Congratulations to the Class of 2020

What a time to be graduating. But then it’s always been a weird old world and lately getting a lot weirder. It’s going to be up to you to make it better. We’re counting on you.

I remember, sort of, what I felt like at my high school graduation. Worse, I remember what I looked like. Talk about innocent.

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Little Leo in 1973

This is the speech I gave at my daughter, Abby’s, high school graduation in 2010. I send it to you now with love and congratulations. You’ve only just begun.


Thank you, Janet. Parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins, teachers, staff, and administrators. Seniors. How did it come to this?

It seems like only yesterday Jennifer and I were planning to open a college savings account for our newborn daughter, Abby. And now our baby girl is graduating. If you notice me tearing up a little it’s because I really wish we had opened that savings account.

Seniors, today marks the end of four years of hard work for you. That doesn’t mean it’s going to get any easier now. On the contrary, college, work, adult life all will bring many challenges. You will make many new friends but none that you will hold more dear than those you have made here at Sonoma Academy. You may not believe it now, but trust me, you will cherish your time here until the end of your days.

Thanks to SA, I know each of you have the tools to find your special talent, and to make your unique difference in the world. You will achieve happiness and deep satisfaction, and maybe someday you will arrive at a sunny field like this, filled with shining faces like yours, and you will truly know the joy we feel today at your success.

This week, in high schools all over America, we hand over the keys to the planet to you, our seniors. It’s not in great condition. I hope you will pass it along a little cleaner, a little happier, a little healthier than my generation has left it. Sorry about the gas tank. We meant to fill it up before we got here. Maybe you can do better.

I’d like to leave you with a reading from a book your parents know well. It was very popular when we were your age. Written in the 1930s by a Lebanese-American poet named Kahlil Gibran, this admonition to parents matched our feelings, as teenagers, exactly. It’s something we parents often need to struggle to remember.

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Parents, teachers, family, and friends, for 18 years, give or take, we have been these graduates stable bow. Now they take flight into their new lives, leaving us behind, waving farewell. It’s sad for us in many ways, but it’s also exactly right. It’s time. Today marks the culmination of everything we have all worked so hard to achieve. We can truly say it is done, and it is good.

Seniors, we send you out into the world, our hearts bursting with pride. We won’t burden you with our hopes and fears, but instead lift you with our love and together we will celebrate a joyous completion and a new beginning. We know you will fly far and high. We can’t wait to see where you land.