Chapel Talk: Thanks to all of you

Senior Jonah Brooks takes a turn at the podium to say thanks.

Most chapel talks are about the person who is standing at this podium. Speakers will talk about their life, their experiences, and their travels to becoming the person that they are today. Like all of these speakers, I have a message and a story to tell. I wish I had a mind-blowing adventure that would sweep you off your feet, but I do not. Unlike those other speakers I would simply like to thank you; all of you. From our freshmen in the top balcony, to my fellow seniors in the front row eager to rush out the door, to our teachers lined up and down the chapel’s sides, today my story is about you and the lessons that you all have taught me.

When I first came to Peddie, I thought I had a lot of things figured out. For example, I thought I knew how to write because I had received a hundred percent on my junior thesis paper back home. I thought I was a pretty good writer. Then I met Mr. Onion; and I found out that I was not that good of a writer. I have still not seen as many red pen marks on one sheet of paper as I did the day he returned our classes’ first assignments back last fall. Even a year later, Mr. Mixon and Mr. Wood remind me with grades after every English essay that there will always be significant room for improvement in my writing.

After my first year at the school, I noticed that I seemed to have become very well-acquainted with many of our school’s wonderful Deans. Twice last year Mrs. Clements had the job of reminding me that I needed to use my alarm clock not only when I felt like it, but for every morning. She very kindly reminded me that if I kept forgetting to do this, I would be sitting alone, in a room with just me and a table, on the sunniest and most beautiful day she could find on the calendar. It became very ironic during our conversation when I noticed that as she became more polite, I became more scared of her.  

I have also had the privilege of knowing Mr. McClellan not only as a coach, but also as a teacher as I was a student in his Modern Africa/Middle East classes last year. In those classes, “The Kid,”(as I like to call him)  taught us how to think, and how to recognize the different perspectives people have on important historical issues that I once thought were so cut and dry, so black and white, that they had a clear right and wrong answer. Instead of running from these uncertainties, Mr. McClellan taught our class how to embrace and learn from this type of confusion; and I will forever thank him for that lesson.

Through all the difficulties we as students face at Peddie, we all seem to face one issue that we can just never get the hang of. For Andy that difficulty could be labeled “staying awake in class,” and for Ben it could be called “our school’s car policy.” But for me, that difficult task was Mrs. Palilonis’ Pre-calculus class. Anyone who has ever been to her office knows that I was there many... many times last year. On a few occasions, she even kicked me out of her office. It got to the point that she could actually recognize my footstep pattern so that before I even walked into her office, she could have the opportunity to prepare herself for the boatload of questions that she knew were about to come her way. I will forever be in debted to her for her tolerance, her kindness, for her determination to continue helping me through the hardest class that I have ever taken, and for always being there to give me advice.

I also need to give a special shout-out today to Mr.Yisreal, who last year drew the unlucky straw of having to live next to me. Mr.Yisreal has always been a person whom I have been able to relate to, and is also a friend whom I have been able to share a lot of laughs with. I would like to thank you, Mr. Yisreal, for always being someone I could talk too, for always being able to keep a smile on my face, and for never grounding me for playing ding-dong-ditch on you. I would also like to take this time to thank the Cabot, O’Neill, and Roca families who have all opened their doors to me on numerous occasions. Their continuous kindness and generosity show how the Peddie Community for many of us truly is a home away from home.

The last faculty member that I would like to thank is Coach Rulewich. In my time at Peddie, Coach has taught me how to be a better leader, and continues to do so every day. I always strived and wanted to be a leader before coming to Peddie, and although I may still have a while to go, I consider myself fortunate to have a coach who, through all my flaws, is still able to see leadership potential within me, and who has given me the opportunity to become one.

Finally, I would like to thank all of you students for what you have taught me. When I decided to come to Peddie, I truly did not know what to expect. I had seen pictures from brochures, and I noticed some of you wore different styles and combinations of clothes that to say the least I was not very familiar with. Your lifestyles were also unfamiliar. So many of you have lived away from home since you were fourteen years old. While all I had to do my freshman year was complete my homework and stay out of trouble, many of you had to deal with the additional responsibilities of learning how to live alone, how to make your own decisions, and in turn you grew up faster than most kids do. This takes a great amount of courage, a type of courage that I respect and admire greatly.

For the underclassman, I thank you for being yourselves. I thank you for being excited about all that Peddie has to offer, and I think I can speak for all of my class when I say that your enthusiasm reminds us all of how fun new experiences and adventures can be.

For all of the upperclassman, I first would like to thank you for letting me stick around, and for letting me become a part of your community. Secondly, and most importantly, I would like to thank you for being my friends. On a daily basis you all have reiterated my parents’ teaching that no matter where you go in the world, people are people. We may all come from different neighborhoods and separate backgrounds, but in the end those who show respect, will eventually receive it.

After being at Peddie the last two years, I realize how fortunate I have been to be able to meet so many great people that have taught me so many valuable lessons. I could go on and on with examples of our great faculty and students, but listing off evidence of my experiences here is not the true point of this talk. Rather its purpose is to recognize you all for the profound impact that you have had on me. Once this year is over, we all will be able to say that we have been well educated; we will all have faculty members that we have developed close relationships with; and we all will have met and befriended classmates of ours from across the country and around the world. But what I am most proud to acknowledge is that from you all I have learned that I know so little and it is such beautiful thing. Understanding that I know so little convinces me that I have so many more lessons to learn, people to meet, perspectives of mine to be altered, and fun times ahead.

Thank you, Ala Viva, and for the sake of not only myself but also Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Roach, God Bless the Buffalo Bills.