We are here this evening to honor you for you efforts in graduating, to honor your parents who nurtured you and we are here to honor your commencement, your beginning, into adult life.
I want all of you to know a few things about this great class of 2005. They have higher SAT scores than we have seen in a few years. 80% of them passed the MCAS test for high school graduation two years ahead of schedule in the 10 th grade, and by the time it was re-given in the 12 th grade, 98.5% of these kids passed.
Massachusetts has the highest or close to the highest scores in English and math of any state in the country. Consider this for a moment—in a State where our education averages are the highest in the land, these kids are at or near the State averages.
Here is the best. For the past ten years, have kept statistics on the number of kids who walk the extra mile and sign up for Advanced placement courses. This class, the class of 2005, has the highest number of kids have ever recorded signing up for advanced placement courses.
So, to the great class of 2005, congratulations.
You’re entering a world, and a city, where there are great challenges and great opportunities. President Kennedy used to remind us that the Chinese word for crisis consisted of two characters, the character for danger and the character for opportunity. The world you are about to commence to has both.
I want you to reflect for just one moment on just how fortunate you are to have those opportunities. As we speak, thousands of miles of earth are engulfed in wars, millions of people are dying of diseases that America long eradicated, and billions will go to bed hungry this evening,. We leave here in peace, and not a single one of us will go without food. We are fortunate indeed.
I know that some of you are immigrants or the children of immigrants. You have special reasons to be proud. The rest of us only had to study to get through school. You had to study and to learn to think in a second language. When your parents see you this evening, you will note the special pride they have in their eyes. Keep them proud.
The world you are entering into is fraught with great dangers and with great opportunities.
One of the great opportunities you have is to take part in public life and the public discourse of life. It America we talk often of rights—a right to vote, a right to free speech but we seldom talk of duties. I suggest to you that you have a duty, a moral imperative, for some portion of your life, however small, to be involved in public life and public discourse.
Fulfilling that moral duty can be amazingly easy—as easy as keeping up to date on the great public issues of the day, and reading the newspapers and watching the news.
Your highest duty, your greatest moral imperative as a public citizen, is really a very simple one—to vote.
I hope that some of you carry that just one step more, and consider a career in public life as an elected official. Being involved in politics is the greatest helping profession, and you are able to do more in this profession than in any other.
Finally, you have a duty, a moral imperative, to do, as was said about Robert Kennedy, to see wrong and try to right it. Seeing wrong is more difficult than you think—what looks perfectly right from close up may look perfectly wrong through the lens of history.
But I suggest to you that it does not matter. If you believe it’s wrong, it is your duty to work to right it. If you see a world where we are overheating the planet we borrowed from our parents, it is your duty to change it. If you see a world where billions of people still go to bed, as Franklin Roosevelt said, ill housed, ill clothed and ill fed, then it is your duty to work for change.
The society you are entering in a few short years will be yours. It will be only a few years before you are up here, and you are running the government. So, as you go forth to see the world, and I hope to change it, I leave you with this one thought.
The people of Haverhill have made an enormous commitment to provide you with good schools, great school teachers, and with great opportunity. After you see the world, come back to your hometown, a city that is on its way back and experiencing a renaissance, city, and help us make things just a little bit better before it is time to turn things over to your children.
Thank you and good luck.
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Office of the Mayor
City of Haverhill, Massachusetts
City Hall, Room 100, 4 Summer Street, Haverhill, MA 01830
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