Head of School Yoni Binus' Eighth-Grade Graduation Speech
A special thank you must be awarded to Maia Poling, Steve Mintz, Davida Cytron, Ryan Bradley, Morgan Stair, Rafi Forbush, and Diane Greenberger, not only for passionately advocating for some form of in-person graduation, but for the tremendous amount of work they put into making this event happen and ensuring that our students’ voices were heard and honored through the graduation speeches which have been published daily, leading to this commencement. Typically, I would not feature these ‘thank you’s so prominently in my very timebound remarks at this ceremony, but in this circumstance, these acknowledgments are more important than ever. The discussions, the deliberations, the time spent meticulously doing everything they can to curate this celebration, in light of daily changing health requirements and a community with a broad range of wants and needs, speaks volumes about all of our teachers’ and administrators’ love of these students. Tears were shed, talks got heated. Let’s just say, emotions were involved.
I call out these organizers, and really each one of our teachers at Heilicher, not only because their tremendous work during a difficult time should be commended, but because it is important to highlight something we are all beginning to face more and more: the times are calling for painstaking and thoughtful and values-driven solutions to complex problems. Big and small.
A phrase people used to use quite a bit a few years ago is something called the ‘Heilicher Bubble’. Both a point of soreness and a point of pride for Heilicher students, parents, and staff, the Heilicher bubble referred to the protective layer that our staff--and the size of our school and the location of our school--put around our students, perhaps shielding them from some of the harsher entities of the world for just a little bit longer than some desired or some felt was needed or some felt was right. Others embraced the bubble and wished it could last even longer than eighth grade. Many saw the virtues and the vices of such a protective layer.
I think it is safe to say, a bubble has burst for all of us.
The world has not become a less safe place, a less wondrous place, a place full of less love and empathy and understanding.
But, a bubble has burst.
The explosive popping sounds have jarred us awake, helping us see more clearly how reliant we are on one another. How spending the last few months of your middle school lives (eighth graders), learning from home, staying up late (very late, very very late) chatting with friends, was actually your duty, as we have tried to understand the impact of a virus, especially knowing it might most affect those who are immunocompromised, senior in years, or living a less privileged life. Not for us, but for them has been your guiding credo all along. We are all responsible for one another. כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲרֵבִים זֶה בָּזֶה
The crack of a shell, startled us into realizing not only that there is more racism around us and among us than we understood, but that we play a role in racism and hate when we do not speak up, when we do not take action, when we do not learn.
And you went out to donate goods, to protest, to visit the George Floyd memorial, to kneel for justice. It is not up to you to finish the job. Neither are you free to withdraw from it. Heilicher itself must come to grips with the role we play in systemic racism and commit to change through curriculum and outreach.
You, along with many of our alumni, will be our beacon.
To the class of 2020.
We did not forget about you. We did not forget about your last few months, your last few years--some of you--your last nine years here.
The bubble burst a little early, I’ll admit. And in some ways, we probably said a goodbye of sorts when we left in a hurry on a random day in mid-March. But what we have seen since that day is that you are living the values we hope you gained here, you are ready to lead in a world that is opening up and asking to be healed.