This is from the address I delivered recently at the Archer School for Girls 2006 Commencement:
Ten years ago, it was 1996. Princess Diana and Prince Charles were settling their divorce, Braveheart had won the Oscar, a girl named Monica Lewinsky began working at the White House, gas cost $1.27 per gallon, Madeleine Albright was appointed first female Secretary of State, and three Los Angeles mothers had a grand dream. Now, the world is a very different place and occasionally great dreams come true. Ten years ago, the Archer School for Girls was founded to empower the next generation of elegant feminists. Girls not afraid to be heard, not afraid to stand up, and not afraid to do it all with poise and in strappy high heels. Archer is the school for tomorrow's dreamers, and tomorrow's leaders.
It took a great deal to get Archer here, we had to fight City Hall, abide by strict Conditional Use Permits and raise a lot of money. The odds were against us, nearly 8 out of every 10 schools fall apart within their first 5 years and it had been decades since an all-girls school had successfully started in Los Angeles. However, we somehow beat the odds.
For most of our sixth grade the library was Ms. O'Brien's classroom, the soccer field was a bed of swirling dust and the food was catered by San Gennero, well I guess some things never change. But these hallowed halls of the Eastern Star were always filled with generations of sisterhood, a tradition that we carry out every spring when we erect the Maypole. We were taught and then we sang from the Archer anthem that "we could be everything we want to be." And we were. We analyzed poems, kept Peace Corps journals, tried mock trials at LA's Supreme Court, created invention conventions, studied Jane Eyre and mastered the perfect courtyard tan. We suffered through mandatory middle school Latin (well except the few who seemed to like it) and received endless uniform violations, we build stunt-nastic pyramids, scaled ropes courses, explored Career Days and although we never made it to D.C., we survived Y2K and APUSH. We started with A Bone from the Dry Sea and ended with Angels in America by way of One Hundred Years of Solitude, we made six grade campaign promises and became Captains of Varsity teams, we crammed for our Pre-Calculus test while anxiously waiting in line to take the most important test of all: Our Driver's License. We were ambassadors showing off our school to perspective students and suddenly we found ourselves touring Connecticut, Northern California, Rhode Island, and Chicago looking wide-eyed at new schools. Dreaming of the future, we should be proud, we made Archer our own, and we made ourselves a community, a group of friends and teachers who were there when things got tough and chose to fight the good fight beyond the call of duty.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to NPR and they aired a segment on education in America. The program toured public schools throughout the country, schools where students didn't know that Condoleezza Rice is a woman, and that ozone depletion is probably a bad thing. I was startled, but even more so, I realized the immense gift of education that Archer has given us. Archer taught us to be knowledgeable and worldly, just look at the array colleges to which this tiny group of girls are going. We can write 20 page research papers on Amazonian Women, dissect both the digestive and reproductive system of a cat, and not to mention that we not only can identify who Dick Cheney is, and we know that it is pretty dangerous to go hunting with him. But now we have a responsibility to use what we have learned.
As educated young women, vast opportunities await us. To paraphrase my favorite playwright, Tony Kushner, the world will end if we don't seize life's opportunities and act... because when you don't act, you act. With inaction, you open the door to evil, and evil is always more than happy to enter, to put his feet on your coffee table, to copy your homework and to drill for oil in Alaska. So I say, organize, stuff envelopes, give money, it's boring but do it because if you don't, it won't get done. Write your congressman. Better yet, run for congress. You may lose, so pick yourself up, spend four years making a movie about global warming, and run again. Be an involved citizen, the fate of the world rests on your shoulders. And if you don't act and you don't mobilize, all the things that really bother us and we complain about in this world will never get fixed. Additionally, you will feel really embarrassed at your ten-year class reunion. People will know and point. I guarantee it.
This is what I ask of you my fellow classmates, if your teacher gets sick, run a 5K in her honor. If your mom drives an SUV, nag her to trade it in for a hybrid. If your friend needs a nudge or an edit, a shoulder or a frozen yogurt, a proper pair of heels or a good alibi...you know what to do. And if you ever find yourself living in a town or a city that feels lacking, find two smart friends and start an all-girls school.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "A woman is like a teabag- you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water." We have all had our share of hot water. This has been a year of great highs and tremendous lows, grand adventures and striking tragedies, countless jokes and colossal stress. It has been far from perfect, but it's been our first glimpses into the real world, the struggles of life.
My father used to tell me that when it's all over, the only that you can leave behind is what you stand for, your name. A good name lives forever. So whether you end up flipping burgers, slaying dragons or scaling mountains, take your chance and act. And when your name is called today be proud of what you have already accomplished, be joyous at this new beginning in your life, but also remember that yours is the name of someone who can make a difference. It is amazing what has been accomplished at Archer in the last ten years, and think of the many undertakings that we can achieve in the next decade. I expect great things from this class; I expect astronauts, best-selling authors, tree-huggers, noble-prize winning doctors, mothers, and teachers. I expect you to challenge what is expected of you, to aim higher. Surround yourselves with people that will make your community vibrant, surround yourselves with people half as loyal, honest and thoughtful as the ones around you now and you will forever prosper.
So explore life's infinite opportunities. Be curious, bold, dare to dream big, take action, achieve and always embrace the hot water.