Rev. Emily B. Richards

Class of 1987

Commencement Address

June 1, 2007

It is with honor and joy that I stand before you, the graduating class of 2007. Thank you for allowing me to share in this occasion. Graduating from The Lexington School is a great accomplishment, an accomplishment you will come to appreciate even more over time. When Mrs. Foster, a former teacher of mine, invited me to be your commencement speaker, it dawned on me that it will be twenty years this very month when I graduated from TLS. Twenty years may seem like an eternity to all of you, but I'll tell you it passes in the blink of an eye. I know it may be hard to believe, but I can remember what it was like on my day of graduation‐the excitement that the moment had finally arrived, the pride of my family and teachers, even my own pride in reaching this point in my life.

Yet minged with the excitement was also a sense of apprehension and fear, both of which I imagine you are experiencing this day. For many of you, as it was for me, these classrooms and teachers are all you've known in your young lives. TLS has been much more than a school for you; it has been home. Some of you will be leaving this home and heading off to boarding school in the fall, while others will be venturing forth to local high schools. All of you will be embarking on new journeys, seeking your way in a world that is much larger than you've ever experienced. Today is one of those moments in your life where you find yourself on the threshold of something new, stepping out into uncharted territory. In many religious communities, it is at your very age when the passage from childhood to adulthood is ritualized‐the Jewish Bar and Bat Mitzvah and the Christian Confirmation, just to name a few. In this ceremony today you stand on the threshold of adulthood and together with your families and your school community, you ritualize this rite of passage in your lives.

You may be wondering if you are ready to take this step into the future and discover who it is you are meant to be in this world. Whether you knew it or not, since you first entered this school the faculty and staff here having been preparing you for this day, the day when you would graduate. In her book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, child psychologist, Wendy Mogel writes, “Jewish wisdom holds that our children don't belong to us. They are both a loan and gift from God, and the gift has strings attached. Our job is to raise our children to leave us. The children's job is to find their own path in life.” It has not only been your parents' job, but TLS' job to raise you to leave them. Now it is your job to find your own path in life. Today is the culmination of TLS' hard work to prepare you to step out into the world with courage and confidence. One of the greatest gifts I received from this place was a sense of courage and confidence.

The faculty and staff instilled in me a confidence in my own abilities and my own giftedness, as well as the courage to believe that anything was possible. As someone whose childhood was filled with visits to hospitals and doctor's offices, who spent more time worrying about the side effects of the medications I was taking than what homework I had for the night, it was often hard to believe in my future. However, along with my family, the faculty and staff at TLS believed in me even when I couldn't believe in myself. It was Mrs. Collier who welcomed me as a terrified five year old and my even more terrified mother with open arms and a warm smile to the first day of kindergarten. It was Mrs. Eames who taught me to find my voice and it was Mr. Noderer who encouraged me to share it with others. It was Miss Bale who sparked my imagination and Mr. Brown who cultivated my inquisitiveness. And it was Miss Cowling who expected nothing less than my best effort. These and many others at TLS shaped my young life in such profound ways.

I stand before you as a TLS graduate who is not afraid to go after my dreams, believing that nothing is impossible because those at TLS first believed in me. I am in a profession that only thirty years ago was not open to women. It is in my lifetime that women have been ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. I am doing what many of my forbearers only dreamed of being able to do. I am doing things that at your age I never dreamed possible. I stand in the pulpit and preach to hundreds. I teach children and adults. I lead worship. I baptize babies and marry couples and anoint those who are dying. Thanks to the faculty and staff at TLS I had the courage to find my path in life.

Know that as they believed in me; they also believe in each of you. This is your day to celebrate; your future to behold. Each of you has a story to tell about TLS, experiences to share of this place which has shaped you. Thank your teachers, your headmaster and the staff. Thank them for believing in you, if not today then someday. And thank your parents for sending you to this school to learn, grow and become the person you were meant to be in this world.

I have no illusions that tomorrow or ten years from now any of you will remember what I have said in this speech. I have participated in too many graduation ceremonies to think otherwise. In fact, I don't even remember who spoke at my TLS graduation (my apologies to that individual). What I do hope you will never forget is that this school has made a huge difference in your life and in the lives of so many others. Leave here with hopefulness for your future and gratitude for the experience you had as a student at The Lexington School. And when you do become discouraged and unsure of yourself, when your dreams seem out of reach and everything seems impossible, recall your days here. Recall the moments in science lab or in the orchestra or on the soccer field. Remember Mr. Baldecchi, Mrs. Foster, Mrs. MacCarthy and the others. Remember this place which you once called home, where you were nurtured and challenged to be the best you could possibly be.

Graduates, you stand at the threshold between childhood and adulthood. Step out into the world and take hold of your future with courage and confidence. Embark on this new journey to find your own path in life with the assurance that at TLS there will always be people who believe in you!