“You Have a Remarkable Experience ahead of You”

On a bright and beautiful morning, the Class of 2017 walked down Zartman’s steps and into the future.

After one last year of hard work, friendships strengthened, passions discovered, and new lessons learned, the Class of 2017 made the traditional walk down the steps of Zartman House and became alumni. As teachers, friends, and proud parents looked on, the graduates posed for pictures during their descent and then settled in to hear Head of School Bryan Garman, Board of Trustees Clerk Margaret Plank, and commencement speaker Michael Govan ’81 give remarks to honor the day.

“Today’s soon-to-be alumni are, by any measure, an extraordinary class,” said Bryan. “One that has demonstrated excellence in academic, artistic, and athletic endeavors, that has contributed remarkable leadership to the School, that has performed countless and meaningful acts of service both inside and outside the institution. … You have a remarkable experience ahead of you. But as you continue on your journey as scholars and make choices about your career, don’t become too comfortably ensconced in the institutions you will attend. If Sidwell Friends has taught you anything, I hope that it is that you have a responsibility to engage the world and what is happening in it, that you must bring a moral lens to all decisions—personal, professional, and political. Given what I know about you, about your intelligence and compassion, the sooner you engage the world, the better it will become.”

Margaret Plank recalled a question Bryan posed during their first meeting—a question Bryan asks himself on a regular basis: “Who is the meeting? … I would like you to embrace Bryan’s query as part of what you take away from your Sidwell Friends education.” In other words, she “understood him to be asking himself, Who is the community we represent? Whose needs and interests are we addressing? Who beyond that group might be affected by any decision we make? How far does our loving concern extend? … We are all the meeting: a community that abides in a common spirit of devotion to the mission of Sidwell Friends. You are graduating, but not leaving. You will forever be a part of the meeting, and the good you do in the world will help the meeting grow. So here is my charge to you as you complete your time on campus, borrowed from a 19th-century Quaker woman named Caroline Fox: Live up to the light you have, and more will be given to you.”

Margaret also introduced Michael Govan ’81, who has certainly lived up to his light. Michael is the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—the biggest art museum on the West Coast, and one that has only gotten bigger and more imaginative since Michael took the reins. He previously served as president and director of New York’s Dia Art Foundation and as deputy director at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Michael talked about his own experience at Sidwell Friends, how Quaker consensus and creative thought have helped guide his career, and the importance of diversity in all areas of life. His advice for the graduates? “Follow your heart as much as your reason. You should bring a little more kindness and generosity and creativity into the world. And you must use your sharp minds to help solve the formidable problems that threaten the sustainability of our communities, our nations, and our planet. … But perhaps all the advice you need is to continue to reflect on what you have already absorbed here in these important years of your life. Looking back, I can see how much I took from Sidwell Friends in ways I never could have predicted.”

The Sidwell Friends community is excited to find out what adventures await graduates as they continue to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone. Congratulations, Class of 2017!

Make sure to view pictures from Commencement. 

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