Dear Class of 2019,

Congratulations! You are the first TIS students to complete the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme courses at our school. Our whole school community — students, parents, teachers, and board members — has come together to paddle ourselves down this river. We all experienced the worry of whether or not we would receive the DP authorization two years ago, and we all sat on the edge of our seats while you wrote your final exams in May.

And so here we are, at the point of graduation, which might seem like a finishing point, but I am sure that you already understand that this is merely the beginning of your cruise. Oh, the adventures that await once you leave the little river of TIS for the open waters!

I always wonder what to say to our graduates, and since this is such an important milestone both for you and for our school, I feel the pressure even more to make my words momentous. But today is not about me, and it’s not even about our school. It’s about you.

You may not know this, but I have talked about you to almost every group of parents who has come to our school information sessions in recent years. I don’t mean that I talked about our students in general. I mean I talked about you, in particular (of course without mentioning your names). I did this because your class, while it is only comprised of ten students, is quite diverse. Some of you are very artistic, and you are hoping to have a career in the arts. Some of you enjoy studying science and are looking to go into medicine. Most of you want to go to university, and at least one of you — maybe more? — wants to be famous. You all have very distinct personalities, very unique strengths and weaknesses, and very different ideas of what you want to do — or not do — in your future. And, due to the very small size of your class, you have had to do the hard work of figuring out how to get along with each other despite your differences.

When you go to university, I think you will probably be able to find more people who are quite similar to you. Some of them may be very good at the same things that you are good at, and that may be a bit jarring, but they may also be interested in a lot of the same things that you are, which will be comforting.

What I hope you remember from your time at TIS is that you were able to get along with people who were different from you. I know that it wasn’t always fun, and it certainly wasn’t always easy, but you did it. You were able to build working relationships and friendships with your classmates, even when you disagreed with them.

When you go out into the world, I hope you start to understand why knowing how to get along with other people — and especially those people who rub you the wrong way — is one of the most important skills you have learned at our school. You don’t have to love everyone you encounter, but you should try to find something about them to appreciate, or respect, even when — or especially when — they disagree with you.

Today, on this day of your graduation, I hope you start the next leg of your journey with the understanding that the world is not made up of just two kinds of people, the good/right ones and the bad/wrong ones. It is made up of people, humans, who are imperfect and complicated, and who just want to live their lives with dignity, respect, and, I think, a bit of fun. And the more you start to recognize that we as humans are heading down the river together, sometimes getting things right, and sometimes getting things wrong, the smoother your travels will be.

Dear Class of 2019, our first ever graduates from the IB Diploma Programme courses, BON VOYAGE, and enjoy the rest of your journey!