The President and a Rock Star

By: Kevin C. ’16

In his commencement speech to the graduates at the University of Michigan in 2009, Larry Page, co-founder of Google, said, “It is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams…Since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition.” Ambition drives success. In my time here, I’ve learned firsthand that SIA instills ambition in its students. We all genuinely want to do great things and accomplish impressive feats, and this wouldn’t be possible were it not for the encouragement given by the faculty to take risks.

I remember being asked as a young boy what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I remember always giving the same answer—the President and a rock star. I wasn’t too sure how I would find time to do both, but I was determined to live that double life. Although I have pivoted on my dream, I still believe Larry Page’s advice to the Michigan graduates is important to take to heart. It’s easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams because no one else is crazy enough, or, ambitious enough, to follow them. We all have ambition within us, thanks to SIA, and now it’s time to put it to use and make a change in the world.

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Three years later, at the same University, neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta said, “I think being scared is good.” I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Gupta, as I believe it takes confidence to be afraid. It takes confidence to take chances. It takes confidence to fail. Just as it has given me a drive to succeed, SIA has made me a much more confident person as a whole. Not quite confident enough to pull off Mr. Acquilano’s plaid pants, but confident enough to believe that being scared is in fact a good thing. I’ve probably heard it a hundred times by now, but it truly rings true—SIA is like a family. Its small size coupled with the individual attention we receive creates a close knit community that teaches us to be self-confident and self-aware just as a family would. Had it not been for this personalized care and attention, I would be ten times more nervous giving and writing speeches. But thanks to the Academy, I am confident enough to add Sanjay Gupta’s words to the recipe for success which has been fostered by this school over the past thirteen years.

Finally, at the University of Southern California 2012 commencement, journalist and activist Maria Shriver said, “Before you go out and press that fast forward button, I’m hoping, I’m praying, that you’ll have the courage to first press the pause button.” While we throw around clichés concerning following our dreams, it is important remember where we came from. As we embark on the next chapter of our lives, we need to keep close the people who got us to this point. Two weeks ago, I was at my older brother Kieran’s graduation from Stevens Institute of Technology and one of the commencement speakers gave some advice very similar to that of Maria Shriver. For every two steps forward, take one step back. While we’re bound to succeed and make remarkable advancements in the world, we can’t be afraid to stop and appreciate our families, friends, and Staten Island Academy for making us the intellectually curious and ambitious people we are today.

As I come to a close I would like to thank a few people. First, thank you to all the faculty that have helped form who I am today. A special thanks to Mr. Manske for helping me appreciate math once again, for teaching me how to find the spot on the backboard, and for believing in my abilities even when I did not. Thank you Mrs. Greenfield for providing me with the strongest foundation I could have asked for, for instilling in me my first curiosity to learn, and for putting up with my tears over the move from the early childhood building to Alumni Hall.

Thank you Mom and Dad for giving me the opportunity to attend such an amazing school and for supporting me for these past eighteen years. Thank you Kieran for setting a strong example of good character and maintaining focus on what’s important, and for always showing me the way.

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Fellow classmates, I urge you to take a moment and thank your loved ones. It’s been a privilege to be here, and I can say with confidence that no other school would have prepared me for the future like Staten Island Academy has. I have the ambition to pursue dreams that others aren’t crazy enough to pursue. I have the confidence to be scared. And I have the unparalleled love for this institution that would not be possible had it not been for its extraordinary faculty and community. This is the time of our lives where we are in control. All clichés aside, congratulations Class of 2016.