Graduation Speech: Reflection, Perseverance, and Community

Theo Dadagian, Class of 2016
June 13th, 2016

Good morning, my name is Theo Dadagian, and I’ve been a Belmont Day School student for ten years now. When I recently turned fifteenI had a realization. Two thirds of my life have been spent at Belmont Day. The other third I barely understood what life was, and heck, I don’t know any better now. As you can imagine I’ve gotten to know this school very well. I’ve walked through the halls so many times I could do it with my eyes closed. I’ve watched the school change, and grow to what it is today. I come out of BDS with three things that I think really show what this school is made of. The first, believe it or not is reflection, followed by perseverance and community. Now, as I stand in front of you today, I can truly start to appreciate what the meanings of these words are.

The first of these that I mentioned, reflection, might seem strange, but it’s true. There’s a famous quote that from the Spanish philosopher George Santayana, “Those who don’t study history are condemned to repeat it.” This quote applies to more than just history; it applies to life as a whole. When you do something or complete something, you look back and see how you did it. I have changed that quote around personally to be, “Those who do study history are able to repeat it for the better.” You learn about what you did well in your own personal history. You also notice the negativities, the mistakes you made. Mistakes are great things in life if you can learn from them. Without mistakes you can’t improve. Without reflection, you can’t realize your mistakes. I reflect back on my BDS career, the success and the failure. I look back on the friendships and the people I will remember forever.

When asked to think of Belmont Day the first thing that came to mind was perseverance. I touched on this briefly in my Capstone presentation because I do believe in how important it is for success. The definition of this word is “steadfastness and determination despite difficulty or delay to success.” Now this is a good definition, but I tend to believe there is a deeper meaning to this word—it is more than just a word; it is more than just proceeding through adversity. Perseverance walks right up to adversity, shoves it aside, then stares it in the face so it knows it's been beaten. When you achieve success without challenge you don’t learn from it. When you succeed with perseverance you become wiser. When you achieve success without challenge, you don’t grow as a person. When you succeed with perseverance you develop yourself into a better person. Now I don’t mean to say that BDS is a nuisance I’ve had to persevere through, not at all. BDS has offered me chances, chances to persevere and grow. Whether academic challenges, arts challenges, or sports challenges, all of these can be used to grow as a person. The people I stand up here with today are more than just my classmates, but the people I have persevered with and grown alongside to the point where they are beyond friends and even family, they're parts of me. That might sound strange, but it’s true. All of these people, not just my friends, but my teachers and family in the audience today, have all helped to shape me into the young man I am today.

These people are my community. Now community is a relative word, so to speak. It can take many forms. It can be a group of three people to hundreds of thousands. I want to talk to those I’ve lived with. To those who cried when the Big Toy was torn down. To those who screamed with joy when Big Blue was put up in its wake. To those who had their dark moments in a cave of despair, to the people who were the lights who guided them out. To the people who got together to make state floats out of dough. To the people who then proceeded to taste said dough despite instruction, but it did not matter because we did it together. I speak to the people who entered the middle school with me, and ran with me on that first day of athletics. I speak to the people who sang with me on stage the songs of freedom as we remembered our history. I speak to the people who shared victory and defeat with me. To the people who worked with me and stood with me in the kiva three months ago while we talked our hearts out together. I speak to the people standing with me today, the people I have spent two thirds of my life with. The people I hope to speak to for much longer than that. As I come to realize that I might not see many of you every day for a long time. I reflect back on my time spent at BDS, and I realize how lucky I am to have the wonderful family of students that are up here with me today. I couldn’t be the person I am today without you, and I hope I was able to make the long lasting impression on all of you, that you all had on me. Thank you.