2016 Commencement Address

President Jim Scott ’70

July 29, 2016

President Jim Scott ’70 gave this speech at Commencement on June 4, 2016.

Seniors, in presenting you for your diplomas, Dr. McCarren did not describe you as an impressive collection of individuals. Rather, she described you as an impressive graduating class. Certainly the evidence of your senior year and throughout your years here makes a case that you are one of the most accomplished Punahou graduating classes in recent memory. You also may be the most economically diverse.

When you were entering the sixth grade, the local economy was not showing much sign of recovery. There were layoffs. Businesses and organizations continued to brace themselves for the worst. Nobody was sure how long the recession would linger.

So it was amid this economic and family financial uncertainty and concern, that your families made a major decision over those next few years to make the sacrifices required to keep you at Punahou, or to eventually send you to Punahou. And still manage to plan for college.

So tonight belongs to them too, as we honor and celebrate their choices and their sacrifices for your education. That is why I first want to express my heartfelt mahalo to the parents and families of these graduating seniors for the choice you made to invest in your child and in Punahou, and for the trust and confidence you have placed in us over the years. It has been such a privilege to educate your children.

Seniors, in a few moments you will be Punahou graduates! You are about to join the ranks of the tens of thousands of educated men and women who came before you, who have marched down the aisle and crossed the stage at their Punahou graduation to claim their diploma for the past 174 years.

Their parents, families and teachers (like yours), undoubtedly beamed with pride, excitement and gratitude – probably also shedding a tear – as they joyfully and wistfully celebrated this transition, a major milestone in their child’s young life.

But you are about to join something bigger than a global network of Punahou alumni. You are about to embrace a covenant that will connect you forever to one another and to your fellow Punahou alumni – because you are the beneficiaries of an uncommon education given to you by your families, your teachers and by one another.

The deep friendships made here at Punahou will remain with you for the rest of your lives. Your classmates and teachers have encouraged you to reflect on those friendships. Remember these moments together and the community that you have created here among classmates, teammates and fellow performers.

You have now seen what it means to be among accomplished people, to have high expectations of yourself and of the people around you, to serve others, and to feel what it’s like to be a part of a vibrant and caring community. The greatest expression of your appreciation of the gift you have been given is to re-create this kind of community wherever you go in the world. People who are well prepared, creative, confident and compassionate have the capacity – and the responsibility – to make another life better.

So as we say farewell and aloha, we have these final wishes for you before we let you fly on your own. Our wish and hope is that your Punahou education has not only cultivated your intellect, but has also nurtured your heart. Our wish is that your education will always be unfinished and that it will become a lifelong endeavor, not just a ticket to the next level. Your teachers would remind you to stay curious – and stay hungry. We wish you success sufficient to your needs, but also some occasional heartache and failure along the way to give you humility so that you can appreciate your success.

As you climb your peaks, we wish you the exhilaration of a junior Carnival, a final Variety Show, a senior Skip Day, or singing as one voice at graduation. As you rest in your valleys, we also wish you the tranquility of a solitary moment by the Lily Pond, or a quiet walk with a friend on an emptying campus.

And we wish that you will ultimately use your keen intellects, your enormous talents and your big hearts to pay the gift of a Punahou education forward. To echo what your fellow alumnus President Obama ’79 reminded the Class of 2005 about the ultimate responsibility that comes with a Punahou diploma: to whom much is given, much is expected.

We have valued your contributions and your leadership. And we send you out into the world with these wishes, but also with our deep appreciation, our admiration and our fond aloha.