Congratulations, Class of 2019!
Inspiring speech to the graduates by Alzbeta Springer – MYP-DP Teacher, Head of Humanities Dept. & MMUN Coordinator
If you were a tree, what tree would you be? Would you be a
high reaching Sitka spruce, a stout baobab, a majestic oak, a
magical beech tree with paper-thin bark, a fragrant magnolia, or a
Japanese maple or an ancient olive tree?
Would you provide cooling shade, medicinal bark, nourishing
fruit or a sweet sap?
Would you be growing wildly by your own design or shaped to
fit your surroundings? Or, a little bit of both?
When I was little, people did not ask me what tree I was, they
asked: “What will you be when you grow up?” As if -till then – I did not
count. As if my choice of a specific career was to be the sole, or
defining mark of my transition into adulthood. As if career
choice ultimately determine the type of grown-up I was to
For this speech, our graduates have asked me to consider how
much and how well they grew at QAIS. I thought about it for a long while, I considered their chosen universities and their
career opportunities and here is what I came up with;
My dear graduates, I see you as a diverse and ecologically
improbable grove of trees. A grove filled with a variety of trees
from near and far away lands that found their way to this
Qingdao soil and learned to thrive and gain resilience in the
process of getting older and sometimes wiser.
Andee, you are so deeply rooted – connected to your land, your
family, your values that one cannot easily say where your tree
ends, and the universe starts. I have been deeply touched by your ability to belong, to withstand tremors and stormy winds with
serenity. What tree could possibly do all that?
And I see you Cameron as a tree whose wood resonates with
sonatas yet to be played. A tree that gives away sugar without
stealing from the bees and one that – in her own time – shocks
the world with the brilliance of fall colors. You have so much going
on , Cameron.
And what about the Shirley tree? I’ve had the joy to watch your
tree flicker the two-tone silvery leaves in the breeze revealing
that under the “wishing-to-blend-in” façade, there is a gentle
rebellion brewing. A rebellion that may change the world.
Then there is an old soul tree, a young tree, yet one already
sharing fruits of wisdom. One that works hard to grow in the
best possible way for those it shelters. Wendy tree – don’t
forget to send some of that generous care your way as well.
Now for the gentlemen – already dreading the sappiness?
Paul as a tree. Knows what conditions benefit him, knows when
to break through a rock and when it’s better to grow around it.
He grows where others would not dare to and enjoys his “edge
of the cliff” stage presence. Don’t tell me you did not notice him
– everyone did.
Noah, a tree dedicated to the promotion of peace. One that
remembers ancient empires and one whose fruits would feed the
flames that light up the curiosity of mankind. Of course, he may
need a year or two to fully grow into all that; though there is no
doubt he will.
Brandon, try to tame his growth to fit your landscaping designs
and he’ll break the restraints. He has his own plans, his own
ambitions, his own timeline to get where he needs to get. You
wish to see a towering tree, let him choose his own quixotic
path to the light.
There are many things I love about each of them but let me tell
you one more thing I cherish about them all.
It seems rare today to meet people who are moved not by some
tangible measurable results but by a compulsion to follow one’s
own direction. There are so many boxes to tick, so many tests
to take, personal statements to polish and scores to better.
There is an entire business of self-marketing for students of this
generation who are told to narrow their focus by age 12, define
their dreams by age 14, write up and follow a four-year plan of
personal improvement and complete stages of their life projects
on time and with impeccable results. All that, just to make
themselves visible in the rows and rows of other perfectly
measured and well-adjusted people.
As a teacher, I see the expectations our students live with. The
day to day pressure may not seem like much to us but over time
it has the power to force these wild young trees to fit our
perfectly manicured, sensible and useful social orchards. Is that
what we wish to find in the world – orderly rows built for high
output and convenience?
I will much rather have our untamed grove of 2019 with all their
resistance, defiance and wonderfully unreasonable aspirations.
When I see them, I hear the words that Walter Lippman wrote
to honor Amelia Earhart – my other favorite non-conformer.
“The best things of mankind appear pointless like Amelia
Earhart’s adventure. They are the things that are undertaken
not for some definite, measurable result, but because someone
is moved by curiosity, the love of excellence, a point of honor,
the compulsion to invent or to make or to understand.”
“The world is a better place to live in because it contains human
beings who will give up ease and security and stake their own
lives in order to do what they themselves think worth
What THEY THEMSELVES THINK WORTH DOING.
There are many things to love about each of these students but
let me tell you one thing I cherish about them all: Try as you
may, these trees won’t be orchadized, manicured into uniform
patterns of growth. They follow their own directions, their own
honor and their own desires to understand and shape the world.
The world is a better place because they themselves discovered
and keep discovering things worth doing.
So go ahead class of 2019, grow tall, grow strong and shape
your own path toward the light.