Mayor Stephen Hagerty’s commencement speech for Evanston Township High School seniors on June 3, highlighted the themes of courage, empathy, persistence, and humor and laughter.
“I am very excited to be your commencement speaker,” he said, “because I and all the parents, teachers… have witnessed you – the graduating class – collectively show courage and empathy and persistence over the last four years,” the Mayor said. “Our character matters,” he added.
Mayor Hagerty mentioned the students’ kneeling with ETHS athletes during the national anthem, leading a school walkout against gun violence, speaking out on immigration policies and wanting to change local ordinances about juvenile arrests.
He characterized the graduates as “kind, determined and impatient to see real changes in the world” and said, “You’re the generation to bring them.”
The Mayor began his speech saying, “When I was asked a month ago to speak before one of the finest and most remarkable high schools in America, I didn’t hesitate to accept.” He acknowledged, though, that he was “the commencement speaker some of you didn’t want.”
He was referring to an editorial in the May edition of The Evanstonian, the student newspaper. According to the editorial, the ETHS administration wished to have a speaker well known in the community. Typically the commencement speaker is someone who knows the community, is a graduate of the high school and can easily answer the questions “What does it mean to be an Evanstonian?” or “What does it mean to be a Wildkit?”
The editorial said Mayor Hagerty could not answer either of those questions. “He is not a parent in District 65, despite the fact that he has school-aged children, he also lacks the perspective needed to fully or accurately comment on the lives of our 800+ graduates.”
Nonetheless the Mayor spoke of the values he said every ETHS graduate possesses, because Evanston creates graduates equipped with courage, empathy, persistence and humor to take on the real world, because they are impatient and ready to change it now.