Commencement 2011

Graduating seniors at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School will march down the aisle of the historic Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs on Sunday, and though the forecast is iffy, with luck they will walk between storms. No matter the weather. These students, like those at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, who graduated with the sun shining on them last weekend, are used to change.

This is the Class of 2011, and in the year most of them were born, the World Wide Web also was born — or at least that is when scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research announced the Web would be free to anyone. It was the year a Hollywood film, Lost in Yonkers, was edited on a computer, for the first time. In those days, the word avatar would have prompted thoughts of Hinduism rather than James Cameron, although reportedly he wrote the first script draft of his three-dimensional blockbuster back in 1993.

These graduating seniors, whose darkroom-processed photos appeared alongside first-day-of-school stories seemingly not so long ago, understand naturally the pace of technological change.

Just as naturally, they know from Island life the limits of technology in providing a good life. Raised by the shores of a beautiful environment, where the seasons’ rhythms and the limits of natural resources define our lives, they know simple joys and the simple truth that sometimes we must all rely on each other. Fellow Vineyarders have proved over time more fail-safe than our machines or mainline power sources.

Some changes take more than new media, next-generation gadgets and high-click rhetoric. In the year these graduates were born, President Clinton agreed to compromise on the military’s ban on homosexuals; gays in our forces are still waiting for unchallenged recognition. In the year the graduates were born, an Israeli-Palestinian accord was reached; still peace there awaits. In the year they were born, arrests were made after a bombing of the World Trade Center in New York; since then, fundamentalism has grown more extreme.

Changes our world so badly needs will require the kind of collaboration, vision and generosity that characterizes the Vineyard community from which the tech-savvy graduates emerge. Tonight at class night, the Island’s generosity to them is made manifest through hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships. In many cases, volunteers raise these funds through spaghetti dinners, fishing tournaments, you name it. It is an extension of this community’s priority on our young people, shown each year in its care with school budgets at annual meeting time.

Our Island home, which no doubt many graduates are eager to leave, sends them with Island-grown values. Class of 2011, these will help you more than any technology as you change the world.

Our best wishes to you all.