On the morning of July 24, after extensive planning, careful attention to safety protocols, and a rain delay, The Potomac School hosted an on-campus Commencement celebration for its Class of 2020. Each of the 111 graduates was permitted to bring two guests, while other family members and friends watched the ceremony via live stream. Potomac’s originally scheduled Commencement date was June 5, but the ceremony was postponed to allow additional time after the end of the academic year to work out the details of a safe, socially distanced celebration.
With the graduates and their guests gathered outdoors on the Upper School Quad, Head of School John Kowalik, Head of Upper School Doug McLane, and Senior Class President Kat Plaza ‘20 offered words of welcome. Faculty members Dr. Giovanna Bello and Torrye Parker then shared inspiring readings. William Bailey ’20 was selected by his peers to give the senior address, and Dr. Giorgio Secondi spoke for the faculty.
While acknowledging the serious challenges that the Class of 2020, America, and the world face, Bailey also highlighted many positive developments that have taken place during the graduates’ lifetimes. He observed, “I think we have tremendous reason for hope and excitement about what lies ahead. I recognize that some might find it odd to find positive impacts from recent tragedy, but I think it is important to be an optimist, perhaps now more than ever.”
Secondi’s address, laced with humor, focused on the importance of thoughtful decision making. He concluded, “Let me express the hope that, at least in some parts of your life, you will focus on something that challenges you. Things that come easy tend to be those that we already know; you need to take on hard things if you want to learn something new and grow as a person. And growth is what makes life a rewarding journey.”
As the graduates came forward one-by-one to accept their diplomas, Board of Trustees Chair Sameer Bhargava, John Kowalik, Doug McLane, and K-12 Academic Director Juna Kim McDaid greeted them with smiles and applause.
In his closing remarks, Kowalik offered the graduates some valuable advice: “It has been observed that ‘nothing in nature blooms all year round.’ Life, like nature, has its cycles. Knowing this, I strongly advocate optimism; it’s a mindset that we can cultivate if we try. By looking for the bright side of situations, by being grateful for what we have rather than focusing on what we lack, and by remembering that things do, inevitably, change – often for the better – we can keep our own spirits up and continue to move in a positive direction, even in the toughest of times.”
He also assured the graduates that they are well prepared for the next stage of their lives, noting, “As you leave Potomac, you take with you all that you have learned here. You also take our admiration, appreciation, and affection. We know that you will do great things.”