Simon sitting at a table talking with other studentsIt is such an honor to be part of this graduation and to be able to share how grateful I am for my education at Marlboro. I am immensely grateful for the Marlboro Institution as a whole and particularly for its graduate program.

As you know, all of us at the grad school are working professionals, with challenging jobs and, for many of us, families to provide and care for. Yet, by signing on, we all very deliberately decided to take on the challenge of continued education, to pursue ongoing learning and growth. A learning and growth that pushed us beyond comfort and required that we continuously think and act beyond the confines of the status quo. The Marlboro education has been an invitation to stretch the muscles of innate leadership and find in ourselves the courage to serve our communities in creative and positive ways.

The Marlboro Graduate School is an invitation we all responded to. The mission statement reads: “The educational practice of the graduate program fosters the development of critical thinking, articulate presentation, coherent concepts and arguments, superior writing skills, and the ability to apply creative, sustainable solutions to real world problems”

I am so grateful for the support and mentorship of the whole graduate school team as they tirelessly showed us what a community of leaders can be: from registration to advising, from teaching to school wide circling, from a supportive community of student and teachers, we have all been the actors and beneficiaries of a living system. Throughout my two and a half years at Marlboro, I have witnessed the seeds and the fruits of a community that valued care, a community of visionary individuals who devoted their collective talents toward shaping a better world.

And we are currently living and experiencing those real life problems the mission statement was referring to. We are living in extraordinary times and more than ever, we are plunged in uncertainty and forced to rethink our models of existence. And, of course, after 23 years of service, Our graduate school is closing. These are unique times. The mission of the grad school is all the more relevant and if there will not be another cohort of graduate students benefiting from this unique education, the seeds have been planted. More than ever are we, graduates, charged with the mission to apply our learning in the real world. We are positive leaders, critical systems thinkers, design thinkers of a world unfolding at our feet.

During the Capstone process, I decided to research storytelling and the power of imagination. I learned a lot from that experience. I learned that we all have clear visions and ways we long for the world to be. We all want to feel connected, we want to be seen and heard, we want to care for each other and act together. We want to live in a quieter and more loving world. I also learned that we often live our visions and aspirations through the projects we are involved in and through the actions we take and initiatives we launch in our various communities. I feel proud to have been a part of a community of courageous leaders who take a stand for good and practice values of listening and curiosity. My greatest hope is that beyond our graduation, we continue to sow the seeds of positive change and create initiatives that nourish ourselves, our circle and the greater good.

The current crisis teaches us that we will be faced with a lot of unknown. Yet, in that unknown, may lie the truth of who we are as humans.

As a species, we instinctively too often run away from the dangerous unpredictability of natural systems to design our own systems: ones we can predict, manipulate and control. And yet, Can we really run away from the messiness of life and being alive on this Earth? We cling to what is and sadly suffer when things fall apart. And yet, let’s together see beyond the ending of things and understand that it is just another iteration of a never ending cycle. Let us embrace aliveness. Let’s push the edges of discovery, together let’s learn to adapt to a life that will, anyway, forever be unpredictable and uncertain.

So, I will leave you with that question: how do you, in your own ecosystem, let go of your assumptions and remain open to new emerging possibilities? are you willing to “have a love affair with the unknown”? Are you willing to question the systems in place and let your imagination take you to a better tomorrow? A tomorrow that you will fall in love with and that will give you the emotional charge to take the first step toward positive change.

The vision of the Marlboro Graduate School lives on through us and I feel very grateful and proud for all the seeds it planted in each one of us.