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Seek, Listen, Be Open to Truth

Head of School Darryl J. Ford awarded diplomas to 107 graduates on June 8, 2019. In his address, Ford spoke of the Quaker concept of Continuing Revelation, the belief that truth continues to unfold; he encouraged the new OPCs "to be seekers, to be listeners, and to be open" to the truth. His remarks appear below.

Let me begin by thanking Ryan Maloney and Ayana Opong-Nyantekyi for their thoughtful remarks as our commencement speakers. At Penn Charter, a Quaker school, commencement speakers are not chosen because they are ranked number one in their class, are the star and perfect student, or because of popularity.

Rather, they are chosen because their faculty believes that they may share a perspective that we need to hear.  Traditionally, the Upper School faculty selects a speaker from a student list and a speaker from a faculty list.

Ryan and Ayana, you were chosen because you have the respect and admiration of both peers and teachers, and you were chosen not to speak for your class but on behalf of your class. Just like in Meeting for Worship, each person here could have shared his or her vocal ministry because we believe the Inner Light is in each of you. Yet, you two were chosen and completed this last senior assignment so very well. So, let’s thank Ryan and Ayana once more for their inspiration today.

At the beginning of this school year, I introduced to our students the Quaker belief of Continuing Revelation as the theme for this year.  As our students know, as an entire school community, each year we explore a different Quaker Testimony or theme. While challenging, the Quaker Testimonies of integrity, service and equality seem a bit more accessible and understandable than this year’s theme of Continuing Revelation.

Continuing Revelation is the idea that God, the divine, is still being made known to us today. Central to Quakerism, Continuing Revelation is the belief that truth continues to be revealed to each of us and to the world today. Truth continues to unfold.

Revelation is ongoing and new truth continues to be made known. Yet, to be able to receive something that is being revealed, you need to be ready. You need to adopt a posture of readiness. You need to be ready.

To help us think about these ideas of Continuing Revelation and being ready, our campus banners remind us of a state of being that we might adopt. As you, our guests, may have seen, the campus banners remind us to Listen for Truth, Seek Truth, and to be Open to Truth.

As I think about our seniors, the Class of 2019, you had to be open to the new and the unknown, which were both unveiled and presented to you during your years at this school.

If you think about the changes that have occurred at Penn Charter during your time here, they have been many, and educationally, you have benefited greatly.

When the 27 “lifers” here today started in the Red and Green Cubbies in kindergarten, there was no Kline & Specter Squash Courts to play on and at which to achieve a national ranking. The Max Gross Softball Field (where some of you have won 4 or 5 Inter-Ac League Championships) had yet to be built, and the three turf fields where many of you won field hockey and lacrosse games, broke the all-time running-yard record for football, and achieved the best record in a century, 9-2, on the gridiron — these had not been imagined. You were ready for all of this.

The Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts and the Earl and Pam Ball Theater were completed when you were in Lower School, and we opened the building to your delight with a hot air balloon on campus and a production of The Wizard of Oz. Later, you starred in the Laramie Project, Les Mis and, most recently, My Son Pinocchio: Geppetto’s Musical Tale. On that same stage, you delighted us with your singing and have been part of a phenomenal period of growth in the Symphonic Band and jazz bands. You were ready.

A few years later, as a result of our Strategic Vision, you were among the first to take part in our 1:1 Laptop Program; trips to China and Argentina, and other locations closer to home; one of you studied in Israel this year; and now among you are the first to complete certificates in Global Studies and in Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability. You were ready.

You have participated greatly in and benefited from Penn Charter’s Center for Public Purpose. You have completed more than 400 hours of community service; worked at Cradles for Crayons and the Wissahickon Charter School; senior service clerks planned and executed the random acts of kindness week; and you have orchestrated countless drives to help people experiencing homelessness. Some of you are the founders of the Social Investment Club in partnership with the University of Penn. Others of you planned and led a conference to address issue of racism and, then, took part in a weekend retreat to help rewrite portions of our Student Handbook to include a community code of language and comportment. You were ready for all of this.

In the past four years, athletically, you have won 10 Inter-Ac championships, five PAISAA Championships, and two Eastern Championships in girls swimming — the first ever for Penn Charter. You have taken care of your PC-GA Day business. This year, you led us to victory on PC-GA Day, earning 7.5 points to our rival’s 2.5 points.  And, like the Yellow Team’s run at Color Day, your PC-GA Day record stands victorious with 2 wins, 1 loss, and 1 tie during your Upper School years. You have been part of the recent success of our girls' teams in soccer, swimming, cross country and softball; some of you have played on our new baseball field of dreams; and one of you has even been drafted by the MLB. You were ready.

Academically, 21 of you were inducted into Cum Laude, many of you garnered departmental and collegiate awards, and you have been admitted to highly selective colleges and universities. As important as the incredible schools you will attend is the growth that your parents, teachers and I have witnessed. Because we know you as people, students and learners, we know the effort you have put into the long process of education. Your being continuously open to all that was presented to you has paid off in your being prepared for your next educational endeavors.

Beyond Penn Charter and within the walls of Penn Charter, your willingness to be open and positively respond to your teachers, classmates and the events of the world has not been without challenge. Of course, any community with such a diverse population is challenged by its differences. At Penn Charter, we have almost 1,000 students, 150 faculty and staff members, thousands of graduates from eight different decades (yes, our oldest alumnus is 101 years old), and many families from many different religious backgrounds, political leanings and every social economic background. At times this year, we have been challenged by what I believe is our greatest strength: our diversity.  

Yet, being a diverse Friends school where we are called to live out our Quaker beliefs of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship, and called to service in our actions, is, indeed, even more challenging.

You, as a class, have been challenged by differences of opinions, political and religious beliefs, and views on race, and class, and gender. You have been challenged by your great economic and educational privilege, and by the extremes of both having the most and having the least. You name the social issue, it has been present in your experience at Penn Charter. And then, of course, your teachers have challenged you, too, by rigor and the power of ideas.  

In so many respects, your Quaker school has asked you to be counter-cultural to what the world presents. This, too, is challenging. But you have been ready. You have been open to it all.

Graduates, I believe that the Quaker concept of Continuing Revelation provides you with a framework, a stance, a state of readiness that will prepare you for the world as you are present in this world. Our banners remind us, it is good to seek truth, listen for truth, and be open to truth.

Be ready to be seekers, listeners, and to be open.

It has been my practice to end my commencement remarks by quoting William Penn, your school’s founder.  Penn stated, “We have a Call to do good, as often as we have the power and the occasion.” In addition, Penn said, “I expect to pass through this life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

Class of 2019, I encourage you to "do good" and to "show kindness."

Class of 2019, I encourage you to be ready, to be seekers, to be listeners, and to be open. Seeking, listening and opening yourselves to all that you encounter and all whom you encounter can’t hurt and can only help as you leave this, your 330-year-old school.

Class of 2019, we encourage you to live a life that makes a difference.

On behalf of your faculty and staff, I wish you every happiness and every success, and I hope you will have fond memories of Old Penn Charter.  Congratulations to the Class of 2019!