School co-president Liam Hurtt ’22 gave this talk at Commencement 2022.
This week, I’ve wondered how to measure what our class has done here at St. Andrew’s. How, in a speech, could I possibly summarize and acknowledge our Class for everything we’ve done personally, academically, athletically, artistically, or as a community? Well, Class of 2022, I would argue that we would each call this school a home. But how is it that 83 kids from all across the country and globe can assemble over four years in a particular location, and it becomes our home? I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because leaving school feels different than when I was considering leaving St. Andrew’s for other schools four years ago. I’ve grown up here and lived here my whole life, yet the context of the word “home,” as it refers to this place, has changed.
Surely, this process starts with common experience. Essential to any home are the countless memories shared among individuals that live there, both trivial and grand. The rituals of the Square Dance, Frosty Run, and Carol Shout, which we all hold dear, were essential to our initiation into the community. The key to these events is that they are great equalizers—no one has any prior expertise due to the events’ wackiness, so it’s up to each student to invest themselves and benefit from the event as much as they want. In many ways, these events are microcosms of our time at St. Andrew’s: we get to live in this little petri dish of society, each of us equal, and get out exactly what we put in. And what better common experience to share than a worldwide pandemic? Navigating boarding school together melted us down and forged us together: our pasts were irrelevant aside from how they highlighted our individuality.
And so, as our Class ventured through the shared experience of St. Andrew’s, we were able to build empathy for each other. Residents of every home have the opportunity to develop a deep respect and love for each other. Empathy, and the ability to empathize, are the most important lessons we learn here, in and out of the classroom. Whether we know it or not, we practice our respect and love every day. In our English classes, we put ourselves into the emotional minds of our characters, and in history, we examine why people and peoples made the decisions they did. In our language classes, we learn how to grow closer with and develop understanding with the global community. Our math and science classes teach us how the people and world around us work. On the sports field, we rely on each other to achieve our goals, and in the arts, we can better express a wide range of human emotion. As you’ve noticed, these subjects all unite us in different ways. The more we learn about others, the more we can empathize with them. Each of our faculty is a master of empathy. Think of Mr. Robinson and Mrs. Honsel. Their empathy and deep understanding of who we are and what we go through lead to the efficiency, honesty, and joy they spread to each senior class. And empathy leads to love. Through our shared past and our educational assimilation into this global community, St. Andreans are essentially learning how to learn, how to empathize, and, therefore, how to love.
Now we’ve established that we love each other, whether we like to admit it or not, the idea of SAS as our home begins to make sense. While Crawford may never go around hugging random members of our Class, there are still ways to see that we love each other. Because love, and commitment to a greater cause, lead to service. Service is what truly sets St. Andrew’s apart. Dedication to and appreciation for the people around you cause you to perform unsolicited acts of kindness and helpfulness—true service. True Saints perform service like this day in and day out for this school. Saints like Phil Davis and Mr. Lewis. Saints like the SAGE team. Saints like Sonal, who works tirelessly to run every School Meeting and countless other events. Saints like me, who skipped going to see the new Top Gun to write this speech. Service, like empathy, will be essential in our lives after St. Andrew’s.
Growing up as a soccer player, I would frequently commute to various tournaments and games. When my dad drove, we would often listen to Howard Stern, and while he is by no means a great role model, he gives a damn good interview. One that has always stuck with me was with Jimmy Iovine, a music producer for Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Stevie Nicks. When asked for advice on getting to the top of his field, he replied, “Be of service.” He shared that he would constantly offer lunch or coffee to his coworkers and pick up small jobs below his pay grade. He was eternally helpful. And while this is good advice for those trying to climb their own ladders, I think it shows just how much he loved what he did and appreciated his industry and peers. From this same source comes the service each member of our Class and community has given to the school and will continue to provide wherever we go.
Through common experience, empathy, and service, St. Andrew’s has become our home. Not because we are the same or have become the same, but because we can live in community and honor our differences. The sense of home we have created here is more profound than just where we have lived for the past four years. Because it is home to our peers and our education, St. Andrew's is our moral center. After all, the mission of boarding school is to learn how to make a home. The mission of St. Andrew’s is to, through this process, make each of us a better person. To call a place your home, you must go through a process that will eventually teach you all the values of your home. The process has been the St. Andrew’s experience.
When we call a place our home, it becomes truly ours; we take responsibility for it and strengthen it. And surely we have done that much. So, Class of 2022, by calling St. Andrew’s your home, you have inherently learned what you needed to from this place about becoming a better person and citizen. You have completed St. Andrew’s: Pistis Kai Episteme— faith and learning. You showed your faith in yourselves and one another, and along the way, you learned how to make a home, how to learn, how to empathize, how to serve, and how to love.
As you navigate this process yourselves, underclassmen, remember what you are here for: learning. Remember that St. Andrew’s, like life, is what you make of it. And most of all, as you continue your journey, remember to be of service.
And to my Class: today and over the next few weeks, we will go our separate ways. Now, this statement has much less gravity than it did for the generation above us due to the ways that technology eases communication. Nevertheless, it is likely that our Class will never again assemble, as a whole, in one place. So look around and appreciate those we grew up with these past four years. Remember the things, large and small, that we did to make this place our own. As you make new homes in college and beyond, you will likely seek to create a sense of home similar to the one you have here. So be sure to look back and reflect on what exactly made this place so special for you. Most importantly, know that once St. Andrew’s is your home, it’s always your home. Believe me; my parents really can’t seem to get over it. But neither will we. This will always be your home. It’s been a great ride, guys, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you.