(The following is a short speech by IVA Board Chairman Eric Churchill delivered at the promotion ceremony of IVA's first graduating class.)
You guys did it! The inaugural class of IVA is now moving on to high school! It seems like such a short time ago that I was standing in front of you talking about myrtle trees and all the work a small group of people had done to build this school. I also said that it is the hope of everyone here that you will take advantage of this opportunity and make this school great by being great thinkers and citizens—and that if you do that, not only will IVA be successful, but the world will be changed, for the better.
Does anyone remember that? Probably not, and that’s okay. But I was intentional! You see, we knew that if we could help shape your intellectual character then that would affect how you view the world. Learning well leads to living well; the two are related. As an example, now that you have learned what it means to be intellectually open-minded, you should be quick to listen to others, and if you do this, you will learn about other opinions, beliefs, and values that shape our world. This, in turn, will impact how you live your life. If you don’t, you will miss a great opportunity.
Our school’s motto is to learn and live well, and during your time here, while you may think we have only been focusing on learning, we have also been teaching you how to live well. Through the virtues, thinking routines, and relationships with your teachers and other students, you have been given the freedom to be yourselves and to think deeply in a supportive academic environment.
So what are the next steps for living well in that far-off land called high school? And how will the world be impacted by what you learned here at IVA? Here are three things you might want to remember:
- Always be curious about the world. Follow your nose. The world is full of wonderful things, places, and people for you to be curious about. Always ask questions, but do so with the intent of seeking understanding. With understanding comes engagement and when you do this you form your own opinions. When you form opinions, you begin to care. When you care about something, you will be passionate about understanding it’s cause. So, ask questions about the causes of poverty and homelessness, ask questions about the causes global warming and how it impacts our environment. Always be curious, and don’t stop caring! This will change the world.
To quote Albert Einstein, someone who was constantly curious: “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.”
- Have the courage to take risks. When you came to IVA we taught you that taking risks is good. It’s okay to fail and it’s okay to struggle. This is how you learn. As you move into high school, and as you ask more questions about the world, this will be even more important. Curiosity and risk go hand-in-hand. As you ask the deeper questions about the world in which you live, your understanding will be challenged. You may not want to dig deeper because it’s too hard, but remember what you learned here: intellectual courage is a readiness to persist in thinking or communicating in the face of fear, including fear of embarrassment or failure. Ask the big questions. Don’t back down in the face of fear. Respectfully stand up for what you believe. This will change the world.
- Share what you have learned about intellectual virtues. This school was built for you and the other students that will come behind you. But, you are the ambassadors, the first students to leave and go to different high schools. IVA is unique; there is no other school doing exactly what we do, and you get to be the ones who go out and talk about it! This could be as simple as just talking about intellectual virtues. As an example, when you see a student in class who is afraid to ask a question, pull him aside and say, “it’s okay to take risks; be intellectually courageous.” When you are in a study group and someone says, “let’s just answer with a couple of quick sentences,” you can say “lets dig deeper and be intellectually thorough. This will change the world.
You might be thinking, he keeps saying I can change the world; but I am only only one person. IVA gave you the tools to be intellectually virtuous. And if we did our job correctly, you will never view education and learning the same. You will view the world with curiosity and thoughtfulness. You will ask the big questions. You will be humble. Ultimately, if you remain rooted in your intellectual character, you will serve as an example to others, which will change the world. IVA will be known as a school that equips students to engage the world with curiosity and thoughtfulness, to know themselves, and to live well. You will be the examples of that. You will change the world.
I am excited to follow your progress through high school and beyond. I am so very proud of you. I am so very proud of this school. So, go be foxy!