James K. Scott ’70

President’s Desk: Every Life is a Story

President Jim Scott ’70 addressed the Class of 2018 at this year’s Commencement ceremony. His speech is excerpted below.

To the Class of 2018:

While writing your stories during your years at Punahou, you have intersected Punahou’s continuing and evolving story.

In May, in a historic announcement, the Trustees appointed Punahou’s next president, Dr. Mike Latham ’86, who will start next summer. Since 1944, there have been only three presidential transitions. Dr. Latham will be the fourth.

While you were in the Academy, the Trustees announced a significant commitment to raise $175 million in gifts to support Punahou in a variety of ways:

To create learning environments that are student-centered, teacher-inspired, research-guided and built to the highest levels of green design, we opened the first phase of the Sidney and Minnie Kosasa Community for Grades 2 – 5. Inspired by this example, you challenged us to become a net-zero energy campus by the time you return for your 10th Punahou Reunion – we accept!

Gifts also support need-based financial aid that ensures a Punahou education for talented students who have the potential to thrive here. Many of you have been the beneficiary of this aspiration, and you are the most economically diverse Punahou class in recent memory.

Longevity of school leadership has ensured the continuity of Punahou’s ideals and aspirations: physical spaces that enhance learning; access to a Punahou education for talented students regardless of their financial circumstances; attracting and supporting great teaching; attentiveness to the intellectual life of students, and to their social, emotional and ethical lives; Punahou’s innovation and educational thought leadership; and striving to be a private school with a public purpose. These aspirations are timeless, universal and transcend leadership changes.

The Punahou diploma I am about to hand you is more than a diploma. Rather, it symbolizes a promise that you make to those present with you this evening – a promise that you will use your considerable talents, your keen intellects and your big hearts to improve other lives. Never forget what you have created and experienced together at the waters of Ka Punahou. No matter where you are and where you go – pay this gift forward. Pass it on to others and to the world.

As you write the next chapter of your story, don’t be constrained by traditional college majors. Creativity, discovery, insight and innovation are often accelerated at the intersection of disciplines. Perhaps the next chapter of your academic journey will be to integrate separate subjects or to work with a college professor to create your own major.

Make the time to travel internationally while you are in college, before you become too settled or too risk-averse. A global perspective is vital to becoming an educated person.

In writing your life’s story, consider becoming a teacher. A coach. A mentor. Even for a while. To be a significant part of the growth and evolving potential of a young person can be inspiring, joyful and fulfilling. Teaching can help you pay the gift of learning forward.

Your life will not be linear – just ask your parents. You will experience unexpected and unplanned twists, turns, setbacks, disappointment and sadness. But we become stronger, more resilient, more humble, more compassionate, and ultimately more confident and optimistic as we move through those tough times. That is why we also wish you some heartache and some rainy days along your journey – so that you can appreciate the sun.

Finally, we hope you always remember that you are never alone. Look around you. These are the people in your story who are most responsible for you sitting here tonight. Your parents, families, friends, teachers, coaches, deans, counselors and your Punahou classmates will always have your back. And we are never far away.

James K. Scott ’70

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