(The following remarks were made by Taylor Doggett '16 at the Herbert B. Barks Chapter of the Cum Laude Society Induction.)
Good afternoon. My name is Taylor Doggett, and I am a proud Skyhawk!
It is my sincere honor to join the Upper School Assembly today and congratulate the newest initiates of the Herbert Barks Chapter of the Cum Laude Society on your accomplishment.
It goes without my acknowledgement that Hammond School is not a place of academic ease—you don’t just coast by here. As much as we enjoyed calling it Hammond Fun School back in my youth, success at Hammond, and initiation into this society, comes with no lack of hard work, sacrifice, and exemplification of the core values of excellence, justice, and honor.
I know how much it takes, and how hard it is to be Cum Laude—and that’s why I didn’t make the cut! So, an extra hat tip to you all for your efforts.
Part of my task today, in addition to celebrating in the excitement of this accomplishment, is to talk to you all about the ephemeral, “finding your why.”
You will soon learn that many of your conversations before you enroll, while you matriculate, and after you complete your first degree will revolve around this idea. This shapeshifting concept of understanding what makes you tick, what you wish to devote yourself in service to, and finding the reason you have for being.
I’m here to share something that I hope brings comfort, OR maybe a small amount of fear: I still don’t know my why.
Despite all the encouragement, the “pursuit of passion” seminars, and the conversations with my community, I still have not fully discovered my “why.” I’m nearly a decade past standing in your shoes, so this nugget of honesty could be either a source of inspiration or, oh crap, I’m doomed. Your pick!
I’m still discovering my endgame. It’s not distilled in a perfect elevator pitch. I’m still charting my own future. It may very well be the case that we are on this journey together.
I’ll give you an example. I am a Capitol Hill staffer, and my primary job duty is to assist my boss, a Member of Congress, in his communications strategy. This time last year, I wrapped up some of the toughest months thus far in my career. I had to work harder than I have ever in my life, but I committed to doing it to the absolute best of my abilities. The reward for that time, where I was “drinking out of a fire hose” and learning nearly too much every day, was the ability to engage soon after that period ended in legislative endeavors with a heightened understanding of the institution to work on creating and fostering more democratic workplaces. The time that I put in during the fall, crafting the skillsets essential to this new challenge I am grateful to participate in. I will tell you that this is without a doubt the closest I have ever felt to knowing my why, in this work now.
Even within the halls of Congress, there are Senators and Representatives who are still discovering themselves– building their brand on the national scale, honing in on their mastery of the issues Americans face and the policy solutions they present, or whether they lose elections and are forced to reevaluate that’s next for them.
Thinking about that journey, in preparation for today I tried to consider what it is like to be an upper schooler right now, and I decided I couldn’t possibly understand exactly what your daily lives are. After Assembly, I would LOVE if you came up to me and shared your answers.
I do know that life’s present challenges are immense regardless of age, or background, or walk of life. You all are feeling and experiencing many compounding crises, unprecedented times, while trying to chart a path for your future. That’s not easy. You’re exemplifying resilience every day that you wake up and come give your all in the classroom, or on the field, or in leadership, or wherever you make your mark.
I want to repeat-- that’s not easy. I’m proud of you, and you should be proud of yourselves.
What I wish I would have known when I was in your shoes was a reminder that you don’t have to know your why yet. I would have let that knowledge seep into my bones, grounding me for the marathon that is undergrad. Soon, if you have not already, you will begin touring colleges and writing admissions letters. You might feel pressured to have it all figured out going into that process. Particularly in the age of the internet, opening social media apps can feel like watching a neverending highlight reel, a curated glimpse into the accomplishments of others. I’m also here to tell you to breathe. You have time and you are doing just fine.
Not because time is necessarily promised -- because it isn’t -- but because your why will come at the right time.
And if you have not yet found it, what you don’t want to do is let not knowing distract you from working. You have the power to focus less on your circumstances and more on what you’re going to do. What you can accomplish. How you can make an impact.
And what I encourage you to do is this: if you’re going to do something, do it well, or don’t do it at all.
No matter where you are, or who your audience is, I challenge you to commit yourself to the challenges and roles you decide to embrace.
If you’re going to do something, do it well or don’t do it at all.
You will find that you never know who is watching, and why that is important. And you’ll also find that when you’re all in, it brings you closer to your why.
That experience taught me the value of doing things well.
Your time is precious, and I challenge you to remain conscious of that fact, and protective of the time. You don’t have to figure your life’s purpose out immediately.
So much of what you’re doing is about setting yourself up for the future, bright and uncharted.
This is time you will not get back. Begin now the practice of listening to yourself, staying true to your dreams and desires, as you look towards what you want to make of your life. Follow your intense obsessions mercilessly. Do what drives you. The rest will follow.
To the newly inducted members of the Cum Laude Society, my most sincere congratulations for this momentous accomplishment.
I wish you all the best of luck for the rest of this semester and academic year.