The following are my remarks from this morning’s Class of 2013 graduation: Good morning students, faculty, parents, grandparents, and friends and welcome to the Hillbrook Graduation Ceremony for the Class of 2013. I want to extend a special welcome this morning to our guests on stage with me, including Los Gatos Town Council Member Joe Pirzynski, Chair of the Board of Trustees Steve Benjamin, Chair-elect for the BOT Chuck Hammers, Head of Middle School Joe Connolly, and Chloe Borenstein-Lawee, graduate from the Class of 2009. Most importantly, it is my honor to welcome the multi-talented, ever enthusiastic, and soon to be graduated members of the Class of 2013.
Today marks a significant transition for the 36 dynamic young men and women seated beside me on the stage. Yet they are not the only ones who are undergoing change. In front of me sit their proud parents and in many cases proud grandparents, uncles, aunts, and siblings. For the parents, today also marks a major milestone. I hope that your sons and daughters have thanked you for all of the love and support you have provided through their years at Hillbrook, but if, by chance, they have not, let me, on their behalf, thank you. You have given them the gift of an extraordinary educational foundation, a gift that will stay with them throughout their lives.
So what can we say about the Class of 2013? Well, as a starting place, we know that six of them came 10 years ago in JK, 14 came nine years ago in Kindergarten, three in 1st grade, two in 3rd grade, three in 4th grade, two in 5th grade, two in 6th grade, three in 7th grade, and one outstanding young woman joined them in 8th grade. By my calculations, these 36 students have more than 250 years of Hillbrook education between them.
I also know that if you talk to teachers, they will describe this class as kind, thoughtful, engaging, and a joy to teach. As many of you heard last night at the Recognition Ceremony, this is a dynamic group of young people who have been impressive both as individuals and as a group. We have dancers, singers, drummers, actors, photographers, future rock stars, and aspiring filmmakers. Athletes who excel in a whole range of sports, including football, volleyball, lacrosse, basketball, soccer, track and field, baseball, softball, and gymnastics. We have aspiring scientists and extraordinary mathematicians, talented writers, linguists, and historians. We even have passionate San Francisco Giants fans, car aficionados, and champion spellers. This class has it all.
For better or worse, this class also has an association with the number 13. As we all know, 13 has traditionally been considered an unlucky number. In fact, there is actually a term for fear of the number 13—Triskaidekaphobia. According to various reports, our economy loses nearly $1 billion each Friday the 13th, as people chose not to leave their home out of fear that something bad will happen to them. Some hotels choose to skip 13 when numbering floors jumping straight from 12 to 14, and apparently in many airports there is no gate 13.
So is this class doomed to be unlucky? Well, as luck would have it, I came across an article called “The Luck Factor,” by a man named Richard Wiseman. Dr. Wiseman is a psychologist who has conducted experiments about luck. Specifically, he has tried to study why some people are consistently lucky while others seem to always encounter ill fortune. Dr. Wiseman studied 400 people, ranging in age from 18 to 84. The people self-identified either as exceedingly lucky or unlucky and then agreed to participate in interviews, write diaries, complete personality questionnaires, and take intelligence tests.
According to Dr. Wiseman, his research suggests that luck is not “a magical ability or the result of random chance,” but rather the result of a few basic characteristics common to lucky people. In particular:
· Lucky people are skilled at noticing opportunities. They were more observant than unlucky people. For example, he did a simple experiment where he asked people to count the number of photos in a newspaper. The unlucky people typically took about 2 minutes to complete the task. The lucky people took mere seconds. Why? Because the lucky people noticed on page 2 in big type the following phrase: “Stop counting—there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”
· Lucky people were not only better at noticing opportunities they were also better at creating opportunities. He found that lucky people tended to intentionally vary their routines, and to take actions that would increase their opportunity to be exposed to new things. He gave an example of a person who would try to increase the number of people he met at social events by creating seemingly random challenges for himself—I’ll talk to as many people as I can today who are wearing red, for example. While it sounds strange, the result was that it kept him from simply hanging out with the people he already knew.
· Lucky people were more resilient. Put simply, lucky people tend to see the glass as half full, instead of half empty. For example, take the following scenario. You and your friend are walking down the street when a man comes up from behind you, knocks you over, and steals your wallet. Are you lucky or unlucky? Unlucky people tended to see this as a negative situation—why do things like this always happen to me? Lucky people, on the other hand, tended to be thankful that nothing worse happened. The person could have taken money from both me and my friend or, even worse, we could have been hurt.
So where does that leave you—the members of the Class of 2013? I think the answer is pretty clear. Your class, and each of you individually, will be as lucky or unlucky as you think you will be over the next four years and beyond. The more you hone your skills of observation, the more you consciously seek out new opportunities, and the more you choose to respond to difficult situations by finding the silver lining in the clouds, the more likely you are to see yourself as lucky and, in the end, the more successful you are likely to be.
Still not quite sure of the point? Let me share a short story called “The Farmer’s Luck.” Many of you may remember this from 3rd grade, as I know that it has long been one of Ms. Long’s favorite stories.
There was once an old farmer. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit and said, “Such bad luck.” The farmer said, “Maybe.”
The next day, the horse returned bringing with it two wild horses. “Such good luck,” his neighbors replied. “Maybe,” the farmer said.
The following day his son tried to ride one of the wild horses and was thrown off and broke his leg. “Such bad luck,” the neighbors replied. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
The day after that military officials came to the town and drafted all of the young men into the army to fight a war. Seeing the son with the broken leg, they passed him by. “Such good luck,” the neighbors replied. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.
I know that while many things are out of your control, there is one thing you can always control—how you respond to the situation in which you find yourself. Don’t be too quick to judge if something is good luck or bad luck, be resilient, and recognize that even the worst situation will almost always turn out better than you originally thought. Good luck, class of 2013. Not that you’ll need it.