The Next, Best Generation
Students across divisions moved up to new grades—and the seniors said goodbye.
“The world needs this generation,” said author and journalist Anand Giridharadas ’99 at the Sidwell Friends School Class of 2023 commencement address last Friday as he cited youth activism’s centrality to climate change, gun violence, and racial justice. “Now you get to rewrite the rules and reject old dogmas. Consider this an invitation to a thrilling project.”
This group of senior students, whom Head of School Bryan Garman called “angelic troublemakers,” are graduating from Upper School and heading for new adventures, ready to take on their lives as adults. As they do so, Giridharadas entreated them to reclaim the narrative of America. “You can be clear-eyed about the country’s flaws and still see the country’s promise,” he said. “Love America enough to make it better.”
The Class of 2023 weren’t the only Sidwell Friends students moving on. The 4th graders (the Class of 2031) are moving from Lower School to Middle School, and the 8th graders (the Class of 2027) are moving from Middle School to Upper School. Both achievements were also celebrated with special ceremonies last week. The 4th graders presented their class gift: 3D printer filament and a donation to Rock Creek Conservancy. The 8th graders, meanwhile, used their class gift to make a donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and buy extra outdoor seating for the Fox Den café.
Paraphrasing poet John O’Donohue, Garman told the 8th graders: “Though your destination is not yet clear, you can trust the promise of this opening.” It was a sentiment that would echo across these division-wide milestones. The idea of a new start was especially poignant as each of these students recently endured a year of Zoom learning, hundreds of nasal swabs, masking, and social distancing. One Middle Schooler even said she now recognized the privilege she and her friends have to be able to go to school and swore she would no longer take it for granted. And a Lower Schooler called the day everyone returned to school after COVID, “the best day of our lives!” But last week, with everyone together in person—hugging and laughing and celebrating—it all felt refreshingly normal.
The bittersweetness that comes from watching the Class of 2023 leave the School was evident in dewy eyes across campus. As Lower School Principal Adele Paynter said, quoting A.A. Milne: “How lucky we are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
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