Good Evening. On behalf of the Canterbury School of Florida Class of 2019 - welcome and thank you! To our families, friends, teachers, and faculty - we offer our deepest gratitude for the many ways you have positively impacted our lives over the course of this academic journey. We would not be here without you. 

We are fortunate to be members of this graduating class from such a special school. Our class is big enough to have provided a wide range of opportunities and experiences, but, small enough that we are able to establish bonds and friendships that will last our lifetimes. We know each other pretty well.

We all know that Patience is going to need a ride to Dunkin’ Donuts, everyone in AP Stats is going to ask Georgia or Emmy how to do the homework, and Akeem is going to catch a quick nap during A period.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love flowers, a lot. I always have. Some flowers grow tall, others grow short. Some bloom big and bright and other ones never grow larger than a bud. There are even flowers that look like birds and bugs. 

I mean, that alone is extraordinary. While I often find myself admiring the brilliant colors, spectacular scents and totally tubular biological processes that occur within a flower, my love for flowers stems from an appreciation of something not necessarily easily recognized at first sight.

Senior class students gather on the steps

Last summer I had the privilege and honor of serving as a cultural ambassador to St. Petersburg’s sister city of Takamatsu, Japan.  While I was there, I lived in Seiko Ji Temple and studied Buddhism, meditation and martial arts with the temple’s monks. From this experience, I learned many things, but the lesson that has influenced my life the most was my host father’s final teaching of the Japanese concept of mono no aware

Now, Japanese is a tricky language and it doesn't always translate perfectly into English, so I am going to do my best to explain: 

Mono no aware roughly translates to an umbrella term that describes the bittersweetness of a brief and breathtaking moment of transcendent beauty... and the tranquility it inspires within. 

It was in this lesson that I truly came to understand the beauty that lies within the ending of all things spectacular. I understand this best by looking at flowers. The deeper beauty of a flower lies in its transformation...in the fact that it will only exist in the form that we recognize as beautiful for a very short while. 

We focus on flowers for only a short portion of the entirety of its life cycle, often treating flowers as though the time that they are in full bloom constitutes the fullness of their existence. This is when we cut them, when we buy them, when we put them in vases and arrangements. But, a flower spends a significant amount of its life growing and developing, long before we ever see it bloom. Eventually, a flower will bloom in a moment of striking beauty, but it will soon fade into nothingness, starting the cycle all over again. Every step in this cycle is important. 

I feel that the ability to pause and recognize the beauty in the ephemeral is a superpower if one can master it. Like our relationship with flowers, human beings often look too quickly past the glory of life’s blooming moments only to focus on the difficulty that comes with its ending. It is easy for us to lose sight of the beauty we just experienced. 

I have spent most of my life growing at this school. I have been here since I was four-years-old... building friendships and learning lessons that will last a lifetime. Everything that we have done individually, or collectively as a class has helped us all grow into the people we are now. And, at the end of the day, it doesn't even matter when or why or how you got here, all that matters is that you were here and your individuality helped make us into the us that we are. 

We worked together. We laughed together. We cried and got super mad together. We danced together. And when it all comes down to it we stand together. Always. 

Because we are a family. And now we will grow up and move apart, and maybe even grow apart, but the love we feel for each other will just grow and reform taking shape and being reborn into new loves and new friendships. New relationships and lessons, just like a flower.

But, this place will always have a lasting impact on us. On who we are.

The Canterbury School of Florida not only helped us become the people we are now.

It is the place that gave us the tools we need to grow into the people we will become in the future. It is the place where our teachers became our friends, and our friends become our teachers. The place where everyone became a family. 

If I have learned anything in my life it's that the only thing you can count on for sure is that things will not go as planned. You never really know what's going to happen, when it's going to happen or how or why. All we know is that life is going to happen. And we are going to have to take those leaps, even if we don't know where we are going to come down. 

And we did that, 

We took those leaps together.  

And, our next steps start now. 

This feels like the most important moments of our lives, but, in a while, no one is going to even remember what I said today. 

We aren't going to remember that time we all fought over the class color for four class meetings in Freshman year. 

Or that time we thought we could will away the bad weather in order to save the Junior class trip. We won’t remember. 

You aren't going to remember that time the turtles and I had a Viking funeral for a fish.

Or when none of us read Our Town in Freshman year and we sincerely thought that we could trick Ms. Brown into thinking that we had.

We won’t remember the tests we passed or the ones we didn't.

And, we definitely won’t remember who wore what to prom. Well, maybe we’ll remember what Amine wore to prom... 

But, we will remember each other. And, at the end of the day, that's what really matters. This is our Mono No Aware. A brilliantly, beautiful fleeting moment of achievement and success. We did it and soon we’ll feel the deflation of its end. But, these moments will be with us always. Every step in this cycle is important. 

I love each and every one of you, and I'm with you till the end of the line. 

Good luck out there.