During assembly on Tuesday, November 23, Julius Hollander-Bodie '22 delivered the annual Thanksgiving assembly remarks. For many years, seniors have selected someone from their class to make this address. Two years ago, this long-standing tradition was named to honor and remember past parent and grandparent Steve Plax.
In his introduction, Mr. Abbott said that while Dr. Plax's accomplishments as a doctor and mentor were indisputable, what everyone remembers about him was his warmth and his ability to make us all feel better about ourselves. Mr. Abbott added that over the years, our Thanksgiving assembly speakers have had varied styles and accomplishments and messages, but all embodied the same qualities that set Dr. Plax apart—humility, integrity, gratitude and most importantly, kindness.
Here is a video, followed by a transcript, of Julius' remarks.
Good morning students, faculty, staff and Mr. Abbott. I’m so honored to be speaking today, and I’d like to take a moment to thank my fellow seniors for selecting me to make some remarks.
First, I’d like to put it out there that Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I obviously can’t go without mentioning the food. My mom is hands-down the best cook I’ve ever known and ever will know, and Thanksgiving never disappoints. The turkey-cranberry sauce combo is always so good, and my mom’s pecan pie is so, so, so, so delicious that one year I got sick from eating too many slices. Add to this the incredible mushroom bread pudding and corn pudding and it’s already impossible to dislike the holiday.
But I also love Thanksgiving because it’s largely untainted by the commercialism that pervades so many aspects of our society these days. I don’t have to overthink what gifts to get whom. I don’t have to constantly listen to the jingles or radio songs. I don’t have to see another Santa Claus on the TV sipping on his Coke Zero-Sugar. The distractions are out of the way, out of view. Thanksgiving is simply a time for family.
Family. What does it mean? What is family? A group of people related by blood or otherwise? People living in the same house? A group of like-minded people? All of these are certainly not what family is. Family is joy. Family is comfort and ease. Family is a feeling. I’m still struggling to come up with a concrete way to explain family, but today I’m going to try and explain it through three key ideas.
The first idea is tradition. Actually, I have very mixed feelings about tradition. In so many ways, tradition is the backbone of society. It dictates what to do when, and how to do it. It gives us some meaning through the monotony of everyday life. And it often brings so much joy to the world. Without the turkey and cranberry sauce every year, my family’s Thanksgiving would simply not be Thanksgiving. And this holiday is so meaningful to many Americans largely because we’ve celebrated it for so long. However, tradition can just as easily be a tool for evil. This country was built upon many evil traditions, ones that oppressed innocent people. Tradition can be an excuse for stagnation, for lack of innovation, lack of creativity, and lack of humanity. In other words, tradition can be both good and bad. Within the Burroughs community, I feel we have many incredible traditions, from the pep rally, to Potpourri Week, to senior assembly, and much, much more. But I also sometimes feel that we use tradition to avoid change and to embrace rigidity. Sometimes our community is so firmly rooted in an old tradition that we fail to see the opportunity for a new one. My mom’s mushroom bread pudding is one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes, but it’s only been a Thanksgiving dish in my family for a few years. I would urge us all, myself very much included, to find our mushroom bread pudding. Be more open to the new traditions that present themselves. Find ways to create a new legacy within this school; make your mark in a lasting way. Don’t only be open to new traditions— seek them out.
One tradition developed by my family over the years is tea with grandpa after dinner. My grandpa is a positive and relaxed man, with wisdom beyond his years. One night, he said out of nowhere what will be my second key aspect in explaining family: “We’re all practicing, practicing living.” We are all practicing living. When the words came from his lips, they struck me like a thunderbolt. It was a very simple idea, but it was also very true. The “we” my grandpa had referred to was my family, but as I stand here today, I believe that perhaps these words embody our community as well. Y’all are so, so talented, but that’s not what inspires me. What inspires me is your love for practice. Whether it’s in the classroom, on the field, in the theater, in the band room, or anywhere else on campus, the commitment to improvement here is unparalleled. I’ve truly never been in a community more focused on improvement than here at Burroughs. And that extends far beyond academics and extracurriculars. The effort each person here puts into building lasting connections with others is truly astounding. It might be the short conversation I see a student having with a teacher or Plant Ops member on their way to class. It might be the long GroupMe threads about senior skip day in the class group chat. It might be the “suiiiii” that the soccer team yells out when we break it down at the end of a tough day’s training. Whatever it is, the practice in every aspect of life that I constantly see from our community is deeply meaningful.
And sometimes of course, practice results in failure. Without failure, we wouldn’t need practice. One Thanksgiving night, my grandpa and great aunt got into a huge fight. My great aunt stormed out of the house mid-Thanksgiving movie (Stars Wars episode 5, the best one in my humble opinion), refusing to return when we called out to her to come back. She and my grandpa did not speak for days, but my mother, talking to both of them on the phone for two straight weeks, was able to mediate the conflict. My great aunt is now sadly dead, but her final years were filled with joyful conversations with my grandpa. That fight had been difficult, it had been messy, but it had also shown me the third key idea which I believe family is all about—support. And I’ve seen this support constantly in action at Burroughs. Sometimes our senior class GroupMe devolves into a shouting match and the Zoom call to resolve the conflict at first only gets more heated. Sometimes we lose control of the ball in an important game. Sometimes we mess up a line in our Thanksgiving Assembly speech (we’ll see how I do on that). But in these bumps along the road, the support this community gives to one another is truly incredible. The GroupMe eventually calms down and goes back to light-hearted banter. Our fans encourage the next-play mentality and drown out our opponents with song. And hopefully y’all will clap for me at the end of this speech (that’d be nice, no pressure though obviously).
After a devastating soccer loss, or after a first in-person music assembly, or after a tiring 5th period free nap, I’m always amazed by how much support there is within this community. This year during the soccer postseason, I was quite frankly awed by the amount of support and positivity just walking around the halls at Burroughs. The support I received was also incredible after our first music assembly of this year, a music assembly in which I played a simple beat on drums so my friend could rock out on guitar. And when my nap extends from 5th period into the first part of 6th, my classmates don’t disturb me because they know how important that sleep is.
So, those are the key ideas that I consider as integral to what makes family family. What is family? I’m still not quite sure I can answer that definitively. I believe that family is built off of old traditions and new traditions. Family is built off of practice. And off of failure and support. And probably so many more things. I can’t fully define family. But while I don’t know what exactly family is, I know that this, this right here, is family. Thanks y’all.