The Spence community came together to salute the Class of 2022 at the 125th Commencement Exercises of The Spence School at the Church of the Heavenly Rest. This year’s ceremony celebrated the 60 extraordinary members of the Class of 2022 for their leadership, love of learning and care for both the world and each other. The ceremony, which included a Commencement address by acclaimed network news anchor, political commentator and Spence parent George Stephanopoulos, along with senior speaker Sofia Kassalow, marked Head of School Bodie Brizendine’s final graduation.
Equal parts humorous and poignant, Sofia focused her speech on the “small things” with “profound impacts.” “It’s relieving to be part of something so small when the world feels so big,” Sofia shared. “It can be difficult to escape from the constant bombardment of breaking news and daunting headlines, but Spence has always offered us a refuge from that insanity. When issues feel unsolvable, this community reminds me that there is hope.”
Commending her classmates, not for their academic accomplishments, but for the content of their character, Sofia added: “When I think of what makes our grade so special, I never look at an individual’s achievements. I look at the small moments of our Spence careers, and I see the type of camaraderie and collaboration that our world is in desperate need of. I see care and compassion and a love for discovery, and I’m reminded that we are a grade of change-makers. A grade of fighters and leaders.” Finally, Sofia “challenged a Commencement speech cliché,” telling her classmates not to “go out and change the world,” but “to go out and change one thing.” “Go out and show the world that by changing one, small thing at a time, we will be the generation that saves it.”
Sabin Chu, in introducing George Stephanopoulos, drew a connection to world events during the seminal years of high school. “The Class of 2022 has lived through a global pandemic, witnessed war break out in Ukraine and seen a contested election right here in the United States,” said Sabine. “As such, it’s only appropriate that our Commencement speaker has been a participant, witness and analyst in some of the most consequential events of the last three decades, especially in American politics.”
Applying the lessons of journalism to life after Spence, Stephanopoulos encouraged students to explore, make connections with others and step outside of their comfort zones. “As you enter a world beyond the Red Doors, as you step foot on a less familiar campus, with classmates…who haven’t known you since the days of plaid jumpers and freshman orientation, you may find yourselves asking the same fundamental questions that journalists do,” shared Stephanopoulos. “How do I connect, really connect, with people I don’t know? How do I ‘enter those conversations’ that Bodie wrote about the ones that just might change my life?”
“I’ve found that connection lies at the intersection of commonality and curiosity,” Stephanopoulos added. “Yet far too often, we… seek out the comfort of community instead of the adventure fueled by curiosity…Definitely seek out spaces that remind you of Spence, the communities where you immediately feel seen and heard, where you can be yourself––unapologetically. But remember also, that those less familiar spaces are often the ones where your presence is most valuable, where your voice is most urgently needed.”
Stephanopoulos’ remarks were the prelude to the presentation of diplomas, followed by Head of School Bodie Brizendine’s farewell words to the graduating class. “Not only in the heart of COVID did you help me lead by keeping school, by making sure that we still came together, by finding joy and purpose, often without a hallway, a lobby, a favorite couch, but you also let me share this paused-in-the-doorway space with you,” said Brizendine. “As a proud honorary member of the Class of 2022, I join you in the moment of passing through those Red Doors, and I will never forget our class, the Class of 2022.”
Brizendine then referenced the psalm, “There Is a Season,” telling students: “This is your time: time to leave the Red Doors, time to leave high school and time to set forth in a new and different way. Indeed there is a season: turn, turn, turn. This, Class of 2022, is your season.”
Invoking the words of Clara Spence, who said in 1915, “love is life and the more love we have, the more abundant is the life,” Brizendine told students: “Go, Class of 2022: go with that love, go with that abundance of life and go with those memories and the strength of Spence folded deeply in your back pocket…always.”
Congratulations to the Class of 2022, and welcome to the distinguished community of Spence alumnae.
Read Bodie Brizendine’s full remarks here
Read Sofia Kassalow’s Commencement Speech here
Read George Stephanopoulos’ Commencement Address here