Carl Chang ’18 delivered this speech at this year’s Baccalaureate service on May 27, 2018.
In “Dead Poets Society,” Robin Williams’ character challenges his students to stand atop their desks to gain new perspective. Inspired by the value of seeing life from a different vantage point, I hiked up Rocky Hill.
From above campus, I look toward Diamond Head, see Castle Hall and remember my Punahou interview, during which I proudly pointed out Punahou Circle, my apartment building at the time, which was also President Barack Obama’s ’79 former home. The interview went well enough, and I joined this amazing Class of 2018 in fourth grade. Like many of us, I have fond memories of the Winne Units and Castle Hall. On the field in front of Winne, PE games of Capture the Critter never seemed to last long enough. In the basement of Castle, we blew through straws to illustrate hā: the breath of life. Our teachers crafted lessons that appealed to all students. I wonder who from this Class will become a Punahou teacher and inspire the next generation of poets, athletes and musicians.
I look further and see Case Middle School and relive winning the seventh-grade cardboard boat race we had in the pool. I think back to choir performances in Twigg-Smith where we started to earn our reputation as Punahou’s “singingest class.” As my gaze drifts down, I see Thurston Chapel and recall the skits we performed, from simple to elaborate productions, like the time I was a shark – four years before the role became popularized in Super Bowl 49. I hear our dean’s voice urging us to “love whoever gets in your way.”
From my vantage point atop Rocky Hill, I realize it’s what I can’t see that truly defines our class. From afar, it’s impossible to see the dirt on the Mamiya wall from hours spent playing Boat Ball with each other. I can’t see my classmates spending their evenings making haku lei for another record-breaking Carnival. And, I can’t see students dropping off food for a friend who has classes from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. without a lunch break.
The view from Rocky Hill also hides the changing world around us. But as a class, change never detracted from our Punahou experience. As our nation became more polarized than ever, the bonds that held our class together only grew stronger. When a ballistic missile seemed imminent, many of us found ourselves huddled together in the locker rooms or embracing each other in the hālau at Magic Island. Before our last Variety Show, we spontaneously belted out the Hawaiian Doxology, just how we sang it for our first 12 years at Punahou, and perplexingly performed the Norwegian Skol Chant in unison, perhaps as a nod to one of our dean’s Minnesota roots.
From afar, a Punahou education doesn’t seem all that special. But recognizing the true value of a Punahou education requires a closer look. One must be a part of the experience to truly understand it. The Punahou community gives students opportunities to lead, to think independently and, most importantly, to love one another.
Tonight, my vantage point is from a pulpit, not a hill. I can see next Saturday clearly, when we will become Punahou alumni. And we will be together for one last time.
Some of you smile when I say that, and in others, I see a sense of fear. But, Class of 2018, let’s have ourselves a real good time because the bonds that hold our class together will guide us through this next chapter and beyond.
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