Mayor Bill Bogaard
Learning Works! Charter School
June 18, 2009
On June 18, in the courtyard of Pasadena City Hall, Mayor Bogaard delivered commencement remarks to the first class of high school graduates from Learning Works! Charter School, which was established and is directed by Dr. Mikala Rahn. The group of family and friends that gathered to celebrate the graduation was an overflow crowd.
To the graduates and to their family and friends, to Rector Bacon, to Scott Phelps, to Mikala Rahn, to Dr. Newman, to everyone here: I am honored to have this opportunity to join in this commencement ceremony. This is an historic event: the first commencement of Learning Works! Charter School.
To begin, I want to say to the graduates that I am inspired by your accomplishments and success. I am proud of each of you for overcoming so many obstacles in reaching this milestone in your lives.
In this day and age, a high school diploma is absolutely necessary for any person who wants to have an independent and productive life. It is the entry point to additional education, to specialized training, and to gainful employment. I congratulate the young people whom we salute today and ask everyone to join me in a round of applause.
We’re here to for two reasons: to celebrate and to think hard about what the future holds.
First, let us talk about the celebration.
This is a time to celebrate Learning Works! Charter School. After years of intense effort, the effort has demonstrated its effectiveness by reaching this point of a graduating class! The school’s approach is based upon certain principles: that all persons deserve the opportunity for a new beginning; that they are entitled to forgiveness and unconditional support; that they are all equal, regardless of age, race, gender, and any other affiliations that might exist in the community. The school focuses on what is, not what ought to be, and always guides persons to their fullest potential. Learning Works! believes all persons want to be heard and understood, and to give back to their family and community, and the school provides and encourages those opportunities.
This is a time to celebrate Learning Works! Charter School, and I convey my heartiest congratulations.
This is a time to celebrate today’s graduates. As students who have helped establish this school, you have every reason to be proud. As persons who have overcome many obstacles, you are entitled to have confidence about the future. Once again, I convey my congratulations.
This is also a time to plan ahead.
That we live in difficult times is beyond doubt. The economy is in downturn, homes are subject to foreclosure, jobs have been lost and unemployment is at a high, and many businesses have been closed. Healthcare is too costly, and schools fail too many students, and every day it becomes more clear that our use of energy threatens our planet and strengthens our adversaries.
At the same time, every day some young person is out there changing the world in ways both big and small, and you should plan to be part of that effort. But let me offer a comment about the world that awaits you. You will face tough times. You will certainly have doubts, let me tell you, because I did when I was your age. Maybe some of you already feel a little of that right now. Maybe you’re wondering: Am I smart enough? Do I really belong? Can I live up to the expectations that everyone has of me?
And you will certainly have your share of setbacks. Count on it, because that will make it easier. Your ideas will sometimes found to be flawed. You’ll be confronted with financial strains as loans become due and income falls short of expenses. You will find that there is rarely a clear and direct path to any of your goals, and you will find that you have to adjust, and then adjust again. There may be times when you wonder whether it is all worth it, and there may be moments when you just want to quit.
But in those moments, I urge you to think about this day. Look around you, look at all of the persons who have helped you get to this point, and others who couldn’t be here for whatever reason. People who are celebrating with you today, who are praying for you. I want you to think of the people who sacrificed for you—you know that—family members and friends who have worked hard to get you through, who took on extra shifts to get you through, who put off doing something important for themselves to get you to graduation.
So whenever you get ready to give up, think about all those people and remember that you are blessed. And, as things go well, remember you should give something back. You must reach back and pull someone up behind you. You should try to let others stand on your shoulders so that they can see a brighter future.
If I were to summarize my best advice to you on this day of celebration, I would say, now that you have proven you can reach a high school diploma, adjust your dreams. The fact is, you don’t know the limits of your talents and accomplishments, but at each stage along the way, with each level of achievement, it is important to make a new plan for the future, raising your goals and renewing your dedication.
Secondly, whatever work you go into or whatever activity you pursue, there is no more valuable skill than the ability to listen, to listen carefully. I myself learn more from talking with the people of this great City than in all the reports that are issued at City Hall, which I carefully read as well. Being a good listener will help you solve a million challenges along the way.
I would not pretend for a moment that your future will be easy. But let me say that we are proud of you and that you have good reason to be optimistic about what the future holds. You have proved, through determination and hard work, that you have the strength to achieve goals that are important to you. I offer best wishes for the future and hope you realize all your dreams. And I urge you to remember that you yourself are the source of dreams and hopes for others who will be inspired by the high school graduation that we celebrate tonight.
Congratulations and good luck!