Opening Day Assembly, 2022-23

Welcome to Burroughs' 100th school year!

During Opening Day Assembly on Thursday, August 25, seniors continued the tradition on sitting on the Haertter Hall stage facing their families, faculty/staff, and fellow students while listening to remarks from head of school Andy Abbott, senior class president Patrick Whiteford '23, and student body president Jah'de Alexander '23. (For clips from the assembly, see the video at the bottom.)

Assembly opened with a performance of the national anthem by Kennedy Holmes '23. Mr. Abbott then addressed the crowd, commenting on the school's long history and the exciting year ahead as Burroughs prepares to celebrate its Centennial. He shared his wish for the school year that everyone gathered will open their eyes, hearts, and minds to each other and all that lies ahead.

"For 100 years, students, parents, and faculty have come to Burroughs because they believe in the sacred power of education and a shared commitment to improve themselves and humanity. When our doors open each year, I feel my own renewed sense of hope that our hearts and minds also open so we can all come to better understand and respect one another as we learn and serve together.When our doors open each year, I feel my own renewed sense of hope that our hearts and minds also open so we can all come to better understand and respect one another as we learn and serve together."

— Andy Abbott, Head of School

Patrick spoke about the significance of choosing to make each day a firework and finding the beauty in the ordinary moments of a school year that will become cherished memories; his full remarks are included below.

Assembly closed with a performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by the men's a cappella group, directed by Jerry Estes and accompanied by front office manager Jennifer Kelley and her husband, Kyle.

Patrick Whiteford

Hey everybody, my name is Patrick, and let me just start this off by welcoming everyone to the first day of the 100th year of John Burroughs School. One hundred years. That ... that is a big number. That is a lot of years. Y’know, I’m just putting it out there, maybe that’s too many years. Like, in the grand scheme of things, a hundred’s probably enough. This should be the last year. Hey, Mr. Abbott, uh, crazy idea, would it be cool if this is like the last year of school like ever? It’s like we got it, we’re good, we can all pack it up and … No? Yeah, I think it’s a no, sorry guys tried my best, but school is still on.

And yeah, since it's still happening, I think we’re all starting to really feel it. The uncertain first-day jitters, the crackling potential of friendships to be made and passions to be discovered, and mischievous schemes to be hatched. But there is also something else that I think only we are feeling right now because this is our last first day, which is kind of a bummer. Things coming to an end is always a bit sad, but at least we won’t be leaving with just a diploma. We will leave here with our heads and our hearts absolutely chock full of memories, spanning the years and years that we’ve all been together. Like our shared appreciation that Adithya is still here to cook up his impressively ambitious projects after his legendary dive down that harrowing staircase. Or our wonder at Mason, never stopping for a second, always with the grindset through his claw machine/party magician businesses. We’ll remember our collective tears when JRob was kicked out of the election for one minorly questionable poster, and we will never forget commons cafe rapping Esther, hypebeast Uday, and way too many mullets to count.

I don’t know what our lives are gonna look like after we leave, but I know that these experiences are going to stick with us long after we’re gone: everything that we’ve learned and lost, everything that we’ve loved and loathed and y’know just thought was fine; every moment of kindness that we give or take, every second of spirit and unity and wholeness, every unexpected lesson a teacher imparted on us, that kind of stuff doesn’t just disappear, it sticks with you in ways I think few of us can fully understand. Something everyone here probably knows is that life can be really hard. Just horribly brutal in so many different ways. I think we all feel that sometimes. But what I really don’t want anyone here to ever forget is how breathtakingly beautiful life can be. And I’m not just saying that; I really mean it. Like a view of nature that truly escapes all words, or a quiet moment with friends that you wish could last forever, or just like a pie that tastes real good. I mean, this moment here is kind of beautiful in its own way. Right now, do your best to get past the corniness of this whole speech, and the anxieties of what might come, and the frustration of what might have happened, and just really feel the hundreds and hundreds of distinct human beings around you, all in the exact same moment. Personally, it always fills my heart up because, honestly, I love you guys, and again I do really mean that. I love the class of 2023, and I love our faculty and staff, and I love you, Mr. Abbott, even though you somehow outsmarted my awesome scheme to cancel school, and I love all of you … which is crazy because I haven’t even met some of you up there, but it's true. It doesn’t matter that it’s crazy; it's also crazy that I’m here right now. I remember back when I sat in the very last row of the balcony, and I spent my days praying on my knees to trash cans and getting called into the counselor’s office because I “started a cult,” which… fair, I did do that, and now I’m here. Standing in front of an entire crowd of minions and I, the minion meister. Sorry, that was definitely 7th-grade Patrick talking, and if it didn’t make any sense to you, good, it should not. My point is that none of this has to make sense. We just have to genuinely do our best to enjoy as much of this as we can and maybe learn to love each other and ourselves along the way. We’re all works in progress.

This is the 100th year of this school, and I think we all need to make it explosive. Bombastic. We should be lighting fireworks every single day, not literally. This is a firework. Yes, I printed it out, and yes, it's very small, and yes I wanted to light off a real one inside the auditorium, but alas, big Abbott foiled my plans. Curse you, Mr. Abbott, and your reasonable safety measures. Anyway, fireworks. I brought this in because I think everyone here has some choices that they have to make. We can all come in, trudge through classes and sports, and go home just unbelievably bored from another dull day at school, or we can make that day a firework. Refuse to give in to the forces of repetition and demand that this day is as weird and unique and colorful and bomb as possible. And demand that every single day. Sure, there are going to be times when you come in, and you just have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. That’s okay. That’s a part of life. But it doesn’t mean you can’t come in the next day, or the day after that, or the day after that, or the week after that and come back and make that day a firework. It’s up to all of us to not let life zoom past us and to feel the breathtaking beauty hidden in so many different moments we experience, to appreciate how one of a kind every single day is before it's gone forever, and to be excited for what to come in the next one. I’ve seen what all of you are capable of, all those incredible feats of athleticism and art and performance and intelligence and kindness and humor, those impossible shots, those mind-bendingly gorgeous songs, if we bring everything we’ve got to this school at every chance we’re given we’ll have a year truly like no other. To all of you out there, do your best to live every single day to the absolute fullest, so when you stand there in graduation grove just like a hundred years of Burroughs alums before you, you stand with your mind and heart bursting from the unforgettable experiences of these incredibly special years. (look to my class <3) I can’t wait to see you all there. 

I have two final messages. First, please, no matter what it’s about, never ever ever ever be afraid to ask for help. Helping each other is what humans are for. And second, I hope your day is a firework. Cause baby, you’re a firework. Come on, let your colors burst. Make em go oh oh oh. You’re gonna leave em going ah ah ah. I’m sorry, thank you.

Jah'de Alexander

Good morning, everyone. Let me start by saying thank you to everyone out here today. I feel like I have your ears and your attention, and one can only be grateful for the opportunity to be heard. And luckily for you, I have something to say.

I was writing this speech while at work, and this married couple walked into the boutique. I was in the process of writing the greatest opening day speech of all time, and it was almost as if they were interrupting my pursuit of greatness intentionally. All jokes aside though, the couple seemed nice, and I wanted to help them out, so I said, “Hello, how can I help you?”

The husband continued by asking me what I was working on. “The greatest opening day speech of all time!” was my response, of course.

And then I had a ten-minute-long conversation with them about who I was and where I went to school. The wife, who I had just met, actually ended up giving me some of the greatest advice I've ever heard…so good in fact I wanted to share it with everyone here.

She said, “Individuals like yourself, young man, walk on a tight rope.”

“Word?” I replied

She continued, “Well, if you want to move forward in life you must concentrate on the present; you must focus on the now in which you can control.

But if you look back, if you’re on a tight rope and you look back into the past, you’ll fall, and if you’re on the tight rope and get too disrupted by looking too far in front, excited that you've almost reached the other end, or frightened from the distance you must conquer, you'll lose your balance and fall.

And if you look down …

Well, you can look down to see where to put your feet, you can look down to see you're on top of the world even, but perspective is everything, because if you already fear heights looking down can be quite dangerous.”

I tell you this lady was spitting. But unfortunately, she got one thing wrong: I’m not one to walk on tight ropes…because I can fly.Those of us who can fly can be in all three – the past, the present, and the future. We are Bombers; bombers conduct airplanes that traverse mountains, that tower over the clouds, and hum over the skyscrapers – we can fly.

So let's briefly look at the past:

I came here as a new ninth grader in the year 2020 when the coronavirus epidemic began. Covid was horrific. I had to cover all this handsomeness up. And one of the worst parts was the masks were baby blue so it was throwing all of my outfits off.

But as challenging as it was, the adversity Covid brought gave me a change of perspective.

See, the value for the people around you that you love skyrockets when your interactions with them are limited to a screen. So when I got a chance to see you all again…no, when we got a chance to see each other again, the bonds between us became even stronger. And I’m happy that when Covid caused me to lose a loved one I had someone – no – everyone here at Burroughs – to lean on. And I’m happy to still have all of you here today, my loved ones.

OK, lucky for you, that's it for the past, well at least from me. Now, let us move forward.

Would all the Burroughs alums in the audience please raise their hands? That’s unfortunate. Unfortunate for you all that you didn't get the opportunity to experience Burroughs as students in its all-time greatest year.

You heard it correctly. This upcoming school year will be filled with the creations of new traditions and even better executions of the old ones, school spirit will be at an all-time high.  Even our impact on the surrounding community will be astonishing, vocabulary check supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

As SBP, I’ll go above and beyond to assure this to be the case. But it's gonna be mad hard – not gonna lie, and I’m already growing gray hairs cause of this place.

But I’m not alone, because we’re a school of talented leaders, the best performers, artists, athletes, scientists, creatives, so on and so forth. People will be right here where I'm standing, just as passionate about something with the abilities to find that means to an end, whether that something be political issues, environmental issues, social injustices, or the quality of our school’s lunch.

And we can help them with our participation, donation, social media presentation, and self-education, there are so many ways. It's important to me that they’ll have us and our support. Because that's the only way to make this year what it can be.

To be honest, I wanna see crazy school wide attendance at our games. You know what? Our squash matches should look like our football games against MICDS - let's start some new clubs – let's get it to where Commons Cafe can’t even fit in the Commons.

There's an agenda these people right here behind me are trying to pursue. Wait, that sounded a bit ominous but hear me out:

They wanna have fun, they wanna win, they wanna make their last memories in the place they call home fantastic. Our Senior Drey Land trip showed me how good it felt to come together as a united community, and strengthening that connection is evidently in all of our hearts too.

Regardless of how that looks we all have a chance to help them. And you should because it's what they've been doing for not only the people who sat in the seats before them, but for the people who will follow in their footsteps

I'm so excited for my 7th graders…I swear I am. For those of us who are new, know that I get how hard it is to navigation a place that is unfamiliar, and terrifying. But understand y’all are stars…and stars shine brightest in the darkness. Conquer the night sky, conquer those fears of new people and new experiences. Trust me you'll be better from it.

Usually in this part of the speech, I say something like, “This is the year of … and name a random object. It’s Burroughs Tradition. But this year is going to be a bit different. This isn't the year of I- don’t know…I can’t even remember one of those little year thingies.

This is The Year. Simple. That's it. This is The Year.

Cause we finna make things happen.

I am Jah’de Alexander, your student body president, and I am honored to welcome you all into the 100th year of John Burroughs. Aka the greatest year of John Burroughs history, just watch!

Love you all, and have great first day!

Thank you.