The baccalaureate ceremony returned to the upper school quad on Friday, where the Class of 2023 and the juniors were joined by Harker parents and faculty to bid farewell to the senior class and welcome members of the Class of 2024 into their new role as school leaders for the 2023-24 school year.
The Class of 2023 Chamber Orchestra began the ceremony with a performance of “The Fairy Garden” from Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite.” Jennifer Gargano, assistant head of school for academic affairs, then welcomed the attendees and introduced Cantilena, who performed Rosephanye Powell’s “Still I Rise.” To recognize the continuation of upholding the honor code, junior Margaret Cartee accepted the responsibility of leading Harker’s honor council from senior Austina Xu.
In his second baccalaureate faculty farewell speech, college counselor Martin Walsh recalled consulting his colleagues for their thoughts on the Class of 2023. “Ms. [Ritu] Raj, our attendance coordinator, made a point of saying that you were a wonderful group of students but clearly not morning people,” he said, remarking on the senior class’ high rate of tardiness. He jokingly described other troubling signs, such as the students’ lackluster performance in spirit competitions and several instances where teachers “had no idea what you were talking about.”
However, the Class of 2023 proved to be exceptional in many encouraging ways as well. Walsh pointed out the Robotics team’s trip to the World Championships in Houston, Kyra Hawk’s dominant performance for the girls lacrosse team and varsity football’s 6-2 record. The performing arts students, he said, received “three pages of praise,” and he received more and more emails about the seniors’ many talents. He also recalled being stopped in the halls several times to be reminded of the students’ compassion and care for one another, which became a common theme in the responses he received. “Yes, you were absurd and pushed boundaries,” he said. “But you also accomplished much and, most importantly, looked after each other along the way.”
Graduating senior Dyllan Han, chosen by the senior class to be this year’s student speaker, spoke at length on the topic of cliches, and how his own fear of turning into one threatened to keep him from enjoying many valuable experiences. “About 20 percent of you are ready for this to be over,” he said to the students. “Every time someone tried to teach me something that mattered, I called it corny or cheesy or worst of all, cliché.” Although he knew the importance of these lessons, he continued, there was a difference between understanding them and internalizing them. “I knew kindness was good and yet I couldn’t show it to my friends. … I couldn’t raise my hand in class, eager to learn, without feeling a little embarrassed at my enthusiasm and then admitting to myself, I’m just doing this for the grade or the rec letter. And I couldn’t tell my parents I love them.”
Upon recognizing that his fear of becoming a cliché could cause him to “miss out on relationships that I can never get back,” he began to recognize the intrinsic value in many oft-repeated axioms and ideas. “For the longest time I felt like a bystander in the groups I was a part of, skirting on the edges afraid to genuinely take part,” he recalled. He also began neglecting hygiene and stopped talking to friends because “I didn’t feel worth the effort. … Those are moments, opportunities, time I will never get back.” He concluded by saying that he wouldn’t implore his classmates and friends in the junior class “to be kind or responsible or passionate … but I want you to know that these concepts are valuable, beyond buzzwords or slogans. And you might know the words but you won’t truly learn them if you think your knowledge of them makes you above them.”