A Ship Is Safe In the Harbour

On June 22, 2018, The Harbour School held a commencement ceremony for the class of 2018 - the school’s very first graduates. The following is a speech by our head of school, Dr. Jadis Blurton, at the ceremony.


"Since the graduates all chose a quote to talk about in their talks, I decided to do the same.  The one that I chose was by John A. Shedd, who wrote, “A ship in the harbour is safe, but that’s not what a ship is built for.”  I figured that one was particularly apt tonight, as four of our ships are heading away from our little Harbour. We’re all here with garlands and flowers wishing you bon voyage and saying congratulations and telling you how much we will miss you.  


But those who have sailed before you – your parents, your teachers, me, Mrs. Greenberg, Dr. Freud – are also white-knuckling it a bit at the same time, because we know there are going to be strong seas and high winds.  


We know that because that’s the way the ocean is.


So… first of all, it’s important to remember that that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  It’s supposed to be scary sometimes and it’s not always comfortable.


Of course, there will be lots of times when you are becalmed, and that’s fine. Take advantage of those days. Those are days when you can go swimming, sunbathe, read a good book, make a great meal.  There’s nothing wrong with those days.


But you know (and in fact you hope) that sooner or later the wind will come up and the sails will fill and the boat will tilt to its side, and you will be crashing through the waves holding onto the mast.  You will be scared. When that happens, be aware of two things: First, that those are the days you will remember most because they really are a lot of fun, and second, that those days are probably when you are going somewhere.  


There will be lots of days like that, and they’re scary: When you have to give an important speech or have an audition or apply for a job.  It’s opening night, or the first time you talk to a class. It’s when you imagine a building or write a book and submit it to someone else’s judgment.  It’s when you start a school or a company. It’s when you go off to college or move far away. When you fall in love or if you get married or have children, those things are terrifying because you are risking your heart.  When you make a stand by helping someone out or attending a political protest or confronting a bully, you are supposed to be scared, and that’s okay because all of those things take you someplace.


That doesn’t mean you take unnecessary or crazy risks or seek out fear for fear’s sake – if there Is a hurricane a good captain stays in harbor or close to shore and takes care of the ship.  But even then, when you are out in the open sea, sometimes despite your best efforts a hurricane overtakes you and you feel like there is nothing you can do to control the wind or the raging seas.  When that happens, batten down the hatches, try to keep your bearings and remember that one of two things will happen. When the storm dies down and the skies clear and the sun comes out, you will either reorient and find your way back to your original destination, or else you will find yourself in uncharted territory with vistas and horizons you had never dreamed of before, and you will find a new destination.  Either way, always remember you are never sailing alone.


So adventure and challenge are scary, and really that’s okay.  If I can sneak in another quote, we’ll go with Helen Keller’s: “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.”  Or Gandalf’s: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your front door.” Or one from Mark Twain, who wrote: "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."  (Okay, I know that was sneaking in three quotes.)


Ten years ago, I told Iggy’s second grade class that they were the captains at The Harbour School.  For as long as they were here, they would be the oldest, the first to experience new ideas or systems.  So they were the first to do a Global Issues Conference or Arts Interim or Middle School Trip. Now, the first captains are setting off for distant shores aboard their own ships, and we all could not be more proud of who they are and who they will be."


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