Dr. Foster’s Commencement Address to the Class of 2021 on Trafalgar Day:
A few years ago – it was before COVID so it feels like more than a decade ago – we set out to create a new mission statement for our school. An organization’s mission is an important thing. It explains the reason that an organization exists. It is the essence of what the organization does. Without a strong mission, an organization can falter and lose its way, particularly during challenging times.
As we developed our new mission, we thought a lot about what we try to achieve every day in our classrooms and our hallways and in boarding. We thought about what we want each student to experience. We asked ourselves, “What is the promise we make to you and to your families when you become a part of the Trafalgar community?” Our Mission emerged as we thought about the things we wanted you to know, to cherish, and to hold on to tightly and forever.
Challenge her mind. Strengthen her voice. Nurture her heart. That became our mission.
Throughout this year, I have watched you challenge your mind, strengthen your voice, and nurture your heart.
As I look out at each and every one of you, each with strength and vulnerability, each with courage alongside moments of trepidation, I believe you are the embodiment of our Mission.
This past year has been a hard one. It is a year that will undoubtedly go down in the history books as a period of immense loss – a time of tragedy that spared no corner of the globe. Years from now you will be asked about this time and, yes, you will recall face masks and social distancing. You will tell your children and grandchildren about the hours you spent on zoom or the hundreds of times we forced you outside this year even in the rain. Some of you will share stories about lonely 14-day quarantines spent in hotel rooms or the first Christmas vacation where you couldn’t travel to be with your family and you missed them so very much.
But you will also recall how this year challenged your mind as you grappled not only with the lessons you learned in class, but with the enormity of events our province and country continue to face: Our nation’s history with residential schools, the immense pain caused by racism and Islamophobia, and the social inequity that COVID has revealed across our country and around the world.
Years from now you may look back and think about how this remarkable year strengthened your voice as you discovered more about who you are and what you stand for. How you used your voice to speak up in support of others, to speak out against injustice, to ask for help – an act that is often the hardest and takes immense courage.
You might also tell the story of how this year nurtured your heart. The ways in which you supported one another. The moments of connection you felt – moments that brought joy and laughter. The care you showed to our youngest ones here at the school.
And surely you will remember in the years to come how, in this challenging year, your heart was nurtured every time you shared in your teachers’ love of learning, or felt appreciation for the hard-working men and women who prepared meals and kept the hallways clean and safe, the begrudging thanks you gave Ms. Holland and the boarding dons who made sure your lights were out at bedtime, the gratitude you felt for Ms. Yang who made you feel part of school life even though you were thousands of miles away. I hope you remember how your heart was nurtured when you tried to deliver Mr. Lyew’s morning announcements with a straight face, or marvelled at Ms. Welbourn’s ability to make you a better design thinker, or thanked Nurse Michelle for checking on you every single day or waved to Ms. Hoover at 8:05 a.m. as you tried to sneak past Ms. Garcia and Ms. KJ waiting around the corner. The people who nurtured your hearts and the hearts that you touched this year are too numerous to name today, but they will be with you forever, a small piece of the Trafalgar DNA that is now a part of who you have become.
As you leave here today, please continue to challenge your mind, strengthen your voice, and nurture your heart. And know that in doing so, our mission will be reflected in your life. Dear Old Trafalgar will forever be part of who you are.
I want to end with words by poet Amanda Gorman:
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
You, our Class of 2021, will forever be tied together, and in this moment, I can say with the utmost certainty, you emerge from this year victorious. Remember this year. Remember what you have achieved. Take these memories with you as you venture forth on the next leg of your journey.
Congratulations. We are all so very proud of each and every one of you.