29 May 2021
American School of Warsaw Class of 2021, you did it!
There are many of us here to congratulate you – family, staff, and special guest Leslie Scanlon, the Canadian Ambassador who I hear has some celebrating to do, too.
Graduates, I know you have faced obstacles. COVID-19 has taken away many traditional high school experiences from you.
But there is a silver lining – you were able to attend school in-person for all but seven days this year, most students around the world weren’t so lucky.
I don’t want to take away from the determination and resiliency you’ve shown, because it is incredible. But, I want you to understand the fantastic opportunity you’ve been given by the American School of Warsaw – they’ve handed you the tools for success.
Now, what you build with those tools is up to you.
Some of you may already have a plan in place, others may not. And that’s okay.
If you work hard, stay humble, and are willing to adapt, the opportunities will come. You’ll craft goals and dreams that will change over time. Because change is constant.
For instance – when I graduated from high school there was no such thing as social media, and I think that’s probably a good thing.
Now you carry around a computer in your back pocket – life revolves around who has the most followers, the most likes, the most views.
This social media world we live in has the power to bring us together instantly but it can also tear us apart.
It has fueled division and separation. It’s a place where bullies feel comfortable saying whatever they want, whenever they want. You can imagine with a name like Bix, I have been on the other side of their cruelty. The way I dressed, the tone of my voice has led to bullying. But I didn’t falter. I became an advocate for others. So should you.
You may not realize it, but part of your education has prepared you to fight back against bullies. To stand up for people like me who look different, whose names sound different. Because you have been blessed with an international education.
27 countries are represented in the Class of 2021 and 21 percent of you are dual citizens. Learning about different cultures is just part of your daily interactions. In particular, this group of seniors has created a unique bond. Ms. Pohl (Pole) your guidance counselor, says you are united.
Unfortunately, the world is not.
I hope you have the courage to have each other’s back. To do the right thing and speak up when you notice someone is being treated unfairly. Whether it be online, in the classroom, at work, or anywhere you hear negative remarks, because hate knows no bounds.
Graduates, it will be an even bigger responsibility when you return to a country where there are no diverse voices, when you’re the only person in a room who has grown up around people with a name like Bix Aliu.
I encourage you to be an advocate, for the less privileged, and fight for those that are different. Give back, not just for the likes, but because it’s the right thing to do.
This is how you can become a good global citizen and change the world for the better. r
And while you’re at it, think about the environment, come up with ways you can combat climate change. Our planet needs your help.
In the words of American poet Maya Angelou, “I encourage you to live with life. To be courageous, adventurous. Give us a tomorrow, more than we deserve.”
Some of you are working on that tomorrow, today. Among the class of 2021 there are already two licensed pilots; a McKinsey & Company 25 under 25 awardee; this year’s service award winner – who raised money for hospital equipment, and a future collegiate basketball player.
Your teachers have been there to push you to this tomorrow.
None of this would’ve been possible without them. Alongside administrators and counselors, they worked diligently to keep you on track – so much of their work goes unseen.
My son is a product of the American School of Warsaw, he attended elementary school here, it propelled him to great things. He is a second-year law student at George Washington University, and to this day ASW remains a special part of his educational journey.
I remember fondly, Kasia Krohn, my son’s third grade teacher, and Heidi Laffay, his fourth-grade teacher. Thank you is not enough – I truly cannot repay them for the positive impact they have had on my family.
Similar to the feeling you have about your own family. They’ve played a key role in getting you to this moment. While your loved ones aren’t walking you across the stage, they are with you. Part of this journey belongs to them too.
I’m also proud of the role the U.S. Embassy played in supporting you. This year alone 72 U.S. Embassy children were a part of the student body – including six members of this graduating class. The American School of Warsaw is an extension of our Embassy community. You are our family too.
And family keeps rooting for you as you move on and pursue your dreams. Wherever you are headed next, the American School of Warsaw has prepared you for that next step.
Congratulations Class of 2021 – I can’t wait to see what you accomplish.