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Commencement 2019 Remarks from Head of School, Rich Nourie

June 7, 2019

When I was 10 years old, at my grandmother’s house in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, there was an issue of Life magazine from early 1970 that was focused on the year 2000. It was full of futuristic thinking and wild speculation, unisex fashions and fantastic ideas about transportation. But I had a burning desire to see the year 2000 not because of the future but because l was dying to see my future…

I thought that at 40 years old, all the questions that I had about my future would be resolved: Would I be married and to whom? Would I have a family? What part of the country or the world would I live in? What would be my career?

The burning question I had at the moment is one that I also had when I was graduating from high school: the mystery of how does a life become a life?

For me, the heart of the matter lies in a quote from scripture my father shared with me as I left home to go to college. Just before leaving, he gave me a beautiful leather-bound bible, wanting me to have that source of wisdom near me in my new life, and inscribed these words of scripture on the inside cover:

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Again, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Now well past 40, I see that our lives gradually fill with the things that we believe to be of greatest value. What we love becomes a gravitational pull over the arc of our lives.

At this point in my life, my life is filled with the things I love and value: family, music, community, the life of the mind, the arts, nature and spiritual life. It is not a master plan or even any unique talent that brought these things into my life; the heart draws to itself that which you love.

And so what I wish for you as begin to build a life apart from this community and your childhood home is that you cultivate reverence in your life, let your life take shape around those things that are of highest value, that will enrich you, enlarge you in your humanity, nourish and renew your heart, mind and spirit. Your AFS education and your teachers have taught you to recognize, respond to and seek out those things of highest value and we hope you will always treasure that gift of your outstanding, Quaker education.

If our heart provides a gravitational pull, filling our lives with all good things, then there is yet a deeper process that draws us outward and toward the most meaningful, fulfilling and valuable work to be done in the world around us.

The deeper calling is associated with the inner light, the “that of God” that Quakers speak of is in the very center of our being. That light is, as I have shared with you many times, an inexhaustible source of strength, peace, perspective and capacity to love.

But the inner light also has it’s own gravitational pull toward the work of the spirit, the work that needs doing in the world, toward peace-making, compassionate response to those in need, those who suffer, advocacy for the marginalized and silenced. The light within has an agenda that encourages in us compassion, humility, reverence for human life and dignity.

And in the work of the spirit in our world, the work of healing and justice making, each of us is called to play a personal role based on our gifts and talents, our own ability to see the work that needs to be done in the world around us. Your role may be as a writer, a poet, a scholar, an activist, a healer, a community organizer, a musician, a scientific pioneer- there are endless parts to play in this orchestra and one of them is yours.

So as you step out into the wider world and begin to build your life, to write your story from this wonderful beginning at AFS, I hope your life will slowly fill with the things that value most highly and that the beautiful light within you will draw you to your part in the work of the spirit, that is distinctly your role to play, in the building of the world as it can be.

June 7, 2019

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