District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren gave this following address at this year’s eighth-grade graduation ceremonies.
Good afternoon and welcome. My name is Paul Goren and I have the honor of serving the communities of Evanston and Skokie as the Superintendent of District 65. Today marks a day of celebration in each of our lives as we honor the eighth-grade graduating class of 2019.
I want to thank each of you in the audience today. Our students should be very proud of all that they have accomplished, and yet, we all know that they didn’t do it alone. Each of you – parents, caregivers, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and loved ones – stood by the side of our graduates all along the way.
You did so with encouragement, some laughter, and probably some tough love, and even tears here and there.
I know, firsthand, the love and joy that comes with raising children. … I wouldn’t change any of it for a moment. And, I know you wouldn’t either. To each of you in the audience, thank you for being here today, and every day, for your graduate. Your guidance and love makes all the difference in the world.
I also want to take a moment to recognize our dedicated educators, support staff members, and administrators who are here today. We have an incredible team who puts students first every day.
The accomplishments of our graduates over the past three years are in large part a result of our educators’ efforts and commitments. They have established relationships that have fueled the academic and social and emotional growth of our students.
Now, to the reason we are all here today – our graduates. Today is a special day and I hope that it is one of many to come in your lifetime. You worked hard to get to this point. As you head off today to take on the challenges of high school, don’t underestimate the power and excitement of the unknown.
Don’t be afraid to meet new people, to try something new and challenging in the classroom, on the athletic field, in the arts studio or on stage.
And know that as you enter the next chapter of your studies that you can change the world.
And if you ever question your ability to bring about change, I want to tell you about three people just like you, who are making a difference and fighting for what they believe in – as teenagers.
Greta Thunberg, age 16. And, a climate change activist known across the world. Greta once said, “Nothing really was happening in my life. I have always been that girl in the back who doesn’t say anything. I thought I couldn’t make a difference because I was too small.” She has since become known as one of the most passionate advocates for climate change and positive action. It started by sitting alone, on the cobblestone sidewalk, outside of the Swedish parliament building leading her own school strike. Since then she has rallied 1.6 million people in 33 countries to bring the world’s attention to climate change through school walk-outs. Greta is changing the world. And, you can too.
David Hogg, age 19. And, author and co-founder of March for Our Lives. This Valentine’s Day marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic shootings at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. David was a senior at Parkland when the shootings occurred. Inspired in the face of tragedy and tired of “thoughts and prayers,” David, along with other classmates and survivors, came together with a mission to end gun violence and to protest inaction. Together, these teens organized the largest single day protest against gun violence in history. They have since helped to register more than 800,000 new voters as part of National Voter Registration Day – an all-time record. David and his classmates are changing the world. And, you can too.
Marley Dias, age 14. Teen activist and author who is re-defining the literary world. What started as a hashtag became a viral movement that is impacting young people around the world. Marley’s mom once asked her, “If you could change one thing, what would it be?” Her response: more kids reading books with Black girls as the main characters. Tired of reading “about White boys and their dogs” Marley created #1000BlackGirlBooks to fill this noticeable void. The social media campaign went viral and the goal to collect and distribute 1,000 books with protagonists who are Black girls was quickly surpassed. Since then she has collected more than 10,000 books, authored her own book, and was named on the Forbes “30 under 30” list. And, last year, one of our own Chute Middle School students had the honor of interviewing her as part of a special event at ETHS. Marley is changing the world. And, you can too.
As President Barack Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
We need each of you now more than ever. Our world continues to get more complex each day. You are the ones who we will rely on to make decisions, to innovate, to lift those who need the most, to make our world a better place. You can make a difference. Your voice counts. You can change the world.
Graduates, I am so excited to be here celebrating all you have accomplished and all that lies ahead. Five years ago, I was in the midst of interviewing for a job – this job – and let me tell you, I was nervous. I was at home trying to get my thoughts together, pacing around our living room, studying my materials. My then-eighth-grade son looked at me and said “Dad, all you need to do is walk into that room, slam your papers down and say with conviction – CONFIDENCE.” He was right. Tomorrow and every day, believe in yourself. Believe in others. Speak your truth and listen when others need to speak theirs. Be confident. It isn’t always easy. But it is always worth it. And as you embark on your next chapter, live every moment of your life to its fullest.
You should be tremendously proud of all that you have accomplished. Know that your teachers are proud of you, your family is very proud of you, and I am proud of you. You have made a lasting impact on your school and in District 65. I wish you all the best for a wonderful summer and a great high school experience.
Go change the world.