After last year’s heartbreaking cancellation, the annual graduation ceremony returned to the Mountain Winery on Saturday to celebrate the Class of 2021’s accomplishments and formally conclude their high school years. Although strict safety protocols meant that only the seniors and their guests could attend, a livestream was set up so that the rest of the community could view the ceremony from home.
Following a brief welcome address by Butch Keller, upper school division head, co-valedictorians Daniel Wang and Claire Luo offered some parting words to their classmates. Wang expressed how privileged he felt to be a member of a senior class that had persevered through so much. Because of those challenges, he said, “We go forward with an even greater drive to brave new challenges and make precious memories that will last us a lifetime. We have been through a lot together. It is my honor to be your valedictorian.”
Luo voiced her thankfulness to the many people involved in both her journey and that of her classmates, including her parents “for their endless care and sacrifice,” Harker teachers “for going way above and beyond in supporting and inspiring us” and Harker administrators and staff “for making the last four years possible.
“Finally, thank you to my spectacular friends and to all of you, Class of 2021,” she continued, “for the love, laughter and life that made the last four years truly memorable.”
The Senior String Quintet, the first of the ceremony’s musical performers, then offered their rendition of Haydn’s “Adagio, from String Quartet No. 47 in F Minor,” followed by the Senior Graduation Chorus, who sang Dan Forrest’s “Always Something Sings.”
Roberta Wolfson ‘05, a lecturer in writing and rhetoric at Stanford University and this year’s keynote speaker, made boxes the theme of her speech, specifically “metaphorical boxes that we build for ourselves and others on a daily basis. Boxes that tell us what to say, how to act, what goals we should be striving for. Boxes that sometimes can end up boxing us in.” She asked the students to consider what boxes they have been placed into, a question that “motivated me to pursue a career as a scholar and educator of critical race studies and literary studies.” Witnessing the Class of 2021’s accomplishments, she said, made her feel “hopeful, because I know that you have the passion and the power to address these flaws and make the world stronger.”
Head of school Brian Yager, the final speaker for the day, encouraged the Class of 2021 to reflect on the ways humanity has successfully met challenges, one prime example being the increase in life expectancy. “There is no headline that reads 50,000 fewer Americans died from car crashes this year or 100,000 children didn’t die because their food was refrigerated. There’s a great lesson here,” he said. “Our attention and energy are easily captured by tragedy but it is not easily captured by the absence of it.” He concluded by noting the senior class’ resilience and growth in the face of unprecedented obstacles: “Class of 2021, this year has given you and all of us much by which we could have been overwhelmed. Today, though, we can celebrate the much that you have achieved. You have already begun to view your year as seniors as one of trial and challenge, but in a good way. You have been made stronger, wiser and hopefully kinder.”
The ceremony formally ended with the traditional release of a flock of doves, symbolizing the Class of 2021’s next adventure into the wider world.