Tsukuba International School
Graduation Speech
Shaney Crawford, Principal
June 23, 2016

Thank you all for coming today to celebrate the graduation of our kindergarten students into Grade 1, our Grade 5 students into the Middle Years Programme, our Grade 10 students into the high school program, and our first ever graduate of our high school program.

This year, our school has reached an important milestone in completing the construction of this new building that we are sitting in today. This has effectively doubled the size of our school, and this, with the eventual addition of our full high school program, means that we have an even greater responsibility to think about why we are all here, and make sure that we can be confident in sending our graduates into the world.

At our school, we are not only trying to teach you the knowledge that you may need in your future lives, we are also concerned with what kind of people you will become. It is, of course, very important for you to understand who you are, how the world works, and how we organize ourselves. And it is also very important for you to be a caring, open-minded communicator, no matter what your future holds.

I’m afraid, though, that since we hear words like “caring” and “inquirer” all the time, these words sometimes lose their meaning. We can get into the habit of not thinking deeply about ourselves and not really reflecting on our own strengths and weaknesses. For example, you might think that because you lent one of your friends a pencil, and you received a pink card for it, that that confirms that you are caring. And it may be true that you were being caring in that case, but do you also talk about one of your classmates behind her back? Do you shout out answers in class before others have a chance to think? And when someone hurts your feelings, do you try to find ways to hurt them back? If so, then you can’t give yourself full marks for being caring just because you sometimes do nice things.

You may follow the rules during recess soccer games, so you think you are principled. But are you always principled? Do you always do what is right, even if no one is watching? And do you take the time to question what is right? Because you cannot just trust that what you think is right is actually right 100% of the time. Your thoughts about right and wrong come from many experiences that you have had, and other people have had different experiences, so they might have different ideas about what is right and what is wrong. If you do not open yourself to questions about your own beliefs, then you cannot get full marks for being principled.

And if I may digress for a moment, I do think that this problem of assuming that we are right, that we are more principled than other people, plays a part in many of the issues that we face in our global society today, such as intolerance, corruption, and warfare. These are big problems, and they may seem unsolvable, but their solution has to come from all of us being just a little bit more humble, and a little bit more reflective.

We don’t know what kind of person you are trying to become. Are you going to be a scientist, or a politician, or a parent who stays at home to look after your children? Do you need to know to perfect a spaceship so we can fly to other planets, or how to build a water-tight trough out of wood for cows to drink from, or how to teach someone how to sew? We really don’t know. A student once complained to one of our former math teachers that she didn’t understand why she had to learn about a particular concept in math. The teacher said that if she told him all of the things she planned to do in the future, he would promise to teach her only the math that she would need for that. Otherwise, he would just have to make his best guess.

So, here is my best guess. In order for you to find success in the world, and for you to make a positive impact on the world, and therefore, in order for the world to become a better place, you need to become a better person. You need to be more knowledgeable than you are now. You need to be more caring and more principled than you are now. You need to be a better risk-taker, and be more open-minded. Just because you are graduating today, does not mean that you are finished. You, like everyone else in this room, including the other students at our school, the parents, and the teachers, are not a finished product. Today marks the day of your graduation, but I hope it also becomes a day when you reflect deeply on who you are and what you believe in. I cannot tell you what the future has in store for you, but I do hope that by dedicating yourself to lifelong reflection, you will play a part in making our world a better, and more peaceful, place for all people.