Merton Tells Class of '03 to 'Thank Your Teachers'

Merton Tells Class of '03 to 'Thank Your Teachers'

After McLean High School’s Class of 2003 outlasted the sniper, the snow days, and the war in Iraq it rained on their graduation day at Constitution Hall on June 17.

But they graduated cheerfully nonetheless, no matter how gray and rainy it was outside.

There were 11 valedictorians, each with a grade point average of 4.0 or better. The highest was 4.117.

Alan Merton, president of George Mason University, told the class not to avoid taking risks and to seize any opportunity to teach those younger and older than themselves. “You have a lot to give,” said Merton. “Sometimes, a teaching moment just shows up.”

Senior class president Cosmo Fujiyama compared her class’s pursuit of “experience, inspiration, and character” to a quilt, using metaphors of denim and burlap to describe what they would draw from life.

“No piece of denim is too dirty or too faded,” she said. “The diversity of denim fits each of us differently.”

Hannah Kim, one of the valedictorians, described how she and a friend took quilts and sat outside their houses on a bitterly cold morning in November in hopes of seeing the Leonid Meteor showers.

After waiting for about 30 minutes without seeing any meteors, a neighbor mentioned they were looking in the wrong direction, she said. When they turned, they saw the meteors.

That was a metaphor for those times in life when looking in the wrong direction obscures seeing the stars, she said.

Merton also suggested that each graduate contact someone who had been important to their lives, and thank them.

His other advice to graduates included: “Take a risk. Share your dreams. Keep listening. Keep learning.

“Accept responsibility. Respect, but challenge, authority. Speak out. Take care of your body; it’s the only one you’ll have.

Make a difference. Thank your teachers.”