A  coed Friends school, pre-K to 12, on 47 acres in East Falls, Philadelphia

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Commencement 2022

"It is my hope, and I am certain your teachers’ and your families’ and friends’ hopes, that you leave your old school and enter the wild world and not be afraid and that you listen less to your fears and more to your dreams."

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Head of School Darryl J. Ford conferred diplomas to 110 graduates – the Class of 2022 – on June 11. In his address, Ford spoke of life lessons we can learn from a short book with a big message. His remarks appear below.

I begin by thanking Henry Davis, Lauren Martz, and Amani Rivers for being today’s 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 believe that they may share interesting reflections from different perspectives that we may need to hear.  Traditionally, the Upper School faculty selects a speaker from a student list and a speaker from a faculty list.

This year, Henry, Lauren, and Amani were chosen because they have the respect and admiration of both peers and teachers. Henry, Lauren, and Amani, you were chosen not to speak for your class but on behalf of your class. Thank you.

As I reflect about the relationships between these unlikely companions and their lessons on friendship and life, I think about the Class of 2022, your machinations and relations, and how you have settled in to be present to one another, to make things work, and to make a difference.

“Hello.” This is a greeting that we all say many times a day. It is my personal goal to say hello 200 times a day to students and colleagues at Penn Charter. To you, our graduates, there is so much to say about your commencement, about your accomplishments, and about our hopes for your future, but, I begin my address to you today with this simple greeting, “Hello.”  

In a short book, with a big message, entitled, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, “Hello” is how it all starts when the mole greets the boy. Hello. A PC colleague and friend gave me this book, and I have given it to others because it contains so many learnings and is inspirational.

The four characters of the book – the boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse, each provide lessons about life to one another and to us.

"I’m so small,” said the mole. “Yes,” said the boy, “but you make a huge difference.”

“What do you think success is?” asked the boy. “To love,” said the mole.

“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy. “Help,” said the Horse. “Asking for help isn’t giving up. It’s refusing to give up.”

As for the fox, its friends note that he rarely speaks. “To be honest, I often feel I have nothing interesting to say,”’ said the fox. To this his friend, the horse, replies, ‘“Being honest is always interesting.”

As I reflect about the relationships between these unlikely companions and their lessons on friendship and life, I think about the Class of 2022, your machinations and relations, and how you have settled in to be present to one another, to make things work, and to make a difference.

William Penn said, “We have a Call to do good, as often as we have the power and the occasion.” 


Fifteen of you are super lifers, eleven of you are lifers, and five of you are almost lifers, a title that only you will ever hold! You welcomed 78 others who now comprise the 109 members of the Class of 2022.  Within the Class of 2022 are quiet leaders who worked to improve and strengthen the community through your involvement in service and on task forces on race and gender equity. You worked with kindergarten students on read aloud programs. You’ve designed an outdoor classroom with an indigenous land acknowledgement of the Lenape who lived here long before we inhabited this space. In the midst of the pandemic, you petitioned us to restore the athletics program, and you won. You rebooted Friends Multicultural Day and led workshops on social justice and the environment.

You shared your talents in productions like Footloose, The Adams Family, My Son Pinocchio, The Alibis, and a virtual musical and a virtual production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Outside in the cold but under the cover of tents, you did band, an outdoor concert, and you sang indoors with masks.

You won five Inter-AC championships in girls basketball, boys basketball, girls track and field, girls cross country, and girls softball; and PAISAA championships in girls softball, soccer, cross country, track and field and lacrosse. In eleventh grade when we had no official championships because of Covid, you finished in first place in baseball, girls lacrosse, and girls basketball.  Three of you are All-Americans in lacrosse; four of you are Academic All-Americans in lacrosse; eight of you are All-Americans in swimming; in ninth grade the girls won the Easterns Championships in swimming and diving; 38 of you are All Inter-Ac performers as seniors; crew qualified the most boats for Nationals in PC recent history; you have a two-time MVP in tennis; and 32 of you are committed to playing sports in college. This is impressive, and I am tired just reading these accomplishments!

Six of you achieved certificates in Environmental Studies, three of you earned certificates on Global Studies, and 22 of you were elected into Cum Laude. Consistent with this year’s theme, Joy in Community, you spread joy by boosting attendance at school athletic events, leading a great spirit week, producing an incredible year book, and showing the blue and yellow spirit on Color Day with Blue getting the win.

And you welcomed new classmates, teachers, and administrators alike with the profound and kind gesture by simply saying, “Hello.” Mr. King, our interim director of Upper School, recognized this on the first day students returned to campus last summer when one of your own made sure she welcomed him on that day with a gracious greeting of “Hello.” And every time she saw him throughout the year, she greeted him with that same radical hospitality. This is the Class of 2022.

In his speech, Henry captured your resilience by noting your accomplishments even in the midst of unprecedented challenges. Lauren also recognized your individual talents but rightly emphasized the collective strength of your class community. And Amani’s message to you was about the importance of dreams and how they can come true. 

I don’t know about you, but I think you need to have the gift of sleep to have those nighttime dreams, and the gift of time and space, to actively daydream about all of life’s wonderful possibilities. Dreaming takes work.  And there’s been so much happening in the world these past several years that, at least for me, it has been a challenge to make plans, to dream big, and then work to achieve those dreams.  Covid 19, racial reconciliation, gender equity reckoning, and so much more.  There can be so much happening that one can easily become paralyzed and too scared to dream.

No matter what you think of yourself, you make a huge difference. When you have nothing to say, be honest. It is always worthwhile and interesting. Asking for help is not giving up, it is refusing to give up. Saying hello is a great place to start.

In the book which I referenced at the beginning, the mole comments, “Most of the old moles I know wish they had listened less to their fears and more to their dreams.” They wished they had listened less to fears and more to dreams.

"What’s over there?” “It’s the wild,” said the mole. Don’t fear it. Imagine how we would be if we were less afraid.” George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, spoke of seeing an ocean of darkness and death. But more importantly, he spoke of an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the darkness. An infinite ocean of light and love! Imagine, how we would be, how we could be, with less fear.

It is my hope, and I am certain your teachers’ and your families’ and friends’ hopes, that you leave your old school and enter the wild world and not be afraid and that you listen less to your fears and more to your dreams.

To the Class of 2022, these are the lessons from some unlikely teachers, the boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse: No matter what you think of yourself, you make a huge difference. When you have nothing to say, be honest. It is always worthwhile and interesting. Asking for help is not giving up, it is refusing to give up. Saying hello is a great place to start.

And success is to love! Success is to love!

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 2022, do good and show kindness. Listen not to your fears, but listen to your dreams.

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 2022!

More speeches:
Henry Davis 
Lauren Martz
Amani Rivers 
Jerry Rullo 

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