Thomas Cole’s graduation speech: ‘Soon enough, you and I will find that we are sewing the fabric of new communities’

Good morning faculty, administrators, family members, friends and classmates and congratulations to the Class of 2023. I stand before a class of champions in every sense of the word: National Merit Finalists, New York State Hockey Champions, Roger Rees Theater Award nominees, Regeneron ISEF qualifiers, nationally recognized local journalists and much, much more. No two accomplishments are the same. It’s the diversity of our achievement that makes our collective success so outstanding. 

Recently, like most of my peers, I’ve been reflecting on my time in high school. I look back at the experiences I’ve been a part of, the lessons I’ve learned and the relationships I’ve formed. From the Socratic discussions in English, the first football game of the season, the labs in biology, silly walk practice and so much more, all of the memories that immediately come to mind are centered around and can be traced back to one thing: community. The pride that is evoked in all of your hearts at the mention of all of the awards and achievements of our class doesn’t necessarily come from your role in the specific achievement. It is derived from your place in this special community, and the collective pride I think we all feel from it. The need for community is primal. It is as much a part of our humanity as the need for food and water. In the next chapters of our lives, we will be embarking on new quests, facing new challenges. We will be thrust out of this community, one that has supported us and that we have gotten to know and love. We will scatter and disperse throughout the nation and perhaps even the entire world. 

It goes without saying that new friendships will be made, curiosities explored, new interests formed, and soon enough, you and I will find that we are sewing the fabric of new communities, contributing in our own unique ways. I hope that we all are consciously aware of this process as it is occurring, investing in ourselves and those around us and thus improving the world. I can say now, or in a few minutes as a graduate of Pelham Memorial High School, through both successes and failures here inside and outside the classroom, I have learned multitudes about myself, my weaknesses, my strengths, and most importantly, with the help of friends, families, teachers and administrators, I have started to hone the skills that I will bring from one community to another in the coming years. 

During my time in high school, I heavily favored the humanities over STEM. No offense to any science or math teachers here today. I found that my greatest academic strengths were able to shine when I was tasked with writing a research paper, analyzing Shakespeare’s plays or studying a unit on the Renaissance. Looking back, it is abundantly clear to me that my most flaring passions and valuable skills lie in these subjects. Our duty as humans is not to keep these interests and strengths to ourselves, but to share them in an effort to better the communities to which we belong. As I said before, this community that we have cultivated together over the past four years is one of champions in every domain. Our skills are multifaceted. I have no doubts that you all will contribute greatly to the communities you join and help construct in the coming years. 

Today, it’s undeniable that our greater global community faces many problems. To solve them, it will take a diverse range of scholars, planners and thinkers with various fortes and skill sets. However, when I look out in front of me at my peers and think about all that you and I have accomplished in these four years, I am encouraged. Let’s all invest in ourselves and in one another so we can build a kinder, healthier and more connected world. 

To the Class of 2023, it has been an honor to serve as your president for four years, and once again, congratulations.

Thomas Cole, senior class president, gave this speech Saturday at the Pelham Memorial High School graduation ceremony.