Upper School

Seniors say goodbye through words and song at 2024 Baccalaureate

The senior and junior classes, as well as their families and faculty, packed the upper school quad on Friday for this year’s Baccalaureate, where the Class of 2024 formally say goodbye to their alma mater and welcomed the Class of 2025 into their role as next year’s student leaders.

The ceremony began with a special performance of the first movement of Dvorak’s Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, with violinists Andre Lu and Alex Zhong, both juniors; violist Harshini Chaturvedula, grade 12; cellist Jerry Li, grade 12, and pianist Iris Cai, grade 11. 

Following a brief welcome address by assistant head of school Jennifer Gargano, vocal group Cantilena, directed by Susan Nace, gave their annual Baccalaurate performance with their rendition of “For Good” by Stephen Schwartz.

This year’s faculty address was delivered by upper school history teacher James Tate, who opened with one of his favorite quotes by philosopher Alan Watts: “The reason you want to better, is the reason you aren’t.” He went on to explain what he believed to be the meaning of Watts’ message, saying, “we tend to look at and judge ourselves in terms of our failures and what we aren’t, or what we lack. It is the fact that we think we need to be better rather than accepting ourselves for who we are.”

Tate illustrated his point with the story of his own life. Dropping out of high school toward the end of his junior year, Tate spent nearly a decade trying to atone for his failure by accepting almost any opportunity that presented itself, including working as a bartender, joining the Navy and working at a friend’s startup. After discovering that he greatly enjoyed reading, he decided to return to school and applied to colleges with an essay titled, “Why I Am a Failure and What I Learned From It.” He later graduated from UC Berkeley and moved to London to work on his graduate thesis. 

“You have strengths that you don’t even realize yet,” he said to the junior and senior classes. “Whatever you perceive your failings to be or the sources of your anxieties, your weaknesses, your inadequacies, whatever you they think they are, in reality, none of these things. The things that you perceive as failings or insecurities are actually the seeds of your future happiness, the potential wellsprings of your greatest success.”

Senior Anish Jain, the student speaker for this year’s Baccalaureate, confessed that his anxiety about high school wasn’t about college applications or AP exams. “My biggest fear was finding my own network of peers,” he said, noting the common uttering of phrases such as “your net worth is your network.” The network he and others cultivated at Harker, however, ended up being worth much more than the corporate success implied by that saying.

“Our sense of net worth comes from the true meaningful bonds we’ve built in our community,” he said. The most striking example of this, he said, was when students celebrated an announcement about their senior trip by sounding the rubber chickens they had used during their spring semester assassination game. “Somehow it left me with a shocking new sense of pride for something, so kitschy and outlandish,” he said. “It was a feeling of unity that I honestly couldn’t even describe.”

Turning to address the juniors, Jain jokingly remarked, “I’m going to be honest. At the beginning of this year, I wouldn’t have considered you all even remotely part of my network. I mean, seriously, how could I, with your jangling keys to prove that you drove to school?”

After letting the laughter subside, he continued: “However, throughout these past few months, I realized my network isn’t complete without all of you. That’s because you all are the legacy, the next generation of seniors to embrace, inspire and lead this institution.”

He advised the Class of 2025 not to let their senior year disappear before they knew it. “My senior year went by quicker than I could have possibly imagined,” he said. “So I’ll just tell you guys to sometimes take a minute. Take a minute and enjoy the reflective process of writing a college essay. Take a minute and reconcile with that person you’ve had petty beef with since ninth grade. Take a minute and support your friends and their theater performances, sports games or dance shows. Take a minute and show your network. How much you care for them.”

The Harker Magazine

Published two times a year, The Harker Magazine showcases some of the top news, leading programs, inspiring people and visionary plans of the greater Harker community.

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