Sarah Frieman was one of 863 graduating seniors who were awarded diplomas at the Evanston Township High School commencement ceremony on June 2 at Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena.
“I thought the ceremony was very inspirational in terms of everyone who spoke and looking toward the future – especially Megan Twohey. That was super inspiring for me. She did an especially good job touching on the times we’re in,” Sarah said. She served as executive editor for the school’s student newspaper, The Evanstonian.
“We’re celebrating your education from early childhood right up until today. And we celebrate your four years at Evanston Township High School, because we pay tribute to your educational attainment and your transition into adulthood.” said Superintendent Dr. Eric Witherspoon in welcoming the Class of 2019.
Commencement speaker Ms. Twohey (ETHS ’94) is a prize-winning investigative reporter for the New York Times who has focused much of her attention on the treatment of women and children. In her address, Ms. Twohey talked about how her “Evanston-inspired values” have served as her compass during her college years and throughout her career as a journalist.
“I have devoted much of my career to covering issues that Evanston taught me to care about: race, class, gender. I’m not saying ETHS is perfect. I’m saying it’s rooted in a distinct and admirable set of values: fairness, empathy, engagement and tolerance,” said Ms. Twohey.
As an investigative reporter, Ms. Twohey said she has drawn on something else she got at ETHS: toughness. “From the fierce sports battles with New Trier, from the spirited debates that broke out in class and yes, even from the occasional fights that broke out in the hallways.”
Although she did not expect it when she was graduating high school, as a reporter she found herself squaring off with notorious Hollywood power broker Harvey Weinstein and confronting then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump with well documented stories of women who accused him of sexual misconduct. During the interview, Mr. Trump lashed out at her. “You are a disgusting human being!” he yelled.
“Trump was hostile. Trump was powerful. But it couldn’t matter. I tapped into that Evanston toughness, stood my ground and finished the interview,” said Ms. Twohey. Soon after, the story was published in the New York Times.
The next year, Ms. Twohey and reporter Jodi Kantor started investigating Harvey Weinstein, who had long been rumored to be a sexual predator. Once again, she did not back down, even when Mr. Weinstein threatened to undermine their investigation.
“When I found myself in that position, I knew I could act on my convictions, the most fundamental of which were imparted right here,” Ms. Twohey said.
Three days after the story broke, Mr. Weinstein was fired from his own company, and this summer he will go on trial for charges of sexual misconduct. The investigation shared in the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and helped to ignite the global “Me Too” movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Ms. Twohey encouraged the graduates to cling to their values, turn away from their keyboards as often as possible and think of other ways to engage.
“Class of 2019, as you walk out the door today, take inventory. What are your values and priorities? What do you want to contribute? Where can you find and deliver meaning? How can you move through the world with awareness, integrity, gratitude and purpose? I wish for you all more than good luck,” Ms. Twohey said in closing.
The inventory taking process was underway for many graduating seniors, several of whom spoke at the Commencement ceremony.
Teagan Hueneke welcomed her fellow graduating seniors and guests, and invited the audience to take a moment of silence to acknowledge all loved ones who have died. She also acknowledged those who have supported the ETHS graduates throughout their 13-year educational journey. “Our graduation is a tribute to those 13 years. It is a tribute to those who have helped us along the way: family, friends, teachers, role models, all of them…Without their constant guidance and support we may not have made it this far. Today marks the end of that mysterious journey, but it is only the beginning,” said Teagan.
Joshua Graves gave senior class remarks. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster for many of us with ups and downs, twists and turns and more than a few surprises,” he said. Joshua expressed optimism in the face of an uncertain future, a sentiment that is likely shared by many of his classmates.
“We are the first cycle of the new millennium. We are the harbingers of the new world. We’ve already started on our paths. Just think about all the things the senior class has accomplished: student-led summits, an improved student dress code, and sooo many protests. We’ve made our voices heard throughout the nation in so many ways that no generation has done before. Now all we need to do is keep going,” he said.
Class Poet Liana Wallace expressed her sentiments in her moving and insightful poem, “Love Liberates, So Remember.” The first lines will leave the reader wanting to hear more, see sidbar.
Perhaps more than anything else, the commencement ceremony instilled that an ETHS education has prepared and empowered graduates of the Class of 2019 to each follow their own path to a meaningful, purposeful and happy future.
Reflecting on graduation, Sarah brimmed with confidence, however daunting the future might appear.
“I’m really excited and also a bit fearful about how we will address all the issues we’re facing. We as a class are eager and excited to get out and create change.” she said.
The ceremony can be viewed by accessing the link on the ETHS website: www.eths.k12.il.us.