The Champion of All Phenomena

On June 21, 2019, The Harbour School held a commencement ceremony for the class of 2019. The following is a speech by our head of school, Dr. Jadis Blurton, at the ceremony.

 

"My grandmother was born in 1901, so she was always one year younger than the century. In 1950, she was 49. These graduates were also born at the beginning of their century, so in 2050, they will be about 49. But I think it is fair to say that their world will be vastly different from the world my grandmother lived in, and as a result you will be vastly different from my grandmother and the people she lived among.

 

As historian and futurist Yuval Noah Harari said, “Any particular scenario is likely to be far from the truth. If somebody describes the world of the mid-21st century to you and it sounds like science fiction, it is probably false.  But then again, if somebody describes the world of the mid-21st century to you and it doesn’t sound like science fiction it is certainly false. We cannot be sure of the specifics; change itself is the only certainty.”

 

My grandmother’s world was stable. She went to school, graduated, married and had kids. And she died in 1958, when she was 57 years old, which was not unusual in her generation. There was a predictability, a pattern to life and jobs: the graduate chose a path and that was the path he or she followed until death. Yeah, every once in a while we dealt with people who lost their jobs or women who re-entered the workforce after raising kids and we needed to think about retraining them, and that was a big deal. Whole retraining programs were set up for these people who could no longer do the one thing they were trained to do! But you, our graduates, live in a world of “perpetual beta.” The path you choose today will change not once or twice but continually, in a continual evolution so that you will return to school – physically or online – throughout your life. The jobs you train for today might not even exist in 20 years. And your life will not end at 57 but at 107 or more. That’s a lot of change!

 

Nothing I say today can prepare you for life’s new requirements, but I am certain they will require flexibility, agility, perseverance, and an acceptance of the many iterations of newness that will cross your paths. This also means that it is more important than ever to know yourself and to keep re-acquainting yourself with who you are, what you value, and what meaning you want to create.

 

That’s not to say that yours will be the first people in any generation to continually redefine. As I was pondering this speech a week ago, I got an email from an old friend and a founding member of this school, who now goes by J Edward Swaine but whom I know as my old friend John. He’s a retired barrister. The last few years he’s been a songwriter. So right now he’s just bought a radio station and is figuring out how to make some television and combine public relations and songwriting. He’s developing another business in cybersecurity and has an album or two to release and he’s consulting on immigration. Oh yeah, and he’s also going back to school to get a master’s degree in telecom, media and technology law, and, um, “dusting off his first novella.”  Coincidentally enough, he’s 58.

 

I also received an email from Iggy (Ignacio Hui), who is one-fourth of our current graduate alumni and is sitting over there. (Another fourth, Tess Seaver, is sitting next to him, as well as another fourth, Christian Kist. See, I can say that now but in about an hour they will all be reduced to one-twelfth each.) Those of you who know Iggy know that he is studying architecture at UC Berkeley. He wrote to me about I.M. Pei, the Chinese-American architect who designed so many incredible buildings (including the iconic glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris and the Bank of China building here in Hong Kong) but who just recently (in May) passed away at the age of 102. Iggy told me, “when I.M. Pei was 92, he took on a project for an art museum in the Middle East that went on for 8 years, until he was 100 years old. He had no prior knowledge of Islam, but he remarked in an interview that he was eager for this opportunity because it meant he could learn about something he had never been exposed to before it was too late.” Exactly.

 

These two remarkable people are inspiring and rare in their generations, but will be much more the norm in this century. Yours will be lives of continual reinvention. You are about to set off on a huge journey, with many enormous changes, setbacks, restarts, ups and downs. We – your parents, your teachers, Dr. Micci and I --could not possibly be more proud of the people you are today and excited to see how you travel on your many paths.   

 

When I told my friend John what I was thinking about, he wrote the rest of my speech for me. He said: “I believe there’s so much more to “evolving” as a person than changing to stay optimally adapted to the world as it changes - more than a borrowing of Darwin’s thinking, more than “surviving”. The most remarkable dividend that personal change pays lies in the fact that, even better than nothing having to be lost in the process, something is gained greater than the sum of old and new parts. The person you once were informs the person you now are. So age isn’t a measurement of how far down the road you’ve travelled, but rather the exponentiation of everything you’ve seen, done, imagined, wondered about, marvelled over, collected and connected, made, given, shared and taken to, with and from the one, the only, and still the undisputed champion of all phenomena: life. I wish your graduating students as much of it as their minds can aspire to receive.”

 

As do we all.

 

Thank you."

 

You can view our full list of university acceptances here.

 

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