Christian Sieve '23 Thanksgiving Address

During assembly on Tuesday, November 22, Christian Sieve '23 delivered the annual Thanksgiving address. For many years, seniors have selected someone from their class to make this address. This long-standing tradition was renamed two years ago 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, everyone remembers his warmth most. While past Thanksgiving assembly speakers have had varied styles, achievements, and messages to share, all embodied the same qualities that set Dr. Plax apart: humility, integrity, gratitude, and, most importantly, kindness. 

Here is a video from assembly, followed by a transcript of Christian's remarks.

Good morning to the students, faculty, and staff of John Burroughs School!

Words cannot explain how honored I feel being chosen for the task of giving this Thanksgiving Address, so with that, I would like to thank my classmates for this opportunity. 

As you all have probably noticed these past couple of weeks, the temperature is starting to drop, and it is finally starting to feel like that time of year. That time of year when you start to hear the holiday jingles being played on your stroll through the grocery store, or as you're driving down the street and you can't help but admire the beautiful lights lined on every other house. For me personally, this time of year draws a distinct feeling of wanting to celebrate. Of course, this could be because of the various holidays coming up or the lack of school this next month. Who knows? As this year is entering its final leg, these holidays are here to remind you of the year you had and reflect on what you experienced. 

I want to take you back to Thanksgiving 2021, as celebrated by the Sieve family. For the first part of the day, the gathering was like any other Sieve Thanksgiving, with time spent gathering and conversing, flipping away at all the Black Friday catalogs, getting the scoop on all the possible deals for the evening, and a raffle. Yes, you heard that right: we raffle off prizes like gift baskets, home decorations, and quilts; for the 30-40 members of the family who attend every November, it's a lot like Potpourri, and of course, it is all centered around the meal. It wasn't until later that night, a few hours after we had eaten, that things veered from the usual tradition. Almost the entirety of the Sieve family was up all night fighting for their lives, curled up on their respective bathroom floors because of the turkey. As we would find out the next morning, everyone who ate the turkey from a specific pan all suffered the consequences of food-poisoning symptoms for a good 10 hours. While this did not feel so good, it was one of those moments that we still talk about to this day to get everybody laughing. Now, to ensure that I never have to feel something like that in my life ever again, I'm using this year's celebration to show my gratitude a little extra in an effort to boost my karma. 

This year I want to give thanks to the people who deserve it, and in my experience, there are three main groups of people that I want to include. 

The first is my family. And to explain the lengths to which gratitude can go, I'll start with how my mom did something that I disagreed with at the moment but came to realize how much I benefited from. At the end of my first-grade year, my mom informed me that I would be moving schools for the upcoming school year, leaving all the friends I had made up to that point. All I could think about at that age was me ditching my Day Ones, all of the people who had been there since my first day, for all new people in some place I had never heard about. Now, I see that without that change, there is no possible way that I would be standing right here today. Of course, I am not only thankful for that one decision, but it made me realize that even though it didn't feel right, that was proof that my mom and family 100% deserve my appreciation all the time. Family is my guide: when I am unable to comprehend what the best thing for me is in an instant, I turn to family because those are the people that, no matter what, always have my best interest in mind. 

Even though this next group of people, I could argue, counts as a subset of family, I believe they deserve their own recognition. That group of people would be friends. Being the social creatures that we as humans are, the friends that we have act as a way to develop our social instinct by connecting with people who share the same interests as us. Lucky enough for me, some of the best friends I have are sitting right here in these front four rows. My class is awesome, and it brings me so much joy to see everyone become more and more connected every day, ever since the first day we spent together. 

From sporting events to musical performances, the dance show, or college athlete signing day in the Newman Aud ... my class is SUPPORTIVE. No matter what happens through the final days that we will spend together, I want us to always have each other's backs and always be grateful that we are a part of such a supportive community. In addition, the class of 2023 is HILARIOUS. For those of you who have met me before, you know that I will never shy from a good laugh. When you laugh in front of others — particularly when it is a big and hearty laugh — you are making yourself vulnerable. You are signaling to those around you, saying, "I trust you." I love to laugh with my friends. 

The third group, which is probably the largest in number, is strangers. I want to be more grateful for the strangers in my life. The people who pick up garbage from my house or who spend countless hours researching and experimenting for the health of this world, the farmers who grow the food we eat, and those who stock the shelves where we buy it. The people who are working to maintain the stability of my everyday life. It then, for me, becomes uncomfortable to call the people who are doing this in even closer proximity to me: strangers. The faces I see every day in the parking lot, in the halls of John Burroughs, the people who clean up after us, and put lunch on our tables every day, should not be strangers. So this year, I want to make sure that those folks who are working to make my life easier are not strangers. The steps I need to take are simple: ask them their name, tell them mine, and make sure they understand how grateful I am.

We are all looking forward to being grateful for our friends and family and to enjoying a wonderful meal, hopefully, one where the turkey is properly cooked. But I am challenging all of us to add something new to the tradition this year: finding a stranger who deserves our thanks and taking the steps to make them not a stranger anymore. If all of us did this, just maybe the world will be a better place. And that's something for which we could all give thanks. Thank you.