Congratulations! Your hard and rewarding road of life-long learning has reached another crossroads.
As one of your Great Books tutors, I want to share with you a few parting thoughts:
In your mind, I’m sure our 11th grade year together is ancient history, especially in light of all the wonderful “senior year” memories you’ve made. I, however, remember well our year together and I’ve been watching you, from across the hall. I want to ask you to shine a light on those Dark Ages with me for just a moment.
The fall of 2013 was a new beginning in many ways – some of you were new to Christiana, one of you was new to this class – and I was new to tutoring Great Books. I also see now, new friendships were taking shape at that time too. Friendships which I think will be long lasting – all the more strong and enduring due to the fiery discord in which they were forged. With fits and spurts our class moved ahead through the Medieval classics. Many of these works as a whole, or in their particulars, challenged differences we hold in a sometimes uneasy tension under the broad banner of Christianity. It wasn’t easy discussing those classic works which highlight the very issues that still divide us. And to expect 16 year olds to take it on, was asking a lot. But you did it.
Though some of you may have been tempted to throw in the towel, you held on. You stayed the course. Perhaps without fully understanding why – you stood your ground and remained engaged in the Great Conversation – valiantly fighting your impulses to push your own agendas – sometimes winning that battle and sometimes losing – but sincerely committed to the ideal of “seeking to understand” and trying to unfold what that means, what that looks like to humbly open your heart and mind to another’s point of view. Pushing through your differences and working together to get to the other side you discovered what Seneca calls “one of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship” – “to understand and to be understood”.
And so, our year ended. Though your union as a class was still slightly tenuous, as brothers and sisters in Christ you embarked on another great conversation your senior year. Among many other great authors from the classic western tradition, you tackled Descartes – the agent behind the fracturing of the entwined understanding of the human person that existed prior to the scientific revolution. You examined his arguments outlining a skeptical disembodied philosophy. And you seriously engaged in a conversation with John Paul II, who proposes an adequate anthropology as an antidote of sort to Descartes. Further up and further on you traveled – examining various forms of government, evaluating the principles underlying each according to the criteria of how each conceives of and serves the dignity of the human person.
Wrestling with seminal texts throughout your high school career – from Homer and Aristotle to Virgil and Augustine, Bonaventure, Dante and Descartes – you engaged in the core of human experience – in reality that transcends time and place. If you missed any of these works along the way, I suggest you take them on and celebrate – with food – each time you finish a new text, in honor of Mrs. Jones.
In staying the course – through science fair projects, Super Essays, Inferno Projects, Great books skits, tension-filled classroom discussions and your thesis presentations – you have inserted yourselves into the ongoing stream of conversation with the greatest minds of Western civilization, working through and discussing the most profound realities concerning the human experience, the human person, the world in which we live and the greatest mysteries of God Himself. To liberally engage in a classical education is to be free and to live a humane life – to live a life oriented to the Truth.
And now as you go forward from this place – continue to seek truth, share the truth with others and establish a lifestyle of learning for yourself. I hope you will fondly
remember this place, these people and these times and you will go forward with joy, bearing in mind what C.S. Lewis says, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”