PORTSMOUTH — At commencement exercises Sunday, Portsmouth Abbey School grads were told to nurture the school’s own “three Rs” — reverence, respect and responsibility — to make a difference in their future lives.
“They will make the places you go and the people you meet ‘more gracious and grace-filled,’” John “Mac” Regan, chairman of the Portsmouth Abbey School Board of Regents, told students in his commencement address. “The Abbey’s three Rs are your lifelong competitive advantage and your guide to being both an admirable person and an effective global citizen … With your leadership, we can find the $40 billion to provide support for all, elect representatives who work for all of us, find ways to live within our fiscal and environmental means, and guide the future in responsible, and admirable, ways.”
In its 84th commencement exercises, 81 students from the Abbey’s Class of 2014 — including nine Portsmouth residents — received diplomas.
Mr. Regan, a 1968 graduate of the school, spent most of his speech detailing problems in the United States and worldwide that need to be faced head on. In America, he said, those challenges include low voter turnout, Congressional agendas dominated by special interest groups and a poorly informed electorate.
In addition, he said, the United States has an education system that is “unmatched in turning out qualified graduates in all fields other than citizenship … My preliminary conclusion is that we all, and by extension our government representatives, need a citizenship tune-up.”
He urged graduates to always remember the code by which they lived at the Abbey.
“No doubt many of you will achieve enviable success in future endeavors. However, being an Abbey ‘citizen’ requires more than notoriety or wealth,” said Mr. Regan. “Over the course of your lives, you will find that it is the latter three Abbey Rs that are the basis for a life of good will and duty that is, to paraphrase New York Times columnist David Brooks, lived not for your résumé but for your eulogy.”
Daniel McDonough, presiding over his first commencement since becoming headmaster last year, quoted a section of the Bible’s Revelation 3:16: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”
Mr. McDonough then told graduates, “No, you are not lukewarm, and for that I love you.”
Using humor throughout his speech, Julian Minondo, a graduating senior from Guatemala City who was chosen to give one of the student commencement addresses, said he had recently struggled to stay motivated on campus in the past several weeks.
Once the college decisions started coming in, Julian explained, “the freight train that pulled me time and time again through the wee hours of the morning reading Milton (and whatnot) began losing steam. The spirit of academic excellence, which I ceremoniously called upon with scented candles and animal sacrifices, abandoned me like my first wife.
“I’m kidding,” he added. “I never lit any candles. That’s a fire code violation.”
Finally catching the “college carrot” that faculty members had dangled in front of students, he said, had made them less interested in schoolwork, he said. “We began staying up late, not because of art history slide sheets but because, hey, Netflix,” he said.
But he got up that morning, he said, freshly motivated by the realization that he and his fellow graduates are moving on.
“The Abbey Express train that picked us up years back has come to a stop,” he said. “But that’s a good thing. Our ticket has been booked and it’s time we took off. And that’s what woke us up this morning, and all the mornings to come: We have a train to catch.”
In her student speech, Amberlee Majewski, said she predicts a bright future for her classmates. “I see our future doctors, teachers, veterinarians, dentists, pilots; you name it, we got it,” she said.
Amberlee implored her classmates to never forget the little things that made the Abbey experience special: “Sleepovers, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas,’ Sumo Sushi, lame photo shoots down by the bay, Tuck dances, Semi, Prom.”
When they arrive on their new college campuses next year, she said, students should never forget who they are already.
“Class of 2014, once you step outside the gates of the Portsmouth Abbey School today, remember that the Abbey goes with us, because it now is us, for the rest of our lives.”
Here are the graduating Portsmouth Abbey students who reside locally: Matthew R. Fonts, Richard J. Gudoian (also Saunderstown), James L. Lansing, Hugh J. MacGillivray, Sean V. McDonough, Jason L. Mercier, Emily M. Parsons, Lauren A. Rosenthal and Rachel R. Sousa.