Presentation of the Class of 2016

Emily McCarren

Academy Principal Dr. Emily McCarren gave this speech at Commencement on June 4, 2016.

Families, friends, faculty and staff, trustees of Punahou and Class of 2016, aloha and good evening. It is an honor to present the Class of 2016 on behalf of the faculty of Punahou School. Joining us tonight is Dr. Paris Priore-Kim representing our junior school faculty.

And now I'd like to invite all the Kindergarten through grade 12 faculty of Punahou School to stand and be recognized. Thank you for all you have done for this Class and all of our students.

On behalf of our Junior School and Academy faculty, I'd like to share a bit about this class, what they have accomplished, and how we know that they are more than worthy of our collective hopes and aspirations for them.

The Punahou Class of 2016 represents just 4 percent of the graduating seniors in the state and yet they have earned a disproportionate number of accolades and recognitions. For example, this year, 100 percent of the presidential scholars from the State of Hawaii are members of this class. In addition, this class includes nearly a third of the National Merit Semifinalist awards.

And, as you can see by the performances tonight, this class has led our school’s music and theatre performances that can only be rivaled by schools that specialize exclusively in the arts. A faculty member noted that the Class of 2016 is perhaps the most musically diverse and talented class that Punahou has ever had.

Over 60% of this class participated in athletics this year. Among them are nationally and internationally ranked athletes and Olympic hopefuls. They led Punahou teams that won more than half of the championships in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and nearly one third of all of the State Championships this year.

Their collective accolades are truly exceptional.

Perhaps more notable than any of those recognitions and honors is how they are when no one is looking. What matters most is that that they have been good, loyal, kind, and, yes, caring.

Early in their Academy career at Punahou, their deans, Reet Ashford and Rick Tune, dubbed 2016 the class that takes care, and they keep living up to that title. This year, some unidentified students created an Instagram page that has honored each member of the class with a photo and a summary of who they are and what they mean to the class. This is no small feat, and is an example of how they care for each other in large and small ways.

Their faculty has treasured learning with and from this class. Teachers have been inspired by their connectedness, capacity to learn from mistakes and grow, keen intellect and diligence. One faculty member wrote of the class: “Their sense of aloha pervades in their communion with others; they celebrate the successes of others with genuine joy.”

Often at commencements, graduates are urged to go forth with their newly minted skills and knowledge to make the world a better place. But one of the remarkable things about this class is that they have not needed to wait for their high school diplomas to live lives of meaning and impact.

In addition to their remarkable academic, athletic and artistic accomplishments, the students seated behind me have started social enterprises, cared for the sick, invented products that make life better for others, and spent significant portions of their teen years living lives in service of their communities, locally, nationally and globally.

You have spent your years at Punahou making positive changes in your communities. You have not just been preparing for the important work of your life, you have been doing it. And it is a good thing you have been practicing, because the world is in desperate need of you. In the fall of your senior year, the United Nations identified the goals for 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals. There are seventeen critical categories of problems to tackle, many of which you have begun to take action on already:

Ending poverty, ending hunger through food security and sustainable agriculture. Ensuring health and access to education. Gender equality, access to clean water, sustainable energy, sustainable economic growth and productive and decent work for all. Development of industries that spark innovation. Reduce inequality, build safe sustainable and resilient cities, ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns. Take urgent action to combat climate change. Conserve oceans, conserve the land. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies – provide access to justice for all. And finally: create global partnerships, networks and communities to achieve these goals.

As you head off to the next chapter of your story, the world needs your daily attention to these goals – and to their previously unimagined solutions. And the situation is urgent. By the time most of are just a year out of college, we will be a third of the way to 2030. And the year before you come back to your 15th reunion at Punahou, we will be seeing how the actions of the global community stack up against these aspirations.

The world cannot wait for you to go to college and perhaps graduate or professional school, establish a career and then, once all that is done, figure out your passion and purpose. We need you to continue, as many of you have done already, to act. Not that you can’t do this while you are pursuing your education – you can and should do that too – but you must ACT.

As a notable Punahou alumnus recently remarked to graduating seniors at Howard University’s commencement: “You need to have passion and strategy.” In your time at Punahou, we hope you have had opportunity to begin to find your passions, and develop the skills to design and execute your strategy.

You have begun this good work in the amazing community that you created here. You are about to be welcomed into an even bigger family (which you may have heard of): the Punahou Alumni Community. This group is full of active change agents working towards each and every one of the complex challenges identified in the Sustainable Development Goals. Tonight, you join them, and many others, working to end human suffering, protect our planet, and create beautiful solutions to the world’s challenges and opportunities.

You each walked a different path to get here tonight, and you will each walk a different one once you leave here. Collectively, you have left a remarkable legacy, as evidenced by the volume and meaningfulness of the honors bestowed upon you and the grace you have for each other. And, because of that legacy, you have the responsibility to make a disproportionate impact on the world.

As you write your stories and make your marks, remember the students and faculty back here at Punahou – we will want to hear from you and continue to learn from you. Punahou stands strong because of the legacy of those who came before you, and it will endure because of what you will do with your lives. We are so proud of you. Because of you, we are hopeful about our shared future on this fragile island earth.

Dr. Scott, on behalf of the faculty and staff, I humbly present to you the remarkable Class of 2016.