Dr. Rui Dionisio, Superintendent of Schools
Members of the Board of Education, parents, staff, and the Class of 2021, it is an honor to be with you this evening.
When I was a child, I was told a parable – about a carrot, an egg, and a cup of coffee. It’s a story that has stayed with me throughout my life, a simple lesson I reflected on from time to time this school year, and one I hope will resonate with you.
There once was an incredibly bright young woman who had acquired tremendous knowledge and skills – everyone who knew her believed she was destined for great things as she went out into the world.
One day, the young woman returned to her childhood home to visit her mother. As she sat at the kitchen table, she shared how unfair life had been, how hard things had become. She expressed her frustration and pain, how tired she was in dealing with all of the challenges before her. She contemplated scorching the earth, she considered just giving up.
Her mother said little at first and just continued to listen. As she prepared dinner, she set three separate pots of water and brought them to a boil. She added carrots to the first pot. In the second, she placed a dozen eggs. In the last, ground coffee beans.
After some time, she shut off the heat on the stove. She strained the carrots and set them aside. She pulled out the eggs, placing them in a bowl to cool. She took a ladle and poured coffee from the pot into a mug.
With patience, she continued to listen as her daughter expressed her frustrations. She placed the three cooked items on the table. Her daughter paused. The mother turned and asked, “What do you see?” The daughter looked up and replied, “Carrots. Eggs. Coffee. Why?”
The mother then asked her daughter to feel the carrots and describe them. Reluctantly, she touched them and said “they’re soft.” At her mother’s request, she then peeled the eggs. The inside had hardened beneath the shell. The mother then asked her daughter to taste the coffee. She took in the rich scent, sipped from the mug and smiled.
The mother then said to her daughter: “Look: all three – the carrot, the egg and the coffee bean – they all experienced the same adversity – they were all dropped into boiling water.”
“The carrot was hard and firm at first, but it softened and became weak within minutes.”
“The egg started out fluid and fragile, but it hardened over time.”
“But the ground coffee beans … they did something truly remarkable. It changed the water. The beans went into boiling water, and it changed its own environment.”
This parable is a teaching on resilience – a trait that defines our success regardless of what we pursue. Our capacity to recover quickly when faced with difficulties — to cope and respond – it’s more important than how much we know, and how well we do what we do.
The carrot weakened in the heat; perhaps worse, the egg hardened.
Graduates, as you go out and chase your life’s greatest pursuits, recognize that your inner strength is enough to carry you through whatever is presented before you.
Don’t wilt, don’t let your heart go cold.
Be the coffee bean. Be that person who chooses to change the water. No matter how hot it may get. Even when things seem to be at their worst, or when challenges come in waves and you feel overwhelmed … rely on your values, dig deep, get back up, stay present, keep moving. Choose to make your environment better, for you and everyone around you.
Graduates, just to get to this moment, you have demonstrated that resilience lives within you. There was an uncommon, shared adversary we all faced during your last years here; and for many of you there were personal challenges known and unknown to us where you have persevered.
Undoubtedly, you will face times in your personal and professional future that, for a moment, will frighten you or take your breath away. Expect it, prepare for it, find the lesson in those moments, and be ready to turn those challenges into your greatest opportunities for learning and growth.
We are extremely proud of all that you have achieved — individually and collectively — but more than that we admire the character shown in the face of adversity. Carry forward your positive spirit, treat others well, and never, ever give up.
Congratulations to all of the Graduates and your families on this very special day.