Baccalaureate Speech 2019
Good evening everyone, my name is Matt Doty. When Dr. Crafton invited me to speak at this ceremony I was admittedly apprehensive at first. I didn’t know that I fully understood the prompt, nor did I know if I had anything to say.
I quickly realized that the issue wasn’t whether or not I would have something to say—I rarely run into that problem—but whether or not I could string together words with enough freshness and depth to strike a chord with a group of high school students. This task seemed far more difficult, and the thought of it rattled around in my head for a few days.
Until one weekend, with the date of my speech closing fast and my mind completely blank, I had a conversation with a friend from another school that kinda grabbed my attention. My friend and I walked through a small wooded area in Minneapolis and reminisced about high school.
A Tale of Two Schools
[My friend] told me of all the things he would miss about home, like his father’s guitar playing upstairs and the line of stores down the block that he frequented in his middle school years.
He told me of all the things that he wouldn’t miss, like the cold winters of Minnesota and mosquitos and simply the routine that he had found himself in. I was surprised to hear, however, that on the same list as the mosquitos, my friend placed his high school.
He’s a social guy with lots of friends, yet, he explained to me that he felt as though his school (referring to faculty as well as the student body) had never encouraged students to grow and follow their interests, and as a result, he said, most of them were far too worried about pleasing those around them to become their own person. He said “Matt, I like the people at school, but my class is just a group of kids”. It was in this moment, during this nonchalant remark, that I realized the importance that Minnehaha has had in all of our lives.
I grew up at Minnehaha. It was my first introduction to community. So please excuse me. For a lot of my life I took for granted the type of love that goes on here everyday.
In classrooms, teachers encourage us to ask questions. In our advisor groups, we are lifted up with school counseling. At sports games athletes play until their lungs burn and the fans in the student section cheer them on until theirs do too. In the hallways we greet each other with a smile every day. This is a community based on encouragement. There is nothing complex or extreme about our love for each other. It's rooted in the tones of our voices and the way our laughter carries, not some wild exclamation. We raise each other up high and we do it happily because this is how we’ve seen the most success. No place is perfect, no group of people is perfect, but I am so proud to see that this class has loved each other, whether we knew it or not, without compromise year after year.
It was only in this type of love and encouragement that we’ve all been able to grow and prosper. The writers of our grade, backed by incredible English teachers, have precise pens capable of soft beauty or sharp articulation. Our musicians get to explore how to communicate through song. Our leaders start clubs, our athletes win championships. We have all obviously done well in this atmosphere.
Greater than the Parts
But looking behind me today, I see something far greater than Ki Albinson, or Evalin Olson, or Bennet Theisen or London Donohoe. We have created a community based on the love that we are taught about in the Bible. Like a piece of music that plays on the counterpoint of multiple melodic lines to create something new or a great writer’s weaving of character relationships to add an extra pop to their story, we are individually beautiful, but it is only together that we truly shine.
So, yes our grade can be looked at as individual students, and we would be satisfied because we have some absolutely incredible students. I think we would be remiss, however, to not look at our grade as a whole. As something far greater than the sum of its parts.
And so something incredible was created. I’ve seen this class change every year since Kindergarten. I’ve watched each and every new student turn into an old student. I’ve watched as the group accommodates for new kids and they accommodate for us. In these long thirteen years, starting with the fundamental truth that we must make our decisions based on an unconditional love, we’ve done nothing if not grown through it. Every person has added their own application of that truth to make this group more deeply rooted and diverse.
Bring it With You
And so, as we move on from Minnehaha, I challenge us all to bring the love and encouragement that is so present here to wherever you may be off to, because God has shown me how strong it is.
Next year, when we go out and offer this unconditional and unrelenting love to those around us, we can’t always expect it in return. We’ve seen it work, so we have to be confident that if we put love into the world, we are doing the right thing, regardless of whether or not people show us the same love back. Our job is to love and we must delight in it.
Like any community, we aren’t perfect and we have had our differences. But I know that just like you all have, knowingly or unknowingly, I need to start and end with love.
So for the rest of my life, as I go on to make new friendships and relationships, it is every one of you that I will be thinking about, and the sometimes subtle though constant undercurrent of love that you’ve all shown me and each other. In my thirteen years at Minnehaha, God has taught me that it is love for each other that sets us free to grow and be happy, and it is that growth and happiness that makes a community beautiful. Thank you all so much for helping to teach me this lesson.