DHS Principal Ellen Dunn’s 2019 Graduation Speech


Image from DAF Media video

Darien High School Principal Ellen Dunn, speaking at the DHS 2019 graduation ceremony.

Download PDF

Good evening Ms. Tara Ochman, Chair of the Darien Board of Education, Members of the Darien Board of Education, Dr. Elliot Landon, colleagues, parents, grandparents, guests and most distinguished members of the Darien High School Class of 2019.

Following a long standing tradition, I am told the class of 2019 will present me with a gift as they receive their diplomas this evening. Pieces of sea glass, tiny jewels, are a fitting symbol for a class we have come to cherish and provides a beautiful metaphor around which to weave a message for the graduating class.

Image from DAF Media video

Darien High School Principal Ellen Dunn, speaking at the DHS 2019 graduation ceremony.

Sea glass takes us to another place and time. It holds our imagination, mysterious and magical, and conjures memories of long days at the shore, unfettered by the cares of today. To the touch, the smooth surface of sea glass reminds us of tiny hands wrapped in or own as we look out over the sea. As parents, in those moments, we saw the future, far off in the distance. We searched and searched with you, picking up stones and shells until we came upon a tiny treasure, a piece of glass, weathered by waves, sun, sand and time. We can almost hear your voices now, squealing with delight at your discovery.

And here you are tonight, years later, shaped like sea glass into unique and precious treasures. You are individuals, no two the same. You have your own ideas that will inspire others – your own voice that will move others to change. Your insights are yours alone and will empower others to reconsider. Your talents will inspire others to create. Your resilience will allow others to endure. As individuals, you have power that no one else has. But sea glass is rarely displayed as individual pieces. Instead, it is shown as a collection, varied in size, color and texture. Exquisite and beautiful, the impact of the whole much greater than its parts. The same holds true for the Class of 2019. Your collective legacy of accomplishments is extraordinary – but even more important is the way your generosity of spirit, fun-loving good nature and kind hearts reinforced and strengthened each other. You have left DHS forever changed and your gift will serve as a reminder.

What secrets are held by the sea glass and what do they mean to you?

First, sea glass has been made strong by the turbulence it endures. You, too, will be shaped by your experiences. Here, your teachers have challenged you to think critically and creatively, to solve problems through innovation and to engage in the exchange of ideas that carve out new ways of thinking and new perspectives. As you take your next steps, do not let fear hold you back. Be bold and know that your voice is as important as any other. Have confidence in all that you have to contribute. Friction and turmoil have changed the glass forever. Be courageous in the face of conflict and stand by your beliefs.

The birth of sea glass requires patience. Nature teaches us patience when tending a garden or waiting for a butterfly to emerge from its chrysalis. Be patient with yourself and offer it as a gift to others. It is easy to be a harsh critic, to tear others down. Be someone who sheds light, who sustains others and builds them up. Forgive. It will make all the difference.

More than 30 years must pass to complete the sea glass life cycle. Remember that time is not an endless resource. Live in the moment. Be present and remove the distractions that get in the way of the human connections we need to survive. Time is a precious commodity and once spent can never be retrieved. Spend it on those you love most.

DHS Principal Ellen Dunn 2019 graduation speech

DHS Principal Ellen Dunn at Darien High School\’s 2019 graduation ceremony.

As a former science teacher, I would be remiss if I did not point out that the physical properties of glass are defined by a molecular arrangement that is amorphous, falling somewhere between that of liquid and solid. Always look beyond the surface to the mysteries within. Listen to what is in your heart and let it define you as well. Set a moral compass that will guide you when your resolve is tested. You have all you need within you. You are complete as you are. Free yourself from comparisons to others that have eroded your confidence. Remember that you are enough.

Perhaps the greatest message in sea glass is its transformation from brokenness to beauty. Discarded, shards of glass evolve into smooth, shimmering gems. Embrace change and the opportunities that unfold before you. Take a risk and allow yourself to be vulnerable. It is in these moments that you grow. Remember that life is precious and see the beauty all around you. Love without apology, weep without fear of judgment and let your laughter fill the room. Make no apologies for feeling deeply. It separates you from those who lack compassion and allows you to see the dignity in all people.

Finally, the sea glass reminds us to keep searching. Hold on to the wonder and curiosity of childhood. Learning is searching…searching for knowledge, searching for understanding, posing questions and searching for answers. Explore everything that is within your reach and find something that fuels your imagination. If you are lucky, it will become your life’s work.

Tonight it feels that you have come on shore, and are, for a brief moment, on display for our consideration, not fully polished, slightly translucent, still unfinished. The ebb and flow of the tide will capture you again and continue your transformation. Our wave – our Blue Wave – has shaped you and nurtured you and will lift you now, carrying you forward, away from us, in all directions.

I imagine a day, years from now, when you will walk along a beach searching for treasure and you will remember the sea glass you left behind. In that moment, recall this night and the hopes and dreams we held for you as you departed. You have left an indelible mark on us and we hope you will return many times to your DHS home. Thank you for being such a wonderful class and congratulations to all of you!

Ms. Tara Ochman, members of the Darien Board of Education, and Dr. Elliott Landon, I am proud to present to you the Darien High School Class of 2019

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *