END OF YEAR SPEECH: HOW WILL YOU CHOOSE TO DEFINE THE MOMENTS?

Head of Middle School & Upper Schools Clinton Howarth began his end of the year speech to faculty and students by acknowledging the determination, effort, and resilience of the RA faculty and the character of the 2020 graduating class. This is the class with whom Clinton has worked for five years through their Middle and Upper School experiences. 

“They have been great leaders throughout our school community; and they are going off to great places next year where they will only continue to grow and thrive. They will do so because their foundation is strong. Their skills are strong and their character is strong--a great recipe for success,” he said. He also recognized the students for handling loss with grace and determination. “You have developed so much as leaders this year and our world needs that leadership--your strong voice, your conviction, and your empathy.”      

His speech is below: 

To wrap up our year together, I want to talk to you about something really important.  My alarm clock.

The other day Mrs. Howarth and I were doing some spring cleaning and I was just about to add this beauty to our “giveaway” bag, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m more sentimental than you would probably guess and this alarm clock is really special to me.   

I bought this GE alarm clock in 1997 just days before heading off for my first year of college.  And THIS clock woke me up ALMOST every day until June of 2015 when we moved to Ridgefield and I left it unplugged in a moving box to collect dust, choosing instead to rely on my much cooler iPhone alarm.

So, why does this clock matter to me? It’s JUST a clock, right? Well, not exactly.

You see, for 18 years, this clock woke me up for good days and bad days; important days and regular days. It woke me up on the morning I met best friends who I still talk to every day, friends I haven’t stayed in touch with, and even later my wife. It woke me up on the day of my first job in Washington DC, my first day as a teacher in Boston, and the day I spoke to Mr. Heus about a school called Ridgefield Academy for the first time. It woke me up before wins and losses as a football player; and wins and losses later as a coach. It woke me up the day my sister was diagnosed with cancer, the day I got married, and the day I had each of my three kids. It DIDN’T wake me up on the day of my college graduation--it was SUPPOSED TO--but that’s a story for a different day.

This clock was the first thing I heard and saw almost every morning for 18 years. Good days and bad days; sunny days and rainy days; exciting days and boring days;--we shared a lot.  

So as I was debating whether or not to throw this old guy out, I found myself thinking about something my dad always told me: He said--and still reminds me sometimes--that “There are no happy lives, only happy moments.”  

When I was young (or younger) I used to find this expression really frustrating: how depressing to imagine that there are no happy lives? Was this what I had to look forward to? Was this what adulting was really all about? But as I’ve gotten older I have come to realize how true that statement really is.  

Nothing is all good or all bad, and days, weeks, months, and years are all just a collection of moments--big and small; GOOD AND BAD--that are strung together to form the story of our lives.  

This has been an amazing year in every possible sense of that word. There have been so many great learning moments in and out of the classroom; amazing moments on the stage and risers; incredible moments on the field, course and court. There has been laughter, tears, and AH-Ha moments! We have missed each other and the feeling of walking into a school building where we feel known and loved. We have missed school.  

We have power, though.   

We can choose to define this year by the difficult and challenging moments or by the happy and positive ones. There were good and bad moments of the first 6.5 months of the year; there have been good and bad moments over the past 2.5 months. There will be good and bad moments in the months ahead, too. BUT how we view or define those chunks of time is a choice that each of us makes for ourselves.  

If you were to ask me, I would say that we had a great year, but were served some lemons this spring. So what is the lemonade that we made or are making with those lemons? Let’s start with this: We did something that no one has ever done before--and we did it well. We embraced remote learning, we laughed together and challenged each other to grow and adapt in a remote environment. That’s pretty amazing. We learned more about each other than we ever could have at school: we saw kitchens and living rooms, front yards and backyards, siblings and parents, bed heads and messy bedrooms. We learned more about each other--our similarities and differences--and we embraced them all.  And, as we did we grew stronger as individuals and stronger together as a community--adults and kids alike. That’s how a community SHOULD work.      

So, here’s my challenge to all of you as we step away for the summer. As you look back on the year and reflect on your experiences, I want you to honor the challenging moments that helped to define the year--they were real and they matter-- but choose to FOCUS on all of those great moments from the year. Focus on the laughter and joy; on new discoveries and understandings; on the moments when you helped a friend or the times a friend helped you; Focus on the moments you chose the hard right over the easy wrong, when you chose to be an upstander for others; when you chose to listen, and all of the great moments that made this school year and that make our community so special.

And let’s remember that one of the most important lessons we can take from being apart is how much we love being together. 

With that, I wish you a happy summer filled with lots and lots of happy moments. 

- Clinton Howarth, head of middle and upper schools

Clinton Howarth