Middle School Graduation 2012

“Multiple layers and a firm handshake”
(Congratulatory comments delivered by Mr. Vincent Caputo, Superintendent of Schools at the Edgar Middle School Eight Grade Promotion Exercises. Edgar Field, June 19, 2012 6pm)
Good evening:

  • Board of Education President, Mr. Lifton,
  • member of the board of education
  • district administrators
  • teachers
  • parents
  • other invited guests
  • and of course, the Edgar School Eight Grade Class of 2012

It is a privilege and an honor for me to have the opportunity to address these young men and women for the final time as middle school students. In less than three short months, these students will be freshmen in the halls of Metuchen High School. This night, therefore, is really the end of one era…but also, the start of a new one.

What a lovely evening and a beautiful setting for tonight’s ceremony. Kudos to Mr. Glutz and Mr. Knoth for having the vision and courage to break with tradition and not only return the Edgar promotion exercises to the grounds of Edgar School, but also to schedule a night ceremony. Nice job. We owe you a debt of gratitude.

Often, graduation speeches relay messages about hopes and dreams. You will certainly hear about those ideals tonight. For without hopes and without dreams, the uncertain future can be intimidation or overwhelming. Hopes and dreams make the seemingly unachievable, achievable. Hopes and dreams bring within reach the seemingly unreachable.

Other speeches challenge you to be the best that you can be. Without a doubt, the educators here tonight have challenged you … and wish you incredible success. Eight graders…with the combined efforts of the adults in your life, you are well-positioned for success in high school.

Still other graduation speeches encourage you to express your gratitude for those who raised you and helped you to become the people you are today. You clearly have much for which to be thankful. There are parents here tonight with huge smiles on their faces…pride in their hearts…and tears in their eyes. (At this time we should pause so that our eight graders can honor their parents and guardians with a huge round of applause to thank them for everything they have done).

Hope and dreams…challenges and gratitude…these are all parts of my speech as well. However, my message can best be summarized through two non-conventional pieces of advice…two pieces of advice that I have shared with middle school students in the past.

  • Number 1: Wear multiple layers, and
  • Number 2: Have a firm handshake.

Allow me to explain a bit further, these two pieces of advice that I offer you tonight.
I think many in the audience tonight might agree with this: educators often use repetition as a strategy to stress the ideas that we believe are important. We repeat things that we want our students to remember.
Sometimes…at least for me…that strategy of repeating things…even carries over to home life.

Apparently, I repeat myself at home when I want to ensure that my family knows when something is truly important. There are a couple pieces of advice that I guess have repeated maybe more than a few times over the years:

  • wear multiple layers and
  • have a firm handshake.

In my home, these two pieces of advice have become sort of my signature suggestions. At first, I was offended…huh…I can’t believe this…my own family – mocking my hear-felt advice.

  • All I want is for them to be warm in case of a weather change.
  • All I want is for my kids to greet family and friend with solid web-to-web handshake.

How could my own family make fun of these suggestions?

Recently, though, I have actually begun to enjoy the fact that even when we’re going to the beach, my children know to grab a sweatshirt. And no matter how warm it is in New Jersey, we never visit Citifield to see the Mets without an extra layer.

I have also begun to enjoy the fact that at church, before the offering of peace, both my son and daughter turn to me…and assure me, “yes Dad, we know…a firm handshake.”

“Multiple layers,” I have become to realize, isn’t only about wearing an extra layer of clothing. It’s really about being prepared for what you can’t see. It’s about anticipating the events of the future. It’s about doing everything in the here and now…in order to be ready for the unexpected twists and turns that life offers.

Here is a common quote on preparation…It may be a little bit obnoxious, but it absolutely rings true…
“A lack of preparation on your part, does not constitute an emergency on my part.”
What can you, as soon-to-be high school students, do to be prepared? Here are just a few examples to consider:

  • Practice your instruments over the summer. Don’t wait until September. Make a weekly checklist and track the times you practice.
  • Keep working on the sport that you love. Don’t wait for your coach to call a practice. Get out there with friends or on your own.
  • Keep reading and writing over the summer. Keep learning and preparing for the varied academic challenges that high school will bring. Your journey to college and beyond has already started. Give yourselves every chance of success by opening as many doors as possible.

Another quote on preparation comes from Henry Hartman. He writes:
“Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.”
My challenge to the students here tonight…place a high priority on being ready so that when opportunities present themselves, you will maximize your chances for success.
This is what I mean when I talk about wearing multiple layers.

Now, about having a firm handshake:
A firm handshake isn’t only about properly greeting family members at parties and holiday gatherings. Those are certainly important. More globally, though, “having a firm handshake,” to me, represents the ideals of good manners and forming and maintaining personal relationships.
Bernie Brillstein, in The Little Stuff Matters Most, writes, “Outcomes rarely turn grand gestures…or the art of the deal,…but on whether you’ve sent someone a (simple) thank-you note.”

My advice about having a firm handshake is really an example of taking the time to have good manners and to treat people the right way.

  • Did you hold the door for someone today?
  • Did you thank your parents for lunch?
  • For picking you up? For ironing your shirt?
  • For that special dinner?

In the world of texting and emails and Twitter, when unfortunately much of the daily interactions occur electronically,

  • Did you look your family members in the eyes…and say “I love you today?…Do it before you go to bed tonight.
  • Did you take the time to acknowledge the contributions of your teachers?…Do it before the end of the evening.
  • Have you congratulated, face-to-face, the classmates sitting next to you? Do that right now.

Edgar Class of 2012…wear multiple layers…you will be prepared for the unexpected weather changes and also the changes and challenges that high school will bring.

Edgar Class of 2012…have a firm handshake…people will notice good manners and you will be able to establish long-term relationships that will help you reach your goals.

Congratulations on this milestone. Have high expectations of yourselves. We have set the bar very high for you.

Tonight, on behalf of our board of education and our administrators across the district, I proudly offer congratulations on your promotions from Edgar School and also to express wishes for much success as you embark on your high school experience.
Thank You!



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