“What's Your Personal Mission Statement?” by John Chung, faculty speaker

It seems like just yesterday that the school year was starting up, and I can’t figure out how the time has passed so quickly. When most people say that, they’re using it as a figure of speech, but I’m being quite literal. I don’t remember what happened this past fall because I got super concussed.

I was running across the fields, well behind the soccer net, to check on a game management duty for Nobles Athletics, when a ball was blasted, and with a bend-it-like-Beckham spin, it curled around the net and intersected perfectly with its moving target: my face. Fiona Splaine, Toni Abate, and Julianna Chen, among other players, saw the whole thing and are probably still laughing now, as they did then. 

But it’s okay since karma restored balance to these girls on their senior projects. Fiona spent countless hours learning how to use a 3D printer to build a model of the school when she could have just used Legosthis is a no brainer, Fiona. Toni only managed to help the Development Office reach a 100% class participation goal on the Class I gift, which still falls 10% short of her personal mantra of “giving it 110%”better luck next time, Toni. And Julianna learned another language that yields no social utility in current societyspeaking of other languages, Dad, can you translate that last part of the speech to mom in Korean in a way that she understands that I’m being sarcastic? Thanks.

Do you want to know the real kicker with the concussion (yes, pun intended)? The player who shot the ball wasn’t a Nobles player but was from Loomis Chaffee, my previous employer. Which brings me to my first piece of wisdom for the graduating class: When you leave somewhere behind, protect your head, because something or someone will probably kick you.

This year also marked my first year teaching something I’ve wanted to teach for years. Physics? No. Teaching Matt O’Connor which objects not to touch in the classroom. I’ve never seen anybody find more joy in the final rite of passage for that class“Yes, Matt, now you may fire the rocket.”

Even though I’ve taught Jessie Harthun for two years of math, the majority of my interactions with her involved helping her break in to the Nobleman room via the decommissioned side door in the math office. Despite her incredibly apologetic nature at each infraction, I am no less enthusiastic with the passion in which I begrudgingly shout “HARTHUN!” Speaking of this connecting door in the math office, when I started working here a few years ago I noticed a sign that read, “Please latch this door securelythanks.” I naively assumed it was because the Nobleman staff wanted to restrict traffic flow through the main door, but now I realize the true reason: The school could no longer take on the liability of students navigating through the mountain of binders Mr. Wilson has precariously piled in the back of the math office. Microeconomics, macroeconomics, midsized-SUV-class-economicsif you can put the word “economics” after it, Mr. Wilson has got it in a 200-page binder back there.

Here are some final predictions for this senior class for their five-year reunion: Billy Sweezey will somehow manage to snipe me from across campus with an enthusiastic “CHUNGER!” and I’ll still have no idea which direction his voice is coming from. Lauren Barta will be the energetic, bubbly person in the office who fools others into thinking Monday morning is really Friday afternoon. Sagar Lal and Jordan Sandford will continue to look like they do in the framed photo they gave me at last year’s graduation (i.e., their junior year counterparts). In a Cal AB reunion class, when I remind students that factoring is their friend, Michaela Thompson will still take the expression literally and put Emma Roberts at the top of that list. Thomas Durfee will somehow find a way to use the solver key on his calculator during his first job interview. And Will Shadek will still be crying about “Interstellar”.

Let me bring down the LPMs for a bit now (that is, laughs per minute) and get to the real focus. Although, the math teacher in me wants to make some calculus joke about integrating a rate of change curve, but I will refrain, since students will never ask one of us to give another graduation speech.

What is your personal mission statement? 

The premise behind the question is incredibly simple. Just as the school has a mission statement that drives its decisions, people need individual mission statements that provide a set of defining principles. While the value of the question may be obvious, answering it eloquently is a daunting task that requires genuine contemplation and reflection.

Like many of you in the graduating class, Nobles has helped me shape an identity that I’m proud of in my fourth year here. From this, and through the process of writing this speech, I’ve been afforded an opportunity to better articulate a personal mission statement that allows me to be completely grounded with why I do the things I do at this school. Before sharing it with you though, I need to explain a seemingly ridiculous “Mario Kart” reference. Nope, you didn’t mishear me—“Mario Kart,” let’s go there.

When you race a course on time trial in “Mario Kart,” you have the option of racing against your “ghost,” which is just a simultaneous projection of your best previous race. I think later releases of the game include programmed “ghosts” which are essentially impossible to beat. The real life version of your “ghost” serves as a manifestation of the best possible iteration of yourself on any given task. And thus, my mission statement to myself reads:

“If you endeavor to inspire leaders and empower others to action, you must continually develop into a better version of yourself for the sake of others. You must not view the distance between you and your ghost as a shortcoming but instead as motivation to push beyond what you thought you were capable of. Be resolute in letting this never-ending chase show you the elasticity in the margins of your capabilities. Quite simply, you must get the ghost.”

Now, to be clear, I’m not up here to tell everyone to simply “get their ghost,” and I’m definitely not up here telling people to play more “Mario Kart.” The beauty of a personal mission statement is that it should be tailored for you. It took me numerous iterations to end up with the version I just read, but I know it’s the right set of words for me because it resonates with every part of my being and gets me personally fired up. What words are you going to need to repeatedly hear throughout your life, through good times and bad?

So, for the graduating class of 2015, in true teaching form, I have one final assignment for you to complete this summer, but this time, you will not be graded, and your solution will not have equations in it. Scratch that, Andy Casamento’s personal mission statement better have his master equation in it (“event + response = outcome”) and Andy, I sincerely hope you keep firm in this belief, because it’s a good one. For the rest of you, your assignment is to spend some time thinking about your personal mission statement and to articulate it beyond a mere sentiment of “wanting to be a good person” or “trying your best”. 

Ask yourself, what framework can you hold on to that will always drive you towards your goals? What fundamental tenets provide the foundation of your identity? The value in articulating these words is that you will start feeling more grounded in everything you do, because you see which pieces of your life fit your mission statement and which still need attention for improvement. And during this fall, when you transition to a new environment and begin to question where you belong, I hope you will find confidence in knowing you have some model to fall back on in how you want to conduct yourself. 

If you are lost on where to begin, start by asking what Nobles has taught you so far. I think you will find answers that go beyond the topics and concepts you’ve learned in your classes, and if you haven’t, I encourage you to start looking for them. I hope you have the perspective to see education as a key driver to finding your best self: that a math class is more than just formulas, it’s about how to think logically in your problem solving; that an English class is more than just learning vocabulary and writing papers, it’s about being a more articulate person; that a language class is more than just the new language, it’s about being a more cultured citizen of this diverse world; that a performing arts class is more than just drawing or dancing or playing an instrument, it’s about becoming more versatile in expressing your creativity; that a history class is more than just dates, it’s a record of the important decisions we’ve made to get to where we are; that a science class is more than just taking data and running experiments, it’s about asking the right questions and figuring out how to prove our answers; that the will to win in a sports championship is the same drive that can push you towards conquering your intellect or excelling in your social relationships; that the confidence it takes to get on stage and perform is the same confidence it will take to be an outspoken leader in the spotlight. These sentiments are, in my mind, woven into the fabric of Nobles and a large reason why I know I’m doing the right job at the right school.

If you haven’t realized the full extent of what your education could be, and this goes for the underclassmen as well, it’s not too late. You all have (at least) another four years of valuable time that you can utilize to explore this notion, find your passions, and discover what you’re made of. But for the graduating class of 2015, unfortunately, that progression of your education is going to have to continue elsewhere. I hope you will keep in touch and would love to hear your personal mission statements as you figure them out. Just please, not in the receiving linethat part is already going to take really long. This entire community stands proudly behind what you’ve accomplished so far, and we hope you will come back and visit often.

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“What's Your Personal Mission Statement?” by John Chung, faculty speaker