English teacher Ron Monroe inspires graduates with his departing message

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On Friday, May 27, KO students and faculty bid farewell to the class of 2022 as Mr. Monroe inspired students with his message at the Commencement Ceremony. 

Graduation began at 10:30 a.m. as the orchestra played and students, trustees, faculty, and lastly the seniors processed to their seats. After the chorus sang the school song, “Hail Kingswood Oxford,” written by Orchestra Director Richard Chiarappa, history teacher Ted Levine delivered the prelude and initiated the event. Senior Caroline Dawson then introduced the keynote speaker, Mr. Monroe. Head of School Tom Dillow spoke after Mr. Monroe, followed by Director of the Upper School Dan Gleason, who handed out diplomas alongside Mr. Dillow.

History teacher Rob Kyff concluded the ceremony with a final farewell to the senior class. The event was organized by Executive Assistant to Head of School Sherri Malinoski, who worked hard to ensure that the ceremony went off without a hitch. 

This year’s keynote speaker as chosen by the senior class was Mr. Monroe. Mr. Monroe’s speech revolved around the message of life being like a story and each person being the author of their own story. Being able to address the class of 2022 was very special to Mr. Monroe, as he will be leaving KO with the seniors when he retires at the end of the year.

Mr. Monroe began his speech by listing the similarities he will have with the seniors as they graduate and he retires, such as moving, making new friends, and getting into new routines. However, he transitioned into talking about the importance of each day playing a significant role in our life. “What we choose to do with our day-to-day lives combines to make up our life stories, one’s that we share with certain others, sometimes with the social media public at large, always with the knowledge that it is our story, our life,” he said. 

Mr. Monroe spoke about not only how each and every person affects the world, but how the world affects us and how that is crucial to what makes us human. “Our stories have entertained us, yes absolutely, but they have also helped us cope with life’s uncertainties and unknowns,” he said. “They have connected us with others as we listen to our good friend’s story only to realize that the same thing happened to us or we felt that same way about something.  Hearing these other stories and hearing our own as we tell them reminds us that everyone has feelings and fears and hopes, that everyone is trying to do their best as they make their way in the world. We are better able to put ourselves in another’s shoes, becoming more empathic as human beings.”

“From the moment you entered this school, you were the author of your own story, and depending on what you involved yourself with, your life here was embellished and affected by all you did and by all those with whom you interacted,” he said. “The same holds true for your next chapter of your life’s story. While I imagine you will be ‘yourself,’ whoever that is to you, this is also a time when you can change things up or just simply realize what goes into making the best possible version, the best possible story of yourself. Regardless, you are the protagonist of your own story, and as such, you should be intentional about the role you ‘play’ in your own story,” he said. 

While there are many parts of our stories that we can control, Mr. Monroe highlighted all the things that we don’t have control over as part of our life. “Something I’m sure you are already aware of:  Your stories are larger than yourself,” he said.  “As much as you are surely the protagonist for your own story, you are hardly the only one in it, and that is a good thing.  Your high school story has a happy ending today because of the help and influence of many others, not the least of whom are your parents and family and teachers.  Your story will involve others, some who will be a part of your narrative for a lifetime, others who will have walk-on roles, and still others who will be there for a while and then move on.   Be open to others and what they have to offer, be aware of their impacts on you and your story, but also be aware of your impact on their stories,  for you have created important connections to the stories of your friends and family.  No doubt, with those who are closest to you, you create a weave of stories, a narrative fabric that inextricably connects one to another.”

Mr. Monroe also inspired students by sharing that unexpected twists and turns are not always a bad thing. “Please know that these twists and turns, call them unexpected events, call them conflicts, will occur in anyone’s narrative,” he said.  “By all means, expect them and realize they will run the range of expanding your life’s opportunities to ones that put your true character to the test.   Work hard  trying not to take the path of least resistance but instead, try to remain open to these twists and turns and their possibilities. These should only add to the complexity and “humanness” of your story and who knows, you might actually find something new about yourself just as I did.”   

In relation to student’s writing their own narrative, he offered three pieces of advice: “Keep control of your own story;  know that others, and their stories, will be a part of your narrative, just as you will be a part of theirs; and anticipate the plot twist – know that unexpected events will happen causing the best laid plans to go awry – and be prepared for that.”

In his parting words to the seniors Mr. Monroe reflected more on ‘plot-twists,’ and how they can play an important role in one’s own story. “Expect them and don’t shy away from them as they could very well enrich the narrative of your life in ways you never expected,” he said.  

He ended his speech with a direct address to the seniors. “As we look both backward and forward from this moment of accomplishment and anticipation,  I wish you all the very richest of stories, filled with the complexities that our extraordinary lives offer to us in this interesting time and place, the challenges and the delights, the dead ends, and the through lines. While I might have the gift of perspective, you have the gifts of youth and of opportunity.  Please use them as best you can,” he said. 

While KO will certainly miss the seniors, they have a lot to be proud of and even more to look forward to.