Courage and Hope

On Monday, April 30, JHS Drama teacher Elaine Kloser offered this stirring address to the Jesuit High Chapter of the National Honor Society. I asked her if we could publish it here as a guest blog:

Esteemed juniors, accomplished seniors, parents, friends, and colleagues,

Thank you so much for the honor of inviting me to share some thoughts with you tonight. I was a bit stunned when the request came.... But I was also excited—at first I thought to myself, "Now I get to pull out my favorite big long words from high school Honors English and impress everybody!" But then I thought about it again. Though I love the words "indefatigable" and "prodigious" and "perspicacity," the words that I want to share with you tonight are short and simple.

I wear two bracelets on my arm every day. One says "courage" and one says "hope"— words that our world desperately needs today. I need to be reminded of these words daily, which is why I have these physical insignias close to me at all times.

YOU are the students who, on a daily basis, continue to give me hope and courage by your example, whether through your integrity and scholarship as you stretch yourself in the classroom; your selflessness as you serve people who live on the margins, your commitment to doing justice as you stand in solidarity with those who cannot stand up for themselves, and your bravery as you give voice to the voiceless.

You give me hope and courage, knowing that there are leaders here right now who have made a difference and are continuing to make a difference, not only on our campus, but in our community and in our world.

We did this little play called Newsies as part of the Drama season this year. The story focused specifically on hope and courage. One of the centerpieces of the story was a song in which the lyrics "Now is the time to Seize the Day" were used to activate that hope and courage.

Hope and Courage are strong words, but passive until you stick an action verb in front of each. "To have hope" is just not very dynamic, but to "SEIZE hope" sounds physically invigorating; you have to choose to do it. "To be courageous" is fine, but to "SEIZE courage" is active and delicious. If you want some good drama, you totally want to SEIZE hope and courage—there is no way that the word "seize" is passive. You are making a conscious decision to take Hope by the nape of the neck and embrace it...capture it...elevate it. You are deliberately diving into a vat of Courage and immersing yourself in it. And in this place of action is where we meet God.

I love that the Jesuits call themselves "contemplatives in action." I love that my job as a drama director is to bring a story to life through action. It's the action piece—that seizing, grasping, igniting, harnessing, capturing, enacting hope and courage—that is vital and makes it relevant NOW.

Sidenote: You know, there's something that absolutely makes me nuts. I get a little crazy when someone refers to young people as "The Hope for the Future"... our "Leaders of Tomorrow." You are giving hope and courage to our world through your leadership right now. Yeah, yeah, Jesuit builds leaders for the future, but look at what you are doing in our world right now.

You are the ones who actively seize hope and courage every day. You are the ones who seized the courage to organize and bring to fruition the Walkout as we adults looked on. You seized the hope by taking a simple idea, getting down on your hands and knees and decorating our entire campus to celebrate the life of Ruby Gray while we adults observed. You are the ones who pushed the wheelchairs uphill and down twelve miles on the Senior Pilgrimage while we adults rode stretches in the school van.

You are the ones who decide in a split second where to throw that ball...whom you're gonna pass to...when it's the ideal moment to shoot—while your coach stands cheering you on from the sideline. You are the ones who climb up scaffolding, move those sliding panels, pull the ropes on the flyrail, control 27 microphones, rock the dance steps and tell that story while Jeff and I sit in Row K watching.

You work the mechanics and build that robot so it can climb; you write the notecards for your Junior paper, and build the courts for kids, and talk with that homeless person at St Francis Dining Hall, and put just the right amount of paint in every single square of your Chuck Close painting.

You raise money for kids with cancer, you tutor your peers, you run Coffeehouse, and argue your point in Mock Trial, and experiment with solutions to bring clean water to people, and serve at Mass, and publish a health and wellness journal, and lead a small group, and recycle, and remain silent in a show of solidarity on the Day of Silence...and you finish your Membean before midnight.

In so many ways, every day, you not only embrace hope and courage, but lift them up as an example for others.

Don't ever forget that scholarship, leadership, service and character are active words. You are not just preparing for your future; you are making the world a better place right now. Now, through the rest of your life, you must seize hope and courage every day. And do it in your own indefatigably, prodigious, perspicacious way.

-Elaine Kloser, JHS Drama Director