Commencement 2022: Speech by Lila Rizvi ’22

June 10, 2022

Lila Rizvi ’22

Good morning families, friends, faculty and teachers. Good morning to the sensational graduating class of 2022 and most importantly, good morning to the seven people in the audience who promised to laugh at my jokes.

To begin, I would like every senior to turn and face your neighbor. Give them a big smile and then congratulate them on making it to the much anticipated date of June 10th 2022. Look at this confident person who is so accomplished and prepared. Now, think about who they were when you first met them. Did they jump rope in front of the entire upper school at morning meetings, or sneakily play 2048 in class when they should have been paying attention?

If you were at Wheeler in 8th grade, you might remember me asking everyone to create a mental image of themselves at our middle school graduation. I, for one, will never forget standing at the podium next to Tim at age 14 and making a joke about how graduation is a great day to ask your relatives for money… I’m sure you, too, have matured significantly from the person you were 4 years ago: Elizabeth went blonde, Simon stopped wearing those circular yellow glasses, and Mr. Boyd and Julia became best friends. We’ve learned to advocate for change, make mistakes, disagree, communicate, compromise, forgive, and most importantly, to rely on each other. We’re a bit more worn out, but we are definitely, definitely wiser.

Now, I’d like to ask everyone in the audience to do the same self reflection exercise at this moment: notice the people sitting around you, how you’re feeling, your goals for the future, and the thoughts that are most prevalent in your head. Maybe write them down when you get home or share them with a friend. not now thought, I’m talking and this is GOLD. Time moves fast, and when we graduate college in 4 years, or more years (take a gap year, you be you, live at home, free food) we will inevitably be, yet again, new people. I hope we can remember our younger selves, the ways we have changed, and the elements that remain the same: the uncontrollable laughter we shared as kindergarteners, the innate curiosity we found as 5th graders, and the bubbling, precarious hope we cultivate as seniors in high school.

Back in September at our senior retreat, we played a game of purple vs gold manhunt here at the farm. I, like many others, lost myself in the darkness multiple times and would find myself among a new group of people every few minutes. Patrick let Zeah and me believe we were outrunning him for a solid 20 seconds. Xander and I, although on opposite teams, shared a hug, and reported no captures. And Mia shih, who has a distinct 5’2” stature, found me lost in the woods by the tennis courts, grabbed me by my shoulders, stared directly up into my eyes and asked “who are you?” To which I responded (“I’m Mia Shih”).

That night, we felt that when we found another obscured halo of our color, regardless of whomever that glow belonged to, that they were someone we could trust; an ally that made us feel safer. As we approach our first semester of college, most of us will no longer be close to 216 Hope Street, or Providence, or Rhode Island. (Others will remain a 5 minute drive from home and live in constant fear of running into their parents at East Side Pockets). After years of growing up together, our class of 88 will be dispersed in new and unfamiliar places. I hope that in moments of uncertainty, we will return to our instinctively kind and welcoming nature; that we will overcome our fears and create a sense of home by connecting with others; and that we will be brave and talk to strangers with the knowledge that you’re on the same team.

Today we celebrate the culmination of many lasts: the last time Mr. Geller cracks a joke about Charlie Silver’s immaculate attendance, the last time I can brag that Ms. Ringiewicz gave me her old tote bag, the last time Ms. Lizotte makes holiday goodie bags for her advisees, the last time that we pass our friends in the hallway, and the last time we will all be a consistent part of each others’ lives. To our exceptional teachers, advisors, staff and administrators, we are so lucky to have had you as role models and supporters. We appreciate you today, and everyday. Thank you to our class dean Ms. Purdy, to Ms. Bell and Mr. Boyd. Thank you to my co-president Carl. A special thank you to our parents; for your endless love; for putting up with us when we were being “difficult”; for tolerating our messy rooms and letting us sleep in on Saturdays. We are profoundly grateful for the invaluable gift of a Wheeler education and everything we’ve learned along the way.

One final thank you to my classmates. I can’t wait to see who you’ll grow to be in the future when we return for our reunions. As the featured artist Charlie Puth sings in Wiz Khalifa’s 2015 Song “See you again” “We’ve come a long way from where we began. And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.” Maybe in 10 years, we’ll meet for another game of manhunt, but between now and then, I hope if someone finds you alone in the dark and asks who you are, you’ll say your name and ask for theirs too.

I am so incredibly proud of the class of 2022. Thank you, and congratulations and everyone smile. (She takes a selfie from the stage).

Read our Commencement recap story.

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