Class of 2020 Commencement
ʻIolani School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 took place on the morning of Saturday, June 6, on campus within a modified drive-in format. Dr. Timothy R. Cottrell, who is in his eighth year as ʻIolani's Head of School, conducted the ceremony.
SALUTATION BY NATE T. YONAMINE '20
Bishop Fitzpatrick, Dr. Mugiishi, members of the Board of Governors, Dr. Cottrell, administration and faculty of ‘Iolani School, members of the Class of 1970, parents, friends, and fellow classmates, welcome to the commencement exercises for the Class of 2020.
On behalf of my classmates, I would first like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the family members on this baseball field today. I am sure the past three months with your child, sister, or brother was definitely more than enough time together already, but we are so glad you are here with us today.
My name is Nate Yonamine and I am the senior class president. I am honored to have been a part of this talented, smart, and mature group of individuals.
There is no avoiding the many ways this past quarter has affected our class. But through the disappointment and challenges, you showed initiative, courage and compassion every moment of the past 10 weeks. We supported one another through these difficult times and emerged more resilient than before.
You may have not realized this, but ʻIolani prepared us for every obstacle we just overcame. There was no lecture or specific course that taught us these attributes; it came in both the biggest and smallest moments of our time here.
Those trials came from your team disheartened, but you took the initiative to be the team member that everyone needed. It came on those long nights this past fall when extra-curricular activities, homework and college applications threatened to make you give up. You had the courage to not back down and continue to conquer every challenge a day at a time.
There was that first day of class, at a new school, or of practice that made you scared to “mess up”. But your teachers, friends and coaches showed you compassion and helped you realize that it’s okay to fail.
You may have known these traits, initiative, courage and compassion, by different names, but fundamentally these virtues gave you the power to overcome past obstacles and will help you to conquer whatever comes next.
Never let go of these values that have been taken from this school. Out of all the excellent qualities you possess, remember to have compassion and courage.
For once in our lives, even the grown ups are just as unsure about tomorrow as we are. But you have the compassion and courage to carry you through whatever life sends your way.
The compassion to empathize with and support others combined with the courage to take action when no one else will is what this country and world needs more than ever.
It is our responsibility to take the lessons we have gained from ʻIolani and use it to make this divided and ailing place we call home better than we found it.
Thank you again to all the teachers, friends and family that have gotten us here to this pivotal moment of our lives. Class of 2020, be courageous, be bold, and be the change this world needs.
VALEDICTION BY KANALU M. MONACO '20
I will admit that I have never spoken to such a large crowd before.
Usually when I talk there are fewer cars watching.
Today, I wanted to talk about Pokémon. I have played Pokémon games my whole life, and I’ve realized that the challenges you face in a Pokemon game are similar to the challenges we face today.
Having to say goodbye forever to your best friend in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is a lot like how we feel every day in this isolated quarantine. And spending hours battling against hundreds of Pokémon to get stronger is a lot like what we’ve done every day at this school.
Pokémon has been my way to deal with the boredom of everyday human life, and hopefully you can learn something from it too.
Before you can go off and have an adventure in the world of Pokémon, you have to say goodbye to your family. So I wanted to say thank you to my family for literally always being around me, and watching my every move at school.
I might not be where I am today if I didn’t have my dad’s room to eat lunch in for my first few years here.
Thank you to everyone in my extended family for supporting me and thank you to my grandparents for always cheering me on.
I hope every graduate here realizes how much your family has given up for you. You can’t put a price on love, but you can put a price on the five or six-digit tuition that your parents paid for you. And I can assure you that they’ve given up a lot more than money for us.
When you’re training Pokémon, it’s important to be patient. All Pokémon level up at different rates, and people are no different. It’s a difficult process and there are plenty of obstacles in store for all of us. I have been rejected from colleges, I failed my driver’s test twice, and yeah, I was thrown into a pool at a graduation party.
The key is to get out of the pool with a smile on your face because you know that you’ve finally leveled up.
We may have hated all the homework and the tests and the projects, but a lot of you may not realize how much experience we gained from this school.
‘Iolani gave me the opportunity to travel frequently, take a multitude of interesting electives, and form bonds that no power can sever.
I went to public school before I came here, and it was a very different experience. Every day I sat in hot classrooms with 20 or 30 other kids, and I could tell that the stress of having 140 students was really getting to some of my teachers.
I’m very grateful that my biggest problem at ‘Iolani was whether or not the snack bar still had fried rice at lunchtime.
We’ve had wonderful faculty and staff to inspire us and upper and underclassmen to push us to be better. It’s safe to say that the quality education and experience we received here has made us all level up a lot.
There are a lot of tricks to train “better” Pokémon, and though I’m not insightful enough to give you real life hacks, I can offer some pieces of advice.
Trick number 1: read books. Reading is fun, makes you smarter, and most importantly it makes you look smart. I like mystery books and would strongly recommend Agatha Christie, who is the second bestselling author of all time, after some dude named Shakespeare.
Trick number 2: be happy when life doesn’t go as planned. When I got a 0 on my very first quiz in Biology, I had a good laugh. Because you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react. And at the very least, you’ll have a good story to tell one day.
Trick number 3: try new things. I joined the cross country team because my dad forced me to. I was so slow that I didn’t make the ILH champs team in 9th grade — and I’m not talking about the JV team — I didn’t even make the intermediate team. But I stuck with it, and it turns out that sometimes your parents really do have good ideas.
Always remember that there’s no real substitute for hard work, and that the fun in training Pokémon is knowing how much work you put in to level up.
At the end of every Pokémon game, after beating the Pokémon league, gym leaders, and rivals, you enter the hall of fame. Once you walk up here and claim your diploma, you will enter the hall of fame of ‘Iolani school.
We’ve faced challenges that others haven’t, and it’s been a very special journey together. But that doesn’t mean the game is over, because there’s always a post-game story.
You’re all Pokémon masters now, and it’s time to go out into the real world where dreams and adventures await.
VALEDICTION BY KARA O. M. USHIJIMA '20
At the beginning of this year, I don’t think any of us expected our graduation to happen like this, yet, here we are.
As I sat down to write this speech, I have to admit that as hard as I tried to think of something deep and profound to say about this strange change of circumstances, the only thing I could think of was the fact that instead of looking into a crowd of my classmates, into the eyes of all 239 of you, I would instead be staring into a massive field of cars.
As I tried to envision what it would be like to see cars, not faces, in the crowd, I was reminded of a pretty strange conversation I had with my friend several weeks ago about where the eyes of a car would be. More specifically, whether a car’s eyes, if they existed, would be the headlights of the car, or the windshield, like in the Cars movie.
He argued that the eyes were definitely the headlights, because then the ears would be the side mirrors. And, most people put those little car eyelashes on their car headlights, not the middle of their windshield.
I had always imagined the eyes being the windshield, because that’s just how I had seen it in the movies, but he was making some really good points, so I changed my mind and agreed with him.
Now, I know you’re probably thinking this story is pretty ridiculous, and believe me, when I was having this discussion, I thought it was pretty silly too. But later that night, as I was going to sleep, I realized two things.
One: there is no set authority on where the eyes of cars should be. There are no rules, and I realized that the same thing applies to life. This pandemic certainly made me realize that, despite everything we might have thought about the way our lives should go, it can all change in an instant.
And two: that was the first time since quarantine began that I had a silly conversation with a friend, and for once, I wasn’t thinking about wearing my face mask or flattening the curve. It was the first time I realized how much I had been focused on the stress and uncertainty of the future ahead.
I now realize that having those silly, stress-free conversations were one of those moments that I took for granted when school was normal. It’s not just the big moments that everyone thinks about, like winning the championship game or getting an A in that super-hard class, but every embarrassing, silly, peaceful, joyous moment in between.
Whether it’s seeing a teacher you had three years ago in the hallway and awkwardly waving hi because you’re not sure if they remember your name, or waiting for the printer to finally print your assignment right before you have to rush to class and turn it in, or your teacher letting you out at 12:16 and you end up having to wait in the super long line for lunch, it’s tiny, specific moments like those I took for granted, and even though they seemed mundane and irrelevant at the time, it’s moments like those that I’ll miss.
If this pandemic taught me anything, other than to always wash my hands for 20 seconds, it was that the things you think are important, like graduation and that final countdown, aren’t the only important things in life. Because even though I was sad to not experience that final countdown, or go to the water park, or have a traditional graduation, I was even more sad to not be at school, sitting at senior benches, walking the hallways, and seeing my friends. It’s really those moments that made the ‘Iolani experience.
When asked for advice about this pandemic, a lot of people might say: “Think about the big picture. Don’t focus on coronavirus, because it’s just a small moment in your whole life.” And while I certainly agree with them, it’s hard for us, just a bunch of 18-year-olds, to envision the big picture, to see into the future and be reassured that everything will be okay.
So instead, I would change that traditional way of thinking and say: “Think about the really, really small picture.” Think about every little moment this unprecedented, crazy pandemic has given you, even if it seems like it has only given you disappointment.
Whether it’s waking up at 8:14 before your first class and rushing to get ready, or laughing at that one person in your Zoom who either is driving in their car, is at the beach, or just doesn’t show up. Or even just having a real conversation with your parents for once. Those happy moments exist. We just have to find them.
This fall, whether we are on college campuses or Zooming in our own bedrooms, life will not be what we expected. It will be tempting to become overwhelmed by the sadness of losing out on so many experiences we wanted. But I challenge you all to look past the disappointment and change your way of thinking.
Life has no rules, there is no guaranteed path, and anything can change it at any moment. Embrace that change, and accept that things will not go the way you expected.
Remember the big picture, because things will get better, but take a long, hard look at the really small picture. Find those seemingly mundane moments that make you happy. Focus in on those crazy conversations with friends, and cherish them, because those are the moments that will mean the most.
HEAD OF SCHOOL DR. TIMOTHY R. COTTRELL
On behalf of Chair Dr. Mark Mugiishi and the members of the Board of Governors, as well as my distinguished colleagues of the administration, faculty and staff, welcome to the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020.
We gather today to celebrate the achievements of the students before you — or in your cars — and to send them forth into a new chapter of their lives. As they (senior class president Nate Yonamine, and valedictorians Kanalu Monaco and Kara Ushijima) have so eloquently noted in their messages, their connection to this community is a profound one, and will be lifelong.
A testament to this bond is that each year at graduation we welcome home members of the 50th reunion class. They are not with us in person today. The Class of 1970 has prepared a message (click for video) they would like to share with us. Please welcome them, Class of 2020.
* * *
We have had yet another great year at ʻIolani School.
Our outstanding faculty, staff and coaches have prepared and mentored ʻIolani students to compete and succeed at the highest levels.
In academics and the arts:
There were 15 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists in the Class of 2020. Seven of these ʻIolani seniors went on to become winners in the National Merit Scholarship Program, which is financed by U.S. colleges and universities. Each student may receive an annual scholarship or up to full tuition at specific universities. Our National Merit finalists are: ToriAnn Abe, Mika Ishii, Conner Kojima, Trevor J. Lau, Trevor M. Lau, Noah Taniguchi and Remie Paguio.
Once again an ʻIolani student has been honored with selection to the U.S. Presidential Scholars program. Koichiro Otake is one of 161 Presidential Scholars from across the nation this year. He will be attending the University of Southern California.
Four ʻIolani students received national gold and silver awards in the National Scholastic Arts & Writing competition.
For students on our academic teams and in programs it was a bittersweet year as once again they excelled on every level, but due to the pandemic lost the opportunity to represent ʻIolani at a state or national championship.
The ʻIolani Science Bowl team was a repeat champion at the Hawaiʻi Regional Science Bowl and qualified to represent Hawaiʻi at the National Science Championship.
Eighteen members of the The ʻIolani Speech and Debate Team qualified for the state tournament.
The ʻIolani History Bowl team took first place at the State Competition and qualified for the national tournament.
Top honors in the "Voice of Democracy" contest went to graduating senior Cassie Carlyle, who won first place, and to her classmate Ryan Pai, who won second place. Last fall, both students submitted an audio essay on the topic "What Makes America Great."
ʻIolani's A.P. Economics team won the state championship prize of $5,000 in an inter-school urban planning competition and were invited to compete in the Urban Land Institute national competition. The team included graduating seniors Mika Ishii, Mari Nishiguchi, Koichiro Otake, Cara Tan and Kara Ushijima.
At the Pacific Model United Nations Conference, five students won awards, including the top award for Best Delegate.
Although the last two meets of the season were canceled due to COVID-19, the ʻIolani Math Team placed first in all five meets with the second-highest average margin of victory in our school's history.
For the second consecutive year, ʻIolani Robotics, our First robotics team was awarded the Chairman's Award, which gives an automatic birth to the national championship.
At the Hawaiʻi State Science and Engineering Fair awards competition, ʻIolani Students won 10 Best in Category awards and one student would have advanced to the 2020 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair in Anaheim, Calif., if it had not been canceled.
In the American Legion Oratorical Contest, ʻIolani students took first and second place with the first-place winner qualifying for the national competition.
ʻIolani students won three gold, two silver and three bronze awards in the high school division of the Pele Awards for photography, design, film and cinematography.
A two-student ʻIolani team placed third in the business innovation track of the top-ranked global entrepreneurship competition for high school students, where more than 5,000 students from 32 states and 55 countries participated in the competition.
Three students received first-place honors in the Hawaiʻi State Music Competition.
At the Music Teachers National Association Competition, a student received first place in the Junior Strings Division and two students were first place in the senior Piano Duet Division.
Three films by ʻIolani's Film Production class were selected as finalists for the Hawaiʻi International Film Festival student film contest sponsored by the Daniel K. Inouye Institute.
Our girls basketball team repeated as ILH and State champions.
The sailing team won the ILH sailing championship and also won the Charles Barclay Bowl, recognizing the ILH champion of all three divisions combined.
The girls bowling team repeated as state champions.
Graduating senior Culley Jones won the state title in the one-meter springboard diving event.
And, playing for the USA Volleyball Youth National Team, graduating senior Elena Oglivie helped the United States win its first-ever world championship for this age-group in either gender. Elena had nine kills and a block for 10 points in the championship match against reigning world champion Italy.
And in service to others:
We launched ʻAīna-Informatics Network, which brings genome science and bioethics education to high school students throughout the state.
Our KAʻI Programs have held weekly food distributions for its summer and KAʻI Keiki families. By the end of the summer, approximately 30,000 meals will have been distributed.
And a team of faculty and staff fabricated and donated more than 16,000 face shields to healthcare providers, first responders, and others at risk of exposure to COVID-19. I want to specifically thank Russ Yamamoto '69 and Trevor Benn '92 for having their restaurant Izakaya Nonbei donate lunch to the crew for months.
And we opened five new buildings in our K-1 Community, and we are about to open the new Kaneshiro Science & Innovation Center and the Sidney & Minnie Kosasa Performance Studios, expanding our Lower School.
We continue to strive for excellence and grow as one of the best schools in the world.
* * *
It is now my privilege to present awards to members of the graduating class. We will celebrate them now, and when they come forward to receive their diploma later we will present them with their Scholarship Medals.
This year we have 22 students who have earned the title of valedictorian. These are the students who have earned all A's in their time at ʻIolani as well as those with higher weighted GPAs.
These students have achieved academic excellence, but they are also athletes, musicians, servants, artists and leaders.
I am pleased to introduce each of them to you.
Kahiau Among -- Loyola University Chicago
Seo Been Chang -- Boston University
Tyson DeCastro -- Santa Clara University
Sage Kanemaru -- Princeton University
Christina Kanemori -- Georgetown University
Ashley Kim -- Brown University
Haeri Kim -- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Conner Kojima -- University of Southern California
Trevor J. Lau -- Northeastern University
Kanalu Monaco -- Harvey Mudd College
Susanna Niu -- Williams College
Trevor Oshiro -- University of California, San Diego
Koichiro Otake -- University of Southern California
Remie Paguio -- Northeastern University
Ryan Pai -- Rice University
Max Schermer -- Harvard University
Cara Tan -- University of Hawai'i, Manoa
Christopher Tanaka -- Yale University
Kara Ushijima -- University of Southern California
Payton Uyeda -- University of Notre Dame
Caleb Wataoka -- Carleton College
Nicole Yanke -- Washington State University
Congratulations to all of you!
* * *
The Alumni Medals are given to the top male and female student-athletes in the class.
Our winners this year are Kahiau Among and Conner Kojima.
Kahiau is an outstanding athlete, having competed for ʻIolani over the years in track, soccer and volleyball. She's medaled in the state tournament for track multiple times, and was poised for an amazing senior season. Competitive but kind, Kahiau works incredibly hard at her sports, but also gives freely of her time to her class, not only as a prefect but also by helping to plan events like senior camp and the prom. She's won awards for her work in her English courses, and tutors other students. Loyola University Chicago is fortunate to have Kahiau joining its community.
As a water polo captain, Conner knows all about keeping a strong and steady presence above the water line, while working furiously below it. He's served as a class officer and senior prefect, plays trumpet in our stage band, and has earned his Eagle Scout. He also helped plan Senior Camp along with Kahiau and others, and he's been recognized for his outstanding mathematical ability. The University of Southern California will benefit in many ways from Conner's attendance.
Congratulations Kahiau and Conner!
* * *
The Bishop's Award goes to the senior who has given unselfish service to church, school and community and who demonstrates outstanding witness to faith in Christ and commitment to principle.
Our winner is Sage Vasconcellos-Merryman.
Sage realized in physics class that she was a body in motion that tended to stay in motion. Whether she's coaching or playing basketball or volleyball, co-chairing the ʻIolani Fair, or challenging her teachers to baking contests, Sage is always involved. Her greatest joy comes in teaching at her church's children ministry. Those keiki are fortunate indeed to be mentored by her. Sage will be attending Washington University in St. Louis in the fall.
* * *
The Headmaster's Award is presented to the graduate who has made an exceptional contribution to ʻIolani School.
Our winner is Nate Yonamine.
Nate's accomplishments are legendary: class president, acolyte, president of the Wounded Warriors Club, cross country captain, exceptional photographer, concerto violinist. This just touches the surface. But what endears Nate to his classmates and teachers alike is his generous spirit. One teacher observed, "Nate is beloved by his classmates who correctly sense that he has a heart bigger than his whole body. He makes everyone around him better." It is clear that Nate cares more about his classmates than his own accomplishments, a truly admirable quality. And we wish him all the best at the University of Pittsburgh in the fall.
* * *
We are pleased with the accomplishments of all our students, and we honor them at award ceremonies throughout the year as well as at these commencement exercises today. I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize yet one more group of students -- students who bring good character, generosity of spirit and a positive attitude to campus each day. They are important in defining who we are as a school and as a community. They make a difference in the lives of their teachers and classmates, yet seldom receive the spotlight they deserve. Please allow me to introduce to you our Unsung Heroes.
Naia Lum -- Illinois Institute of Technology
Sora Roberts -- University of Utah
Kennedy Choo -- University of Missouri
Taisamasama Fautanu -- Cornell University
Cydnee Iinuma -- Fashion Institute of Technology
Josiah Matsuda -- University of Washington
Alessandra Ramirez -- Chapman University
Erena Yamatsu -- University of Hawai'i, Manoa
Isabella Lee -- Clemson University
Camryn Jamila -- University of Hawai'i, Manoa
Joseph "Bud" Robinson -- Seattle University
Dong Li "Stephanie" Wang -- University of Washington
Alec Tam -- The Ohio State University
Elyka Nemoto -- Seattle Pacific University
Carter Kojima -- University of Portland
Thank you, Unsung Heroes, for your contributions to our community.
* * *
Class of 2020, first and foremost, I want you to know how very proud we are of each of you and that today, we gather to celebrate you and give our collective blessing for a life of happiness and fulfillment. You are truly a wonderful and amazing group of young women and men.
Parents, today is a day on which we all share in your pride and love. A day to celebrate the Class of 2020.
It has been quite a year.
The events of the past few months, the COVID-19 epidemic and recent days, the civil unrest and protests in the United States and around the world are rightfully at the forefront of the thoughts I want to share with you today.
The months we have lived with social distancing and interacting remotely have been trying, to say the least. And at the first meeting I attended with the prefects and class officers about this commencement ceremony, we spent a fair amount of time on the topic of processing disappointment and the difficulty of moving from it to acceptance.
The members of the Class of 2020 who participated in the meetings about today's ceremony did so admirably and with great maturity and I want to thank them for helping to make this gathering possible, this COVID-19 modified ceremony.
The flip side of the challenges we have faced is that quite a bit of good can emerge from adversity if one works to overcome it.
There is a wonderful quote from St. Francis of Assisi: "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you're doing the impossible."
Together, we lived this. The faculty and staff rose to the occasion and quickly became adept at online instruction -- a skill that we now have in our school toolbox.
Who would have thought we could do this with our baseball field?
You all grew in your ability to work remotely, as individuals, as a team, as communicators and achievers. And, I am going to predict that this serves you well in your lives. Already, there are changes in medical care, the use of telemedicine, how we inhabit the workplace, working efficiently from home, our use of automobiles, home delivery has become a norm and a lot more. Much of this is going to remain as part of everyday life and your brief experience these past few months has given you a crash course in future skills.
The other part of our COVID-19 experience that is of greater importance is that loss and disappointment can sharpen our awareness of what is truly important in our lives and increase the gratitude we feel about many things we may have taken for granted. Time with your classmates and friends, gathering socially, going to the movies, participating in sports, all of it. These are aspects of our lives that we now treasure more deeply.
We have much for which to be thankful.
A more difficult topic and one that I could not in good conscience stand before you today without addressing is the state of the world into which you enter as you depart 'Iolani. It is a world divided, in pain and one within which there will be times when it is necessary to choose a side.
A few days ago, I read some thoughts by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and like many others now and at other times, he said that the system has got to change. And he is right. It is about addressing the malignant symptoms of our historical legacies and also looking toward the future and how it can be different from a past that has humanity too easily tolerating racism, injustice, inequality and other evils.
So, I want to humbly offer some thoughts to you, Class of 2020, with the hope that they provide some insights or at least something to think about in terms of yourself and the future.
I offer this to emphasize to you the need to choose your path with open eyes, consider carefully who you will be, choose to pursue opportunities beyond self-interest and set high aspirations for the kind of contribution you will make to the world around you.
Now, you are going to have to bear with me because I am not a philosopher or a scholar on social issues. The way I see the world is shaped by my education, an engineer and my experiences.
One of the experiences that came to mind goes back to when we first started to conceive of the Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership. There was a lot of future-oriented discussion in the air. It is what led our school to the decision to build such an educational space and create programs that prepared students with skills for a rapidly changing world. It was and still is philosophically very future-oriented.
This was eight years ago, and there were many books and other publications professing that the culmination of the information age would give rise to ever faster moving progress and open the way for a new age of the sharing of intellect and creativity. A very optimistic vision of the future.
One influential publication at that time was from the Harvard Business Review and was titled "Understanding New Power." It opened with the paragraph: "We all sense that power is shifting in the world. We see increasing political protest, a crisis in representation and governance, and upstart businesses upending traditional industries. But the nature of this shift tends to be either wildly romanticized or dangerously underestimated."
And the authors then articulate the differences between the idea of old power and new power and its links to emerging technologies. In their words:
Old power works like a currency. It is held by a few. Once gained it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible and leader driven.
New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory and peer-driven. It is distributed and shared. It is consensus driven.
Old power is power directed over people, power concentrated to a few, new power is power of the collective, the power of people working together.
Old power is largely based on the control of resources, the competition for resources and controlling access to resources.
New power is based on openness, transparency, and sharing.
The article was exciting in terms of a vision that our world can become a better place because of the speed of technological progress with the evolution of opportunities for new models of collaborative achievement and establishing new norms by which we live.
In retrospect, however, and in the context of what we are watching unfold across the United States and around the world, the article fell short on the degree to which it emphasized, in the author's words, "this shift in power could be dangerously underestimated."
As is prevalent on so many fronts in our world, it turns out, predictably, that the holders of old power are threatened by the ideas of new power or any new system that would dismantle its fundamental basis of competition for and control of resources.
In looking at the issues and conflicts in our world, I wonder if many of them are coming to light with greater clarity at this time because of the tension between these two paradigms. On the one hand, you have an almost rabid commitment by many to maintain the systems of old power and the other, a kind of stumbling and unfocused movement forward that is fueled by the momentum of new power systems.
Now, what I have been saying is fairly abstract, so I want to offer a few concrete examples of the tension about which I am speaking.
We have all seen on the news these past weeks the tragic examples of an authoritarian mentality and systemic racism that results in the murder and oppression of black people in America. Perspectives that diminishes the humanity and value of others and causes great harm. That is old power with a capital O and capital P, the preservation of inequalities between people.
A number of these incidents, however, were videotaped and sent out for the world to see. The collective viewing of heartbreaking injustice allowed for a consensus of moral and just evaluation and a coming together to act for change. That's new power, transparency and people working together.
What about education? Up until about a century ago, it was limited to primarily the privileged class. That's old power, control of the resource, education. Over these past few months, each of you has experienced a form of education that can be available to everyone at any time across our planet. That's new power, access to the resource education.
We know that a climate change crisis faces humanity and threatens our home, and this is a wonderful opportunity for our world to work together, collaboratively toward solutions, to engage in the promise of new power. Yet, old power structures are invested in and benefit from controlling energy resources and remain intransigent; and committed to denying scientific reality in order to perpetuate their self-interests to the detriment of us all.
This is a tension between the majority of what we have known and lived as a species throughout our history and the potential of what we can become, a great unknown.
Perhaps ironically, we have had values and beliefs that are aligned with new power for millennia in our religions and belief systems. Love your neighbor as yourself — that is a core value to systems of new power. Yet, we have not been able to live up to these ideals because our history is a consistent competition for resources, old power, with the resulting dominance of one culture over another. You cannot love your neighbor as yourself if your sense of security, place in the world, and access to resources — your personal power — requires their oppression.
Now, I am also not enough of a historian to say if this tension and conflict is new. I would imagine that the Magna Carta, our Constitution and Bill of Rights, socialist philosophies and more; probably have roots in this dynamic and it may be that it has played out over and over for thousands of years in one form or another.
I would also say that to pose emerging technologies as an engine that will create systemic change and reform is naive. Like splitting the atom, our advances in science and technology live within the context of human interaction and therefore need intentional application to a direction of change. The conflict between old power and new power can undermine all of its promise.
We see this today with social media, as I noted, it works as a tool for the growth of transparency, a characteristic of new power. And simultaneously it is also effectively used as a tool to erode truth and manipulate people through intentional propaganda, an application to old power in order to keep a resource, the truth, controlled.
So, just based on these ideas, I could not offer an entirely optimistic message. There is, however, another transition that has been taking place in our world that creates a new context for this tension that is like none other in our history and this can be a reason for great optimism.
One of the other future oriented books that influenced how we conceived of education for your future and not the past was Abundance by Peter Diamondis.
Diamondis is a futurist and his central premise is that we now live in a time of such abundance that the application of systems of new power may no longer be undermined by competition for resources, the engine of old power.
Class of 2020, we are all living in a time of growing abundance. The availability of food, medicine, education, transportation, information, communications and much more are all increasing. If you step back, you can recognize the growing age of abundance that could, in time and with commitment, circle the globe. And this could give a foundation from which the "system" can truly change or evolve with ever diminishing rewards to operate in old power systems and ever increasing value to operate in those of new power.
The Taoist philosopher Lao-Tzu told us long ago, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" and each of you have been equipped to take steps in the direction of a future that evolves us beyond the limitations of our past.
You will be successful regardless of whether change takes place slowly or quickly. You are all equipped to be successful in any context. And you are all also uniquely equipped to thrive and help build a world of new power that values collaboration, mutual respect, equality, achievement beyond self-interest, caring for those in your community and all of the other skills and values we worked to instill in you at this school.
Class of 2020, when I began speaking to you, I asked that you choose your path with open eyes, consider carefully who you will be, choose to pursue opportunities beyond self-interest and set high aspirations for the kind of contribution you will make to the world around you. Now, I want to challenge you even more; in that you recognize that you go into the world as people of privilege with access to much.
As such, never stop asking yourself:
What is ambition without self-awareness?
What is achievement without empathy for those who have less?
How can I contribute to help build a world that is ever more just?
As I put this challenge to each of you, know that your home, ʻIolani School, poses the same challenges to itself. As an institution, to choose our path with open eyes, to be self-aware, to understand our own position of privilege and what this means as we strive to live up to our mission and the values we espouse.
In the years to come, it is our hope that you will continue to look to your school as a source of inspiration, as a place that empowers young people to contribute and lead our world bravely and capably toward the greater good.
Today, you are these young people, you are all capable of achieving the highest aspirations you allow yourself to imagine — for yourselves, and for a world desperately in need of care.
Class of 2020, you have had a year in which the world has acted on you. Now, it's time for you to go out and begin to act on the world.
God bless you all, and thank you.
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I now invite Dr. Mark Mugiishi, Chair of the ʻIolani School Board of Governors, to the podium.
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Dr. Mark Mugiishi '77 said: "This is a moving ceremony. The power of the human spirit. The power of the ʻIolani spirit. Congratulations, everybody.
"As Chair and representative of the Board of Governors, it is my honor to recognize the faculty and administration of ʻIolani School, in consonance with the laws of the State of Hawaiʻi and our requirements, do certified that all students have satisfactorily completed the requirements for graduation and present the Class of 2020 to be awarded their diplomas."
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Congratulations to the 240 graduates from the Class of 2020!