Leadership is a Verb: Kesha Ram Delivers BBAs 188th Commencement Address

Kate Leach

The Burr and Burton Academy Class of 2021 reached their final high school milestone on Friday evening, as 189 graduating seniors gathered with their families, teachers, and friends at Riley Rink to receive their BBA diplomas and celebrate the completion of an extraordinary year. 

Headmaster Mark Tashjian welcomed the capacity crowd and hailed the gathering itself as a collective triumph. “We started this year with one great hope and that is that we could just make it through somehow, some way, safely together. And here we are with 189 seniors and our entire community gathered in person. If ever there was a community accomplishment, today is the day.”

Delivering the keynote address, Senator Ram spoke to the graduating class about leadership, not as a definition of character, but as a practice of “curiosity, reciprocity, and humility.”

“Exercising leadership is a verb, and not a noun,” she offered. “Some of you could one day hold positions of authority and still not lead, but all of you can lead without holding positions of authority. You can add value in your communities and in the lives of others, and do it with integrity and compassion—and that matters more.”

Board Chair and alumnus Ed Campbell ‘70, saluted the perseverance and dedication of the senior class. “In general, I think one has to know where you’ve been in order to set a course for where you want to go,” he remarked. “As you all head deep into the century, I’m comforted by the thought of how far all of you will go as you strive to make the world a better place.”

Valedictorian Ellery Stahler, who will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall, urged his fellow graduates to “welcome the future and whatever it may bring with open arms,” and joint salutatorians Henry Putney (University of Pennsylvania) and Spencer North (Georgetown University) spoke movingly of the senior class’s shared experience through the highs and lows of high school. 

Faculty speaker Bill Muench told the class of 2021 that, “Adversity doesn’t build character; adversity reveals character, and under the toughest conditions in my twenty-eight years of teaching… [you] revealed your character and your heart. You hung together as a team, and you never gave up, and we will never forget you.”
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