‘The world needs you,’ Northeast President Aoun told BC High

Northeast President Joseph E. Aoun delivered the keynote speech at Boston College High School Saturday, urging graduates to embrace flexibility while exploring their future in unexpected ways.

“I know that sounds strange coming from a university president,” Aoun said from the outdoor podium on a pleasant spring morning. “Half of what you learn in the classroom will be out of date very soon after you graduate. That’s why what happens in class isn’t the most important part of college. It’s the whole experience that counts.

Aoun’s advice was welcome on this day of post-pandemic renewal as the BC High community came together to celebrate its new class of 284 graduates. Some 2,000 people attended the ceremony in person to accompany nearly 1,000 people who watched online.

The school’s 158th start offered some well-deserved perspective moments, including a shout-out from Grace Cotter Regan, the school president, to honor members of the Class of 1972 who had returned for their golden reunion. .

“BC High is in a period of rebirth, where we are examining the way we teach and learn with a new focus,” said Regan, who noted that the institution’s core mission is to create leaders who “will courageously respond to the challenges of the times. because they want to help and serve others.

Aoun was comfortable in this setting. He told graduates that he, too, benefited from a Jesuit education growing up in Lebanon, a tradition among the boys in his family, and that he was inspired to become a linguist and move to the United States by his mentor in Saint Joseph University of Beirut, Father Peter-Hans Kovenbach.

“As the president of an academic institution, I can tell you that there is no firmer foundation on which to build a flourishing life of the spirit, as well as a life of action and impact. “, said Aoun. “Every day, I rely on the values ​​I learned at Notre Dame College in Lebanon. These are the same ones taught here: competence, awareness and compassion. It’s a powerful combination.

Sean Murphy, identified by faculty as an academic and athletic star who helped bring the school together, focused his senior class talk on the gains made by his fellow students while isolated by COVID-19 and after their return on the campus.

“There was a noticeable difference in how we interacted with our classmates, all because of the common struggle we had been through during the pandemic,” Murphy said. “Also, people started showing up for each other outside the school walls. When someone needed support after losing a family member or friend, their classmates were there.

Aoun’s speech was intended to lend support to the majority of graduates moving on to college, including several who will attend Northeastern. He offered three lessons that he called counter-intuitive:

  1. Don’t have a plan.
  2. Get out of class.
  3. The reinvention never stops.

He reminded graduates that the unfortunate surprises of the COVID-19 pandemic had strengthened them with “a resilience that may have surprised you and your families.”


Knowing that future events defy prediction, he warned graduates that the average student changes major three times. He cited this as a positive moving into the next phase of their lives.

“Exploration is one of the most exciting parts of higher education,” he said. “Exploration of new interests and new ideas. Explore the world. And of yourself.

Now is not the time for ironclad plans, Aoun insisted in affirmation of Lesson 1.

“It’s time to decide who you want to be and what you want to do,” he said.

Getting out of the classroom – Lesson No. 2 – is the first step to experiential learning, he said.

“Experiential learning is the most powerful way to turn knowledge into ability,” Aoun said. “Co-ops, internships, service, entrepreneurship, solving real problems: the world needs you.

“The climate crisis, pandemics, racial inequalities, our challenges are complex.”

Pursuing growth experiences shouldn’t be a lonely endeavor, Aoun said while citing the powerful networks that were developed by Dr. Martin Luther, Steve Jobs and other visionary leaders.

“Teamwork means getting along with people who have significant, sometimes boring differences in perspective,” Aoun said. “Learning to accept this diversity is a big part of college. And it’s a big part of living in our interconnected world.

He explained Lesson 3 – the need for reinvention – with reference to the global realities of technological change.

“Artificial intelligence, machine learning and genetic engineering are disrupting all professions,” Aoun said. “Whether you are a doctor, airline pilot, journalist, nurse or engineer, you will need to retrain or even reinvent yourself. Work is increasingly automated, so humans will need to focus on what machines cannot imitate: imagination, creativity, empathy, cultural agility.

“Because technology never stops, reinvention can’t stop,” he continued. “It may seem uncomfortable. Your life path is not defined once and for all. But reinvention will lead you to discover new horizons and new passions. I assure you there is joy in reinvention.

As he gazed at the audience of graduates in their white tuxedo jackets and brown bow ties, Aoun jokingly apologized for not following the dress code.

“I’ve never seen a bunch of better-dressed graduates,” Aoun said. “And I spent 25 years in Hollywood.”

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