Commencement Address from HOS, Matt Horvat

matt horvat commencement address

(From Commencement, June 10, 2018)

Let me begin with a few thank you’s. First to Lance, Ben, George, John, and Jun, our maintenance team. They made the campus beautiful and made this space ready and comfortable.

Thank you to Jacqui and Meghan, who oversee all aspects of graduation - it is some serious coordination. #Awesome Job!

Thank you to Bill, Marilyn, Stephanie, and other members of the kitchen team who have created a beautiful reception.

And, finally, thank you to the many parent volunteers, helping today.

Welcome parents, faculty, and friends. Welcome Class of 2018!  Today we recognize and celebrate your successful completion of high school.

Before sharing a few thoughts, I’d like to recognize the Lifers. These students began at Overlake in 5th grade. Here they are, eight years later: taller, older, wiser. Lifers, please stand.  

The Mighty Class of 2018…who will continue reaching new heights.

Soon you’ll head off to college. Soon you’ll leave familiar homes, the ones you share with your family and your home at Overlake.

I’m predicting you’ll experience what many do the first time you come home from college.

You’ll enter your family home, and you’ll walk around it like an anthropologist.

Of course, you’ll see familiar things. For example, it’s likely your home still smells like your home.

That familiar smell you don’t notice until you go to someone else’s home and it smells different -- not bad -- just different. Your home will likely still smell familiar when you return from college.

But, you’ll detect changes. Small things. Maybe a chair in the living room has been replaced. Or, there’s a new flavor of jam in the fridge, maybe even a new brand. After a few days home, you learn that your parents have taken up ballroom dancing or yoga. Who knew…?

There might be some larger things. Some families regard an empty bedroom as an ideal opportunity for a new home office or a bigger and better space for a younger sibling. Maybe your room has become a rental listing on Airbnb. Monetize your departure.

No matter what the changes are, and likely they’ll be small ones, a new towel rack in the bathroom…some new hobbies, you’ll notice them and you’ll start to realize your family continued on in your home without you.

That’s not to say that this home -- and for some of you this is the only family home you’ve ever known -- won’t always be your home.

Even if your family moves in coming years, your home will be with them.

Homes come from human connections. They’re created to support our basic needs, including, and most critically, our needs to connect, to build relationships, and to care for other people.

You might also come back to your home at Overlake and notice small changes. It might be something with the sandwich line...or a new building or two…or an administrative policy that current students tell you has ruined the place.

But soon you’ll reconnect with the people at Overlake. When catching up and talking about your new school, you’ll feel how Overlake remains a home for you, a place where, like your family home, you grew up… and a place where people continue to care about you, long after you graduate.

But just as changes have taken place in your absence, so too have you undergone changes. You’ve started to build another home for yourself, one that’s both where you live and where you go to school.

In shaping this new home, you’ve navigated the curious experience that college brings: you’re asked to live in a small space with a stranger. Maybe even two or three. You do have in common that you go to same college. You may even be together because a newfangled app promised roommate compatibility. Ideally, you figure out how to live in harmony.

My first year of college, I lived with John. He’d grown up in Guam and arrived at college by himself. My mom had driven me to school from southern New Jersey, where I grew up. She and I moved my stuff into the dorm, she wished me well, then quickly left to drive home, wanting, she said, to avoid terrible traffic.

I’ve realized that her swift departure came from more than traffic. I’m the youngest of six. She was heading home to an empty nest after 27 years of arranging twigs for a lot of people. As you might imagine, she drove away fast.

Let’s also be clear: there were no new curtains or desk lamps or coordinated duvets. Yet John and I did create a home in that sparse room, where we slept on metal frame beds with those awful thin mattresses.

We both had parents who weren’t American, John’s mom was from Japan and his father from Guam. My mom is Finnish; my father was Croatian. John and I both felt like outsiders. That’s not uncommon when you arrive in a new setting, but for us it was more than being new.

We even ended up adopting another outsider, Carmelo from the Bronx, who had been asked to leave as his financial aid package was not enough. We happened to have a third metal frame bed in our room, so he moved in and worked a couple jobs. (In case you’re wondering: he did end up graduating from college.)

I should also add that I found another home in college at the boat house, where I spent a lot of time with the rowing team, an important community for me.  

You, too, will sleep on those metal frame beds. That is one thing that technology hasn’t changed.

You will also shape a new home for yourself in college. Be intentional about this. Take stock of your habits…think about what it takes to live closely and happily with other people...figure out what allows you to feel comfortable…determine what types of human connections affirm who you are and who you want to become.

Lean on your core values. Seek advice when you need it. Devote yourself to the work required to build a home.

The new home you’ll create in the fall is the first of many you’ll shape in the years to come.

Seeking and establishing such homes -- and the human connections that live at the heart of them -- require work. Relationships require work.

As you head out, remember you have at least two homes already. These established homes will provide the love and support you need while you pursue new challenges…while you find your place in new settings…while you build a new home.

Remember and lean on all of us who love you, all of us who are proud of you, and all of us who will always support you.

We believe in you, mighty class of 2018.

I believe in you.