Varsity Field and except for a bit of tassel-blowing wind, it was a perfect day for a Graduation Ceremony.
Hundreds of family members, friends, teachers and supporters cheered as the Class of 2011 entered the field, the young men dressed in red and the ladies in white, as the Burlington band played the traditional graduation tune Pomp and Circumstance.
Principal Patrick Larkin began the ceremony by welcoming the graduate's families and friends, school officials, School Committee members and, of course, the graduates themselves. He had some inspiring words for the graduates.
"Our time to impart words of wisdom, as your teachers and administrators, is ending," Larkin said. "Knowing this certainly creates some anxiety as we wonder if we forgot anything important. But after spending the last four years with you, we at BHS have both pride and confidence in what the members of the Class of 2011 will accomplish."
Larkin then told the graduates not to pay attention to criticisms of their generation, called the "NET Generation" among other names for it's members use of technology. Instead, he said, to embrace what they have learned, the use of technology included, and use that to shape their future and move the world forward. He quoted NYU Professor Clay Shirky, who said "Although so much of what kids are doing online may look trivial and frivolous, what they are doing is building the capacity to connect, to communicate, and ultimately to mobilize."
"So as you prepare to mobilize, I do want to remind you to take time to be thankful and reflect on what you have accomplished," Larkin said. "Surely you have all overcome bumps in the road to get to this point and these obstacles cannot be navigated without some support from friends, family, and your great teachers. Congratulations to the Class of 2011 and all who made it possible for these young men and women to arrive at this point today."
Class President Stacey Bezreh started her speech with a straightforward message.
"Congratulations Class of 2011," she said. "We made it!"
Bezreh added that this was something of a scary time for her and her classmates now that they are leaving the comforts of high school and many will be leaving their parents' homes to start the next stage of their journey into the future.
"You may think of this as an end," she said. "But this is a beginning. Whether you are going to college, to work or to begin service, your life is in your hands ... Whatever your dreams may be, go get them. AS a peer and a friend I wish you all the best of luck and the utmost happiness in your future."
Superintendent Dr. Eric Conti told the graduates to remain passionate about life and their endeavors.
"Passionate people find answers and solve problems," he said, adding later "Finding your passion puts you on the road to success and this is the best kind of success because it comes from within. Passionate people seek out challenges and don't fear failure."
Conti then quoted from Theodore Roosevelt, who said this about the merits of bold individuals ready to take on a challenge:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
"Boldness has power," Conti said. "Begin it now."
Chair of the School Committee Stephen Nelson told the graduates they have made Burlington proud with their excellence in the classroom, on the sports fields and in the community. He told the class that as they move on to other things they should never stop learning and always strive to gain further education. The education the graduates received in Burlington, he added, have given them the tools to achieve and now they must all strive to do it.
"Never doubt your ability to succeed," he said. "As graduates you have a solid basis for success."
Joseph Capua, Jr., one of two class Valedictorians, spoke about the power of technology and the benefits it will bring to in his classmates life but also warned his fellow graduates not to get too caught up in their gadgets.Real communication happens face to face, he said, and life is not just about having an impressive Twitter stream.
"We must know when to put down the phone, log of Facebook, turn off the iPad and engage with the person across from us," he said. "We must learn from the interactions with the world around us."
Kishan Ughreja, the other Valedictorian (both earned a 4.0), spoke about the trials and accomplishments of the class as he made jokes to entertain the audience.
"Aren't you guys all pumped we're going back to school in three months?" he asked his fellow college-bound graduates. "I'm sure our parents are considering that they're paying for it."
Ughreja continued, saying that no matter what the members of the Class of 2011 pursue, they must now take responsibility for themselves.
"Whether you pursue a college education, join for service in the armed forces or enter the work force you are now leaving the security of your home and school and entering a new territory," he said. "Every one of us must be responsible and careful and make the right decisions that will get us one step closer to our life goals in this global environment we live in. BHS has provided us with a foundation, now it is up to us to take control of our lives and destinies to pursue our own passions, whatever they may be."
Following the speeches the students received their diplomas. The day ended with the traditional throwing of the caps before family members and friends came down to meet and congratulate the graduates.
Congratulation to the Class of 2011!