Mrs. Wells’ Commencement Address

Mrs. Wells said these words to our departing 2014 graduates on Friday:

It’s Pine Cobble’s 77th graduation ceremonies, and I am so proud to have sitting on stage four truly extraordinary young women who have been here anywhere from four to twelve years. During these years, each of you, in your own way, have grown to be outstanding leaders – for Pine Cobble School, for the community at large, for the students on this campus.

Our “lifer” at Pine Cobble – after 12 years, you sit before us having been our student council president our field hockey captain, a friend to all, a role model in the kind, thoughtful, capable way you lead your peers. Jackie, what has struck me most about you is your innate ability to deal gracefully with every challenge and every opportunity that comes your way. From leading a team, to being a lead in the play. To setting an exceptional tone of responsibility and commitment on the student council, to dealing with a concussion at the close of your 9th grade lacrosse season without a single complaint. Instead you persevered, showed resiliency the likes of which the world sees less and less today, and kept a positive attitude every step of the way. You are, at the young age of 15, one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met.

And dear Hayden. You have found your voice in the most powerful of ways. The beauty of it is the journey toward gaining the confidence to really speak your mind is a journey you have embraced every step of the way. You own your ideas and truly believe who you are today. You stand up for what is right, in your actions and words, and you have clarity and purpose. We all saw that as you delivered a speech about GMO’s, the big business of food production and the dangerous impacts that choices by the food industry are having on our health. The conviction in your words swept you right past any nervousness you might have had, and garnered you Pine Cobble’s public speaking award. The courage of your convictions will take you far in life.

Next…a dauntless soccer player, lacrosse MVP, who has a gift with the written word and organizational skills that she could take into the work world with great success at age 15 – Piper you are bright and capable and have taken on projects time and again during your years here that would be overwhelming to most adults. Your focus, vision, and determination always bring exceptional results. Whether it’s deciding to raise the bar for the school yearbook, or packing in a staggering amount of research into your ninth grade speech, or running up and down the field in the center position during a day-long lacrosse tournament, you are a veritable superwoman.

And finally to Catherine…A thoughtful and artistic young woman, who can dazzle people on the stage or the field. You were so dedicated to the study of Latin that you took the course yourself, alone, for a whole year and were one of very few students in the history of Pine Cobble to get through Latin 3 – no small feat. Catherine during your years at Pine Cobble, you have taken your many talents and shared them with us. Beyond that you have, with each passing year, better defined who you are and what matters most to you. As I sat with you a few weeks ago and listened to you share highlights of your time here as well as thoughts of the future, I was deeply struck by the resounding message that what matters most to you is how human beings treat other human beings. You told me that you learned, even beyond the endless amount of knowledge gained and successes attained during your years at Pine Cobble, that kindness and respect for every human being has been the most defining lesson of all – the one you will carry with you through life.

Each one of you leaves this school community profoundly changed in the best possible ways. You make leadership look easy.

But I want to take a few minutes to say something serious about the world you are entering. This world is not always one that welcomes women leaders. Today, fifty-seven percent of college students in America are young women, and women earn 60 percent of all master’s degrees. It’s been proven that companies employing women in large numbers outperform their competitors on every measure of profitability. Yet a tiny fraction of elected officials are women, just 4.2% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women, and just one year out of college—that first year out — women earn 80 cents to the dollar that men earn.

You four are smart, accomplished girls. But did you know that even the smartest, most accomplished women underestimate their own abilities? It’s been proven over and over again: women predict they’ll do worse on tests than their male counterparts. They don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions. They turn down opportunities to compete for prizes more than men. And when women bump up against failure – which I’m telling you right now, everyone does – they are more likely than men to say the problem was something internal, something about them.

Girls, I want you to get out there and push yourself through that uncertainty. Don’t ever let doubt stop you. You’ll know you’re pushing yourself in all the right ways when you bump up against failure and keep going.

That’s the second time I’ve used that word, failure. That’s because failure is important. Don’t be afraid of it. We learn and grow the most from our failures. So fail. And when you fail, when you fall down, I want you to get up, dust yourself off, and remember the pillars. Use those pillars on yourself. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Respect yourself and show the courage to try again. Then persevere.

And if you fail again, do it all over again. Patience. Compassion. Respect. Perseverance.

Most of all, I want you to remember what you did here, on this campus. I want you to remember this foundation you have: as a leader who improves her community, her world. A leader who knows that supporting other young women and men, instead of putting them down, makes things better for everyone.

A leader who brings strengths to the world – strengths that this world desperately needs.

And finally, do me and us the biggest favor of all, wherever you are leading – school, family, workplace, community – do it with compassion and kindness – the world needs that more than anything in our leaders and in the whole human race.

You are leaders. Now get out there and fight on your own behalf and every community will benefit from having you in it.

I promise you that I, and this entire community, will be rooting for you, and cheering for you, from this moment until forever.

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