The Room Where it Happened

On Sunday, June 3, The Class of 2018 graduated from Jesuit High School with a magnificent celebration in the Chiles Center at the University of Portland. The graduates processed in to the sounds of a bagpipe played by Jake Myers, '17, resplendent in traditional Scottish piper's regalia.

By the time the Class of 2018 processed out, again to the sounds of Jake's bagpipes, a significant shift had occurred: The once-seniors had transformed into young adults, and our newest alums. They were heading out on a sacred mission, as men and women for and with others, ready to set the world on fire.

Here, we present four speeches that capture the spirit of that day. Below are Principal Paul Hogan's comments to the seniors just before they received their diplomas.

Here, first, are the three students' speeches: The Welcome by Class of 2018 President Andy Johnson, and the addresses by the Class Speakers elected by the seniors: Jack Clevenger and Nicole Goffena.

The Room Where it Happened
Paul Hogan, Principal of JHS

Class of 2018, your feet are finally approaching the threshold. But before you step across this big stage and launch into adulthood for real, I want to take a moment to recognize the magnitude of the moment. If we had the time, I would ask Dr. Smart to come up here and sing a few bars of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton to help us set the stage.

In Hamilton there is a show-stopping tune called "The Room Where it Happens." Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton's bitter rival and the guy who ultimately kills him in a duel, is always left out of the room when the big decisions are made—when Founding Fathers like Hamilton, Washington, and Jefferson are deciding strategy in the Revolutionary War, or the structure of our country's banking system, or the location of our nation's capital. Burr desperately wants to have a seat at the table in the Room Where it Happens...

But Burr is left out. Though he wants to be a leader, Burr doesn't have the courage of his convictions. He doesn't want to stand up for his opinions, because some of them will be unpopular and he doesn't like criticism.

One of our most fervent hopes for you is that in college and in your chosen professions, you become leaders who DO have the courage of your convictions, that you are willing to stand up and take the heat for speaking your mind, with grace and courage and civility.

As you move forward in your journey, all of you will be in leadership positions, making important decisions. When you are, please remember that you have ALREADY been in the Room Where it Happened, and you know how to discern the right choice, even if it is unpopular. So let's remember what you learned during the past four years, in the room where it happened:

  • You were in the Knight Center sophomore year, on Ruby Tuesday, when we said goodbye to a schoolmate who died way too young, and we had a sign of peace that lasted two hours.
  • You were in the our rooms that whole Easter week as the Holy Spirit hovered over Jesuit and you drew chalk flowers on Mary's Way and Hayes Plaza and the Knight pavers.
  • Junior year, you were in the room on your Encounter when you realized that a group of once-strangers could become brothers and sisters if you just let God in.
  • On Day 4, you waltzed through our hallways singing "Down to the River to Pray," coming to see, as Nicole reminded us, that this high school experience "is not normal." A very real transformation hit your life in those rooms at St. Benny's or Solomon Schechter.
  • You were in God's own room, walking 12 miles along the Cowlitz River, with hearts beating to a rhythm that does not close upon itself, but opens to one another, and to the world,
  • Later that same day, you were in the room at St Francis Xavier Church in Toledo, WA, when Chamber Choir pierced the veil between this world and heaven during "Shelter Your Name" and "Holy Spirit, You are Welcome Here." That was a moment.
  • You were in the room when Father Grubb took his final vows as a Jesuit, and an elder named Nelly blessed him and all of us with sage and sweet grass and profound grace. You were in the same room when we laid Fr. Hayes to rest, and again last night when Fr. Adams celebrated his final, glorious Baccalaureate as our Superior, reminding us to take the love we have received at Jesuit and spread it throughout the world.
  • You were in the room when James, Sahana, Amanda and Paul revealed their vulnerability, letting us see once again what courage and real human compassion looks like.
  • You were in the room, every Friday at Mass, singing and swaying and remembering who we are and why our school is called "Jesuit."
  • You were in the room, every day, with teachers and coaches and mentors who taught you how to make sense of the world around you. It may have been a coach on a bus or in a locker room, or in a lab or math or history or language or Theology room. It may have been with an adult leader on a retreat or a service trip, or with a counselor in their office.
  • The Ignatian educators sitting behind you right now have been standing behind you from your first day at Jesuit. The people up there (point to parents) have been there since your very first breath.
  • Today, in this room, we also remember those who could not be here. In particular, we remember Ms. Fleenor or Mr. Rothenberger, who have given so much to so many of us.

You have been in so many rooms where God's grace has been present. Let's return to Jack's theme of making order out of chaos. Your parents and your teachers, and Jesuit itself, have, I hope, taught you how to do that.

Our world can sometimes feel chaotic, on the verge of spinning out of control. But I have some news that may come as a surprise.

Actually, by most conventional measures, the world is making great progress. If you look at rates of violence, of murder or casualties in war, of extreme poverty, of infant mortality or life expectancy or worldwide literacy or dropout rates in the US or deaths from epidemics or natural disasters, human life has improved dramatically since the end of World War II, and again in your lifetime, since the turn of the millennium in 2000.

But you would not know that from media reports. It is the media's role to report on the bad things that happen, to expose corruption and alert us to dangers, not to let us know about incremental improvements in human progress, especially for the very poor. The media does not report on the pandemic that is prevented, or the country at peace for 50 years.

Of course, poverty and inequality and racism and sexism are still monstrous problems, on both an international and an individual scale. But people who have been well-educated, and who have moved on to the room where it happens—people just like you, are every day taking on problems that seem too huge and chaotic to overcome, and making real, tangible improvements. People like Mike Casey, who was just honored as our Alumnus of the Year, or his Jesuit classmates Jim Stempel and Joe Tennant.

People like Dr. Wyatt and Fr. Adams, and Ms. Fleenor and all the teachers sitting behind you are helping to build the Kingdom of God, here on earth. And there are plenty of young people, barely older than you, working to make their corner of the world a little more just, and to provide people with dignity. Many of them are Jesuit alums who are here in this room, right now. One example is Katie Arndorfer of the Class of 2013, who is currently working in a disadvantaged urban school district, educating high schoolers and helping to break the cycle of poverty.

Through education and a clear value system that we call being "men and women for and with others," in medicine or public policy or diplomacy or economics or ecology, lots of good people are working hard to make the world a stronger, safer, healthier place, especially for the poor.

We have witnessed a lot of incremental progress, including in Jesuit education. At my all-boys Jesuit high school, over 60 guys did not make it from freshman year to graduation. We had a retreat program, but our campus ministry and Christian Service programs were nothing close to what you have experienced.

Today, all of you will graduate, on time. That is amazing—and it has not been easy. Thanks to your hard work, and teachers and parents who both pushed and supported you, you all did it. We have gotten better at Ignatian education.

You have heard of famous folks like Bill and Melinda Gates and former president Jimmy Carter, who through a relentless focus on incremental progress, have helped eradicate serious diseases in the developing world. But what about the scientists and educators and medical professionals and entrepreneurs whom we have never heard of—many of them our alums? I can't wait to see Arnob's scientific breakthroughs lead to new advances in cancer prevention.

But as Arnob has reminded us, he is not the only one who will contribute. You all have unique gifts to offer the world.

So what are YOUR gifts, your passions, your contributions going to be? We hope that after the past four years, you have begun to know the answer to that question. In the places you are going, in college and beyond, it will be up to you to create community out of chaos.

You know how to create community. We have told you that the gift of your Jesuit education is not for you alone, but for you to share your gifts and what you have learned with the world. Remember, Jesuit is not so much the school you go to, but a place you go from. So now, go do it.

In a moment, you are going to move across this stage. On this side, you will still be a high schooler, and on a symbolic level still a child. But it is time to transition. Once you receive your diploma and cross this stage, you will be changed. You will be an adult, an alumnus of Jesuit High School.

As a sign of your new status, once you cross that stage, you can call me "Paul." Even more significantly, Mr. Maxie says that once you successfully process out of this room, the room where it is about to happen, you can call him "Khalid!"

If you leave here as faith-filled leaders, believing that Jesus and his Spirit are with you on your journey, we will have succeeded in our mission, as we send you off on YOUR great mission: To be women and men for and with others, committed to serving your fellow human beings with a profound sense of justice founded in love.

Dr. Smart and Mr. Maxie...

Paul J. Hogan