Thursday, May 24, 2012Dear ____________________,Your time at Packer is over. And I’m sure you’re either numb, and it hasn’t hit you (and maybe it won’t), oryou’re a fibrous bundle of nerves and excitement. Either way,
you’ve finished what is probably the most transformative intellectual journey you will undertake in your life
. It is in these four years that you have comefrom the primordial ooze as freshman, O Lowly Frosh!, who could barely write a reasonable thesis sentence inEnglish, who didn’t know about the realm of imaginary numbers, who didn’t know how to balance a simplechemical equation, who didn’t know the nuances of Reconstruction or the Renaissance… to someone who hasacquired a ridiculous amount of knowledge.
what you knew then what you know now
I ask you to take a step back from where you are today and to look at your work in ninth grade. (Have yousaved any of it?) See what sort of essays you wrote and what sort of math you were doing. I honestly think youshould take a moment and do it. (If you aren’t nostalgic yet, it might be just the trick to turn on thatwistfulness!) But I posit to you that in these four years you’ve learned more about the world than you willprobably learn in
four years hence – college included. (College is where you start to specialize, tunnelinginto your intellectual world, from the broadening of your world that happens in high school.)Think about it. List all the places and time periods you’ve studied in history, list all the books you’ve devouredin English, list all the topics in mathematics, list all the main ideas from the sciences. I’m serious about this.Start by writing down the list of books you read for your English classes: __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________Okay, I’m not an idiot. You aren’t going to do that. You’re seniors and you’re
and it sounds dumb. But I betyou in 5 years from now you’re going to read this and regret that you didn’t fill this year.What’s my point here? When I was a senior graduating high school, my English teacher handed me anenvelope with a thank you letter for something I gave him. His act of writing this letter imparting words of wisdom meant something to me. I keep the letter ensconced between the pages of my yearbook and eachyear around this time I bring it out and re-read it. And in honor of him, each year I write a letter to my seniors,my dear dear seniors, and it always has the same theme.
My favorite quotation is notfrom a classic of literature. It was uttered by Richard Feynman, physicist extraordinaire: