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Class of 2024 Commencement

ʻIolani School's commencement ceremony for the Class of 2024 took place on Saturday, June 1. Dr. Timothy R. Cottrell, who is in his 12th year as ʻIolani's Head of School, conducted the ceremony.

Click to view recording of live webcast


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 2024.

We gather today to celebrate the achievements of the students before you and to send them forth into a new chapter of their lives while always remaining part of the “One Team” that is ‘Iolani School.

A testament to this bond is the presence of a special group of alumni.

Each year ‘Iolani alumni celebrating their 50th reunion are invited to join us as special guests for commencement. We are honored that 36 members of the Class of 1974 have joined us today to celebrate the Class of 2024, reflect on their time at ‘Iolani and present our school with their class gift.

The Class of 1974 is donating an extremely generous class gift of more than $775,000, which they have raised in support of scholarships, financial aid, campus expansion and other initiatives.

The Class of 1974 has stayed very close over the decades. They still gather annually to grill in the BBQ booth at the ‘Iolani Fair and one of their members has chaired the entire Fair food operation for years.

Members of the class have prepared a video message they would like to share with today's graduating class. We will show this in just a moment, but first, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in recognizing and thanking the Class of 1974.

* * *

We have had yet another great year at ‘Iolani School.

For the fourth consecutive year, ‘Iolani School has been named the No. 1 Best Private School in Hawai‘i by

As an institution, we have continued to serve our community. In support of the Lahaina and the survivors of the tragic fires, ‘Iolani’s counseling team made seven trips to Maui and trained 400 counselors statewide in grief counseling.

Our science outreach programs ‘Aina Informatics in modern genomics and Pa‘epa e o Waikolu dedicated to restoring the health of the Ala Wai Watershed worked with over 60 public schools throughout our state and supported public school students in independent study research as we do for ‘Iolani students.

Three public school students qualified for the Regeneron Science Competition (what used to be the Intel Science Prize) and won two grand awards.

This year our KA‘I Programs that serves public school students from Palolo Valley enrolled 100 percent of our KA‘I Keiki students into full-time preschool and the program has 19 college graduates, all of whom are the first in their families to achieve a postsecondary degree.

Our outstanding faculty, staff and coaches have prepared and mentored ‘Iolani students to compete and succeed at the highest levels.

In academics:

The Class of 2024 has 18 National Merit Scholarship finalists of the 57 awarded in the state of Hawai’i.

The Raider Math Team was once again state champion for its 35th consecutive year, extending the longest state championship streak in Hawai’i.

For the third consecutive year, ‘Iolani students won the Middle School Mathcounts competition. And our team of Upper School students placed first at the State Math Bowl.

A team of five members of the Class of 2024 competed against eight other teams from across the country in a national urban planning competition and won the National Urban Planning Championship.

Our economics teams once again won the state championships in both AP and non-AP Divisions.

In the global CyberPatriot competition our Diamond Head team that included four members of the Class of 2024 achieved first-place in the State of Hawai‘i in the Platinum Division.

At this year’s Hawai‘i Regional event, our First Robotics Competition Team, ‘Iobotics, was selected as the Impact Award recipient. And at the world championships, for the second time in the past three years, the team was selected as one of the six Global Impact Award finalist winners.

In advanced Robotics, four members of the Class of 2024 worked on designing and building a custom high-power rocket and recently two of the seniors received their Level 1 rocket certification.

The ‘Iolani science and history bowl teams were again state champions and represented Hawai‘i at national championships.

Iolani’s Science Olympiad Division C Team participated in the Science Olympiad National Tournament at Michigan State University. It made its best-ever appearance, earning eight medals, and finishing in 15th place nationally.

At the Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools Science Fair, ‘Iolani students were awarded eight prestigious agency awards, including first, second and third-place.

At the Hawai‘i State Science and Engineering Fair, ‘Iolani students took first and second-place overall grand awards for the state and first-place in the categories of Animal Sciences, Behavioral and Social Sciences, Mathematics, Translational Medical Science, Systems Software, Physics and Astronomy.

And at the highest science competition in the nation, the Society for Science and Regeneron Grand Awards, ‘Iolani students won first-place “best in category” for Animal Sciences and the prestigious Peggy Scripps Award for Science Communication, second-place “best in category” for Animals Sciences and Behavioral and Social Sciences, in addition to three other awards totaling approximately $40,000 in prize money for scholarships and science research.

In the Ninth Circuit Civics Contest, a member of the Class of 2024 took first-place in the District of Hawai‘i in the video category.

In Speech and Debate, a member of the Class of 2024 earned first-place at the State Tournament and qualified for the National Tournament. The ‘Iolani team was awarded the District Congressional Debate Plaque for earning the most sweepstakes points in the season.

A member of the Class of 2024 won the State History Bee.

Forty-nine students were inducted into the Japanese National Honor Society. Twenty-seven students were inducted into the Chinese National Honor Society. Ten students were inducted into the Sociedad Honoraria Hispanica. Nineteen students were inducted into the French Honor Society. Thirteen students were inducted into the National Latin Honor Society. On the National Latin Exam, students achieved 14 Gold Summa Cum Laude, 18 Silver Maxima Cum Laude, 13 Magna Cum Laude, and 16 Cum Laude awards. And on the National French Contest, ‘Iolani students earned seven Gold Medals, 14 Silver Medals, and 14 Bronze Medals.

The Hawai‘i Scholastic Journalism Association has named a member of the Class of 2024 as the Hawai‘i Journalist of the Year.

And, a member of the Class of 2024 was named one of three U.S. Presidential Scholars for the State of Hawai’i.

In the performing arts:

The Schatz-Harris Concerto Competition is held yearly by the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra and recognizes outstanding musicians up to the age of 18. This year’s Senior Division and Mid-Level Division winners were from ‘Iolani School.

An ‘Iolani student was Hawai’i's first-place winner for the Senior Division of the Opus Music Competition and has qualified for the National Competition. And the same student was a first-prize winner in the American Protege International Music Talent Competition and this allowed him to perform at Carnegie Hall.

At the O‘ahu Band Directors Association Solo and Ensemble Festival, 14 ‘Iolani students achieved Gold Awards.

In addition, we were graced on our campus by world-renowned pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii, who performed for our Lower and Upper School students.

In the visual arts:

For the 61st Annual Hawai‘i Regional Scholastic Art Awards, ‘Iolani students achieved 20 Gold Key awards, 36 Silver Key awards, 22 honorable mention awards. And a member of the Class of 2024 won the prestigious American Visions Award for his sculpture “A Falcon in the Storm.”

In athletics:

We were ILH championships in boys cross country, cheerleading, girls basketball, girls judo, boys soccer, and boys swimming & diving.

We were HHSAA state championships in boys cross country, boys canoe paddling, girls basketball, boys swimming & diving.

Individual students were ILH and state champions in golf, swimming, wrestling, judo and track & field.

‘Iolani students were selected as "State Player of the Year" in girls basketball, girls golf, football and girls track & field.

The ‘Iolani Surf team won the school's first-ever Hawai‘i Surfing Association High School Challenge State Championship and will be competing at the national championships later this month.

We have much for which to be thankful as a school and community. And at ‘Iolani, we achieve together, as “One Team.”

* * *

It is now my privilege to present a few awards to members of the graduating class.

This year we have 51 students who have earned the title of Valedictorian. These are the students who have earned all A’s in their time at ‘Iolani, as well as those with higher weighted GPAs.

Beyond their notable academic achievements, the students in this group have earned honors and accomplishments in arts, athletics, student government, and community service.

I am pleased to introduce each of them and their chosen university to you.

Amanda Ancheta — Creighton University
Avalyne Andaya — George Washington University
Lincoln Awaya — University of California, Los Angeles
Jake Butkiewicz — University of California, Los Angeles
Raine Cheng — Duke University
Arthur Chesshir — Boston College
Owen Ching — Northeastern University
Dillon Delmonico — Syracuse University
Eva Dziadurski — University of Cambridge
Susan Flatt — University of Chicago
Jaymie Frith — Emory University
Chase Graham — University of California, Berkeley
Noelani Hiltner — Scripps College
Franklin Hung — Villanova University
Parker Hursty — Boston University
Lucy Jiang — Washington University in St. Louis
Diyora Kamilova — Amherst College
Cole Kaneshiro — Syracuse University
Kiara Koike — McGill University
David Koo — University of Southern California
Michael Kostecki — Harvard University
Owen Lai — University of California, Los Angeles
Jayne Lau — University of Texas, Dallas
Joshua Lee — University of Michigan
Sanghyuk Eric Lee — University of Pennsylvania
Stacy Lieu — Northeastern University
Justin Lu — Harvard University
Julia Mizo — University of Michigan
Ellie Mizue — Amherst College
Rumaysha Momen — University of Southern California
Joonseo Moon — Boston University
Caitlyn Murata — University of Hawai‘i, Manoa
Allison Nakao — Villanova University
Shaun Nakao — University of Arizona
Kea Nakayama — Scripps College
Devin Panalal — Princeton University
Devin Pang — University of California, Los Angeles
Jordan Reynon — University of California, Irvine
Sean Roy — University of Pennsylvania
Isabella Senyuva — University of San Diego
Perle Seul-Riordan — Duke University
Esther Shuai — Wellesley College
Helena Sieh — University of Michigan
Teah Simon — Brown University
Grant Sung — University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Wyatt Tamamoto — University of Rochester
Donovan Trieu — Washington University in St. Louis
Evan Wong — Gap Year
James Wu — New York University
Maple Yamada — University of Hawai‘i, Manoa

Congratulations, Class of 2024 valedictorians!

* * *

The Alumni Medals are given to the top female and male student-athletes in the class.

Escorting our winners are teachers and staff who have made an impact on these exceptional examples of student-athletes.

I ask Dr. Ian Kusao, Mr. Russell Motter and Mr. Lance Suzuki to bring to the stage Jaymie Frith, Ellie Mizue and Evan Wong.

Jaymie, escorted by Dr. Kusao, who taught her in her favorite course of Biology Honors, was a member of our cross country and soccer teams throughout her time in high school. Jaymie conducted and presented research this year on DNA methylation in the inflammatory response following glutamate consumption. She also volunteers with our KA‘I Programs and was a Senior Prefect. Jaymie will continue her soccer and academic careers at Emory University.

Ellie, escorted by Mr. Motter, who taught her in AP U.S. History as well as AP African American Studies, is a fine scholar of the humanities, who also captured an individual state championship in wrestling this year, as well as a strong showing in the state judo tournament. Ellie plays the cello in Orchestra 5 and has been a steadfast member of our Model UN team. She also serves as a Writing Center tutor and has conducted research as a Kay Fellow. Ellie will be attending Amherst College.

Evan, escorted by his AP Economics instructor Mr. Suzuki, is an outstanding swimmer, who played a huge role in our school’s three consecutive state swimming championships. He captured individual state championships in the 200 and 500 freestyle earlier this year, beating his closest competitor in the 200 by a full five seconds. Evan is an Eagle Scout, who also was recognized as one of our top economics students earlier this spring. Evan has interests from multiple programs and will be training during a gap year this coming fall.

Congratulations Jaymie, Ellie and Evan!

* * *

The Bishop’s Award goes to the seniors who have given unselfish service to church, school and community, and who demonstrates outstanding witness to faith in Christ and commitment to principle.

Escorting this year’s winners are an influential history instructor and a research mentor. Mr. Kam Monaco and Ms. Joanna Kobayashi, please bring to the stage Jasmine Wong and Teah Simon.

Jasmine is a four-year member of our Chapel Council and is also active as a sacristan at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. She’s widely known for her amazing golf ability as well, having captured our first individual girls state championship just a few weeks ago. She cares passionately about character, integrity and appreciating one’s family history. She’ll be studying and golfing at Gonzaga University.

Teah, who spoke so eloquently at last week’s Baccalaureate service, is escorted by her research mentor, Ms. Joanna Kobayashi. Last year, Teah conducted research on what motivates teens to consider plant-based diets, and that passion to understand what makes people tick captures Teah perfectly. She is a curious and accomplished student who also has served for four years on the Chapel Council, in addition to serving as a speech & debate captain, Senior Prefect and committed servant leader. Teah will be attending Brown University.

Congratulations, Jasmine and Teah!

* * *

The Headmaster’s Award is presented to the graduate who has made an exceptional contribution to ‘Iolani School.

Our winner is escorted by someone who has served as a mentor and guide for four years. Mrs. Nan Ching, please bring to the stage James Wu.

As class president for six years, varsity soccer player, violinist in our top orchestra, and one of our finest scholars, James Wu has distinguished himself not only in his accomplishments, but also in his service to his class and community. Indeed, he views his role as big brother to his two younger brothers to be one of his most important roles. He’s worked closely with his advisors Mrs. Ching and Mr. Nakoa on proms and other events. James is joyful in his enthusiasm for learning and leading. The Class of 2024 is fortunate to have had him at the helm. James will be studying business at New York University.

Congratulations, James!

* * *

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 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.

Grace Fujii — Santa Clara University
Kiare Hara — Loyola Marymount University
Skye Higashihara — Bates College
Hoku Hulihe‘e — San Diego State University
Sunny Kazama — University of San Diego
Ryder Kon — University of Hawai‘i, Manoa
Yuria Kumura — Waseda University
Bree Muraoka — University of California, Irvine
Mia Patton — United States Naval Academy
Nick Petersen — Purdue University
Kelia Siu — University of California, Irvine
Luke Tobin — George Fox University
Cole Yonamine — Saint Martin's University

Thank you, Unsung Heroes, for your contributions to our community.

* * *

Seniors, soon-to-be alumni of our school, this will be my 12th commencement address at ‘Iolani, and over that time, some have been quite long-winded.

It would be succinct and accurate to stand before you and say: ‘Iolani School exists for one reason and none other. It exists to send 250 or so young people into the world with the knowledge, skills, awareness, and values to be leaders and teammates capable of moving our world forward in substantial and positive ways. We send forth, each year, a graduating class of good people to serve our world and lead happy and meritorious lives.

That’s it. We could call it a day, but that is not going to happen.

As has been much of your experience on this campus, we like a bit more work and we go the extra yard. So, I am going to share a few thoughts.

Before I do, I want to ask for your help in recognizing and honoring a person among us.

At past honors ceremonies, I used to cite a quote from Sir Isaac Newton that he wrote in a letter to Robert Hooke in 1675. For the physics students, this is the Hooke’s Law for spring elasticity fella. In the letter, Newton made his most quotable statement: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Much of what you have experienced in your time at this school is because of the vision, leadership and masterful teaching craft of Dr. Carey Inouye … Doc!

Doc, I know this is the last thing in the world you want to do, but after serving the school for 47 years and announcing your retirement, would you please stand? And everyone, please hold your applause for a moment.

The Sullivan Center is here because of Doc and his partner in crime, Papa Jack Kay.

Independent study research, robotics, design and fabrication, and so much more … courses taught in the paradigm of project-based learning stand on the shoulders of our giant, Doc Inouye.

We recently looked at midterms and finals in the Upper School and saw a remarkable transformation.

When I was introduced to ‘Iolani more than a decade ago, nearly 100 percent of midterms and finals were exams. Exam period was a recurring gauntlet through which ‘Iolani students had to pass. 

Fast forward to today, and this physics teacher, who created a project-based format for our highest level of physics and inspired the creation the Sullivan Center, was the catalyst for an osmosis of this way of learning and assessment throughout the Upper School.

Over the past year, around 40 percent of Upper School midterms and finals were projects, not exams. 

You have Doc to thank for all of this.

Class of 2024, please stand and give this giant of ‘Iolani education the ovation he so truly deserves.

Thank you, you may be seated. And Doc, you can kick me in the shin later this week.

* * *

Class of 2024, this year was marked by the passing of  ‘Iolani School’s greatest headmaster of the modern era, the Reverend David Coon.

Our honored guests, the Class of 1974, had Father Coon as their Headmaster when ‘Iolani was still an all-boys school.

He was in that role from 1970 to 1992, and his leadership and vision impacted the ‘Iolani experience of students from that time up to the present

One hundred nineteen of the 258 of you, all of the women, are here because he fought for and instituted coeducation at ‘Iolani.

The other 138 of you, the men, are equally fortunate that Father Coon led this change because you have been educated in a culture of academic excellence that has steadily progressed since that time.

I recently read an article Father Coon wrote for Imua in 1965, prior to his role as school head, that spoke of a time when the boys of ‘Iolani were about to go to college, and colleges were beginning to be hotbeds of protest against the Vietnam War.

There is relevance here because the world into which you enter is one where we see conflicts of terrible cost to the innocent in Ukraine, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

We also have a nation with perhaps the greatest political divisions since prior to the Civil War.

You enter this world and join a generation that is the most diverse in American history. You are a racial plurality, and more than 20 percent of you identify as LGBTQ. And more than any previous generations, you enter college with heightened awareness and expectations around diversity, equality, inclusivity and justice.

You are entering a conversation about the future of our nation and culture that needs your voice, your leadership, your activism, and, as I will share in the context of some thoughts from Father Coon, your commitment to do the work to be an objective, informed and enlightened voice amidst the cultural confusion in which we find ourselves.

Before reading the letter from Father Coon, I need to set the stage. I need you to understand that this greatest leader of our school was deeply anti-war, a pacifist who authored letters for ‘Iolani graduates who wanted to claim the status of conscientious objector and, with his support, were able to do so. He is also the reason why we don’t have ROTC on our campus.

Hear his words not as a patriarchal leader out of touch with the activism against the war, but rather as an activist against the war, who was challenging his students and a generation to engage in protest at a level of thought beyond being easily manipulated and with true awareness of themselves and the issues.

So go back with me 59 years, to a time prior to when Father Coon was Headmaster of ‘Iolani, a time when he wrote a letter for Imua, at the start of the school year, that challenged ‘Iolani students to enter into a national discussion, and dissent against the war in Vietnam, at a level of intellectual commitment that he was concerned was not occurring.

Here is that letter from 1965:

“You probably have been reading the newspapers this summer and are aware of considerable student agitation throughout our nation against our government's policy in South Vietnam. Regardless of all the complexities of the Vietnam War, many groups in our country, student and otherwise, are given to condemning our government's pol­icy on the basis of the vaguest of generalities and naive thinking.

“While it is heartening to note the increasing concern of students regarding foreign policies of the United States, it is discouraging to note the generalities to which these same students are given.

“As if any problem of our day has a simple black-white solution.

“It appears that much student agita­tion, though healthy in terms of freedom of expression, is useless because of poor thinking. The word ‘useless’ is used purposely in the sense of ‘not contributing’ to a solution of a problem.

“The central point here is the word ‘thinking.’ Certainly, poor thinking is behind much of the agi­tation rampant in our nation today. People seem to want easy solu­tions.

“Criticisms are a given part of democracy, but what alternatives do ‘poor thinkers’ offer?

“What are you studying for? You're here to learn to think, to want to think, to want to weigh carefully opposing positions in any given is­sue. You're here to learn to think clearly and to express your think­ing clearly.

“You're here to learn to develop your critical abilities, thus learning to think for yourself. You’re here to learn to dig for facts, evaluate them, and put them to­gether in a meaningful relation­ship. You're here to learn to do for yourself. You're here to learn to depend more on your own criti­cal equipment than that of some­one who wants to lead you and think for you. You're here to get to know more about yourself, thus develop­ing more confidence in your ability and opinion. You're here to learn to respect truth and to seek it con­stantly in all problems. You're here to learn about your place in this small community called our world.

“This is really a difficult proc­ess – this process of learning to think. Many of us prefer to avoid it.

“There is little doubt that the world today presents the problem of complexi­ty that is exponential; there is less doubt that the minds that must cope with these problems: race, democracy-communism, colonial­ism, government control, to men­tion some of the obvious ones, must be equipped to think, to analyze, to perceive.

“Recognizing the demands of our contemporary society, we can do no less than develop your thinking processes to the finest degree pos­sible. May this school year add substantially to your development, especially in terms of your ability to learn, to think, to express yourselves orally and on paper, and to critically analyze.”

– The Reverend David Coon, 1965

To reiterate Father Coon was very anti-war.

His words weren’t a criticism or challenge from a leader who was pushing their politics or worldview in reaction to student protests.

This was challenge of a master educator, who was committed to sending ‘Iolani graduates out into the world with the habits, values, and education — the incredible level of commitment and work it takes to lead the solutions to our world's problems as opposed to simply amplifying their existence.

And this is where Father Coon’s timeless wisdom greets us in contemporary terms.

Father Coon’s challenge was to be, in his words, a “thinking person.”

All of the teachers, coaches, counselors and mentors you’ve had during your time at ‘Iolani share this aspiration for you. We have worked together to empower you with the means by which to contribute to the solutions to our world’s problems.

As you become members of many different college communities, I want to emphasize two aspects of this.

The first, as Father Coon invoked, is critical thinking. This is a lofty expectation for all of us, and now, arguably, a more difficult discipline than in 1965.

You are entering adulthood in a world of tailored and targeted propaganda and AI algorithms that select the information to which we are exposed, based on a record of what we have already demonstrated as an interest or position.

This is an insidious feedback loop within which, if we don’t take steps to counter it, results in a smaller and smaller bubble of confirmation bias that takes us far from the thinking person of Father Coon’s description.

Last year, journalist Jamelle Bouie visited ‘Iolani, and he shared some wisdom with the Class of 2023 on this very topic. Today, it is worth sharing again with all of you.

Mr. Bouie talked about how to discern truth as a journalist within a sea of misinformation and ambiguity about facts.

He shared: “To think critically is to understand yourself as a fallible person, whose perceptions can and will fail you. Your first instinct — your first reaction — can mislead you as much as it can guide you.

“Put a little differently; it is not critical thinking if the one thing you won’t question is yourself. Real critical thinking — serious critical thinking — demands humility. In particular, it demands the humility to accept that your thoughts may fail you, that your assumptions about reality may not actually be correct, and that you need to address and account for them.

“Critical thinking is a recognition that we must gather evidence to support our questions as much as our conclusions.”

To think critically is to understand yourself as a fallible person whose perceptions can and will fail them.

This leads me to these questions: How do we not allow preconceptions or biases to color our thinking? How do we grow the self awareness to think on this higher level?

Seniors, I want you each to picture in your mind a ladder. This could be step ladder or a ladder leaning against a wall, but the important thing is that it is your ladder.

Now give this ladder in your mind a purpose – it is the ladder you climb, rung by rung, as you make sense of situations and issues in the world around you. It is the ladder you climb up to infer meaning.

This is commonly known as your ladder of inference, and it can serve you well if you put in the work to anchor the first step with an inner dialogue, like Father Coon’s “thinking person,” that asks questions, challenges your preconceived notions or biases, and embraces objective factual information.

The first step you take on your ladder of inference needs to be anchored in critical thinking described by Jamal Bouie.

Do this, and your ladder will serve you well and help you rise as a credible leadership voice in the world around you.

However, if your first step is fueled by biases, unchallenged information, speculation, self-interest, and other non-thoughtful motivations, your ladder may make you feel empowered and righteous, but it will not make you “useful” to use Father’s Coons citation, as a thinking person who participates in solving the complex issues of our world.

Seniors, keep the image of your ladder in your mind.

The classic example of this, there is a TED talk about it,  is if you are about to pull into a parking spot, and someone rushes in and steals the spot in front of you.

The situation, one of perceived unfairness or injustice, has us set the base of our ladder in a biased response – that was my parking spot, what is that other person thinking? And then as we walk up this ladder, judging the person driving the other car to be a bad, selfish individual.

Maybe we should take action to punish them for the injustice we infer they have done to us.

A moment later, this person, turns out to be a man, leading their pregnant wife to the car, he apologizes for taking the spot, and explains that his wife is in labor and he needs to get her to the hospital.

Our ladder of inference crumbles as we realize that we were wrong, that we created a judgmental scenario in our mind, and that we climbed it with unfound speculation driven by everything except critical thinking.

Critical thinking, when applied to the first step of the ladder in this situation would have us asking ourselves a question like “maybe the person needed the spot for an urgent reason.”

And this is the self-awareness part, you need to know what aspects of who you are at this point in your life can bias the first step of your ladder of inference and the subsequent conclusions you create when you ascend it.

You need to be self-aware about what motivates how you look at the world at this time in your life in order to do as Jamal Bouie postulated and make critical thinking a core part of your process.

You are at a point in your lives, developmentally, where you have some hard-wired needs – and this will change with age. You have a need to engage the world in a way that increases your independence and autonomy. You have a need to explore your identity as you move further into adulthood. You are driven by a desire to effect change and improve the world.

The influence of peers to which you look for cues on how to behave is very strong

And, as I shared, more than any previous generations, you enter college with heightened expectations around the issues of  diversity, equality, inclusivity and justice.

You are entering the world with the drive to engage it through the lens of “I feel strongly about this, and I want to take action.”

This is a big part of the voice of your heart at this time in your life. Striking the balance between your heart and head is the tension about which Father Coon wrote as a challenge to the students of his day.

As those students considered the injustices of an emerging war in which as many as two million civilians would ultimately perish.

Father Coon urged them to engage their heads at a level of the “thinking person” that would direct the energy of their hearts to become leaders in finding solutions.

And it is the same now as then, except our world is more complicated by global challenges and influences that are expert at strumming the strings of the heart and diminishing the influence of the head – this is a vulnerability we all share.

As soon-to-be graduates of one of the best schools in this world, this place of learning has given you the habits and skills to be an empowered and self-aware critical thinker, who lives with great autonomy and commitment to lead others with truth and caring for all people.

You have all the tools needed to balance head and heart and lead at the level of the "thinking person" Father Coon described.

This is who we are, and this is the place where you grew up and learned these things.

Go forth with all of this and the courage and commitment to work with others to solve the problems of the world most meaningful to you and, as a result, make it a better place for all.

Class of 2024, blessings to all of you.

Thank you.

* * *

Chair Mark Mugiishi and members of the Board of Governors:  We, the faculty and administration of ‘Iolani School, in consonance with the laws of the State of Hawai‘i and our requirements, do certify that all students have satisfactorily completed the requirements for graduation and present the Class of 2024 to be awarded their diplomas.

* * *

Congratulations to the 258 graduates from the Class of 2024!

* * *