Developing Virtue Boys’ School Alumni Graduation Speech Thursday, June 12, 2014
by: Bobby Antalek Jr. (Class of 2003)
It’s a great privilege to be here today and to see so many happy faces. It brings great joy to see so many of my teachers, friends, and family — especially my brothers. When I was in the 3rd grade, before I was a Boys’ School student, I sometimes walked to school with my older step-brother. On one particular morning, during one of our walks to school, several of my brother’s friends started teasing and bullying me. As his friends continued to pick on me, they turned to him and asked him, “What’s the matter, aren’t you going to stand up for your brother?” At that moment, my brother squinted his eyes, looked at me, and said, “Half-brother”, as he walked away. And then I came to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and to the Developing Virtue Boys School, where I discovered so many brothers. They not only stood up for me, but they were also not afraid to call me their brothers. I am proud to be a part of this brotherhood!
The Developing Virtue graduation ceremonies are very special, not just to celebrate the promotion of our students to higher grade levels – or even to college – but to reflect on what it actually means to be a Dragon (a student at the Boys School) and to reflect on our unique brotherhood. This is an opportunity for us to think about what we learned here and what it means to graduate from this special school. It’s an occasion for us to ask ourselves, “How am I going to integrate my experiences here with college and post-college life?” For several years, our students live in the monastery where our lives are basically planned and structured for us. Then we graduate and, suddenly, we are faced with so many choices. “How are we going to apply our experiences from Developing Virtue to those moments when we must make a choice? Or, do we allow our experiences and lessons to be lost and forgotten?” As you ruminate on that for a second and over the next several years, I want to share with you what many of your brother and sister alumni consider to be helpful advice for the next steps in your life.
The communication skills that you have learned here is probably the single most important tool you are going to use in college and in post-college life. And, if you decide not to pursue higher education, these skills may be even more important for you. Our goal, as we move forward, should be to continue to make healthy, positive exchanges with people and to not be afraid to communicate what we have learned here at the City. We should also be genuine in communicating our experiences and genuine in communicating who we are. As our world becomes more digitally advanced, it becomes easy for us Millennials to forget the meaning of a simple hand shake and a smile. Don’t be afraid to demonstrate compassion, to shake another person’s hand, to laugh, and to smile.
The second piece of advice is: never be afraid to ask for help! Many cultures consider it weak to ask for help, or many simply don’t know how to ask for help. We spend so many years here in the tight-knit community of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, where we are consistently guided and protected. But, once many of us leave this community, we encounter obstacles and difficult situations. It can be easy for us to feel alone, misunderstood, or discouraged and on the verge of failure. Don’t be afraid to reach out to our teachers, family, friends — and brothers! — from the City, if you ever feel alone or if you ever encounter obstacles. Asking for help demonstrates humility and is a process by which we grow and discover wisdom. Your social support network will also be crucial for coping with stress, which becomes only more prevalent during adulthood, as any one of your parents and teachers can tell you.
My last piece of advice (which is also a phrase that has been frequently spoken by the founder of our school) is to: try your best. Of all the words and phrases that have been spoken by the Venerable Master Hua, these have probably been the most powerful for me. There’s nothing mystical about these words or profoundly philosophical; yet, these words have rescued me from despair on many occasions. Master Hua taught us to be sincere, to try your best, and to give all of our hearts as we pursue wisdom and reach for our full potential. Master Hua also taught us to use common-sense.
[As a student, I never considered the Venerable Master’s Hua’s teachings to be profound. In fact, I believed that Master Hua taught mostly what can be considered “common-sense”. When I left the monastery, though, I realized that good, practical common-sense was actually not so common. People often forget how to be people or how to treat others as people; in order words, we forget to use common sense. As a result, the Venerable Master Hua shared lessons on common sense and taught his students the basics of being a person. This is what made him so profound, and this is what makes his school so special. So, I encourage you to use your common sense, especially when facing life’s countless decisions, big and small.]
Finally, I wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge the hard work and effort of one of our school leaders, Mr. Bostick. I had the great honor of being a student in Mr. Bostick’s Algebra II class, the very first course that he taught here at the Boys’ School. I was fortunate again two years later, as a senior, to learn Calculus under Mr. Bostick. This was a particularly special class for me, even though I wasn’t entirely thrilled about higher levels of mathematics. However, our class lessons often extended beyond math. During his Calculus class, for instance, Mr. Bostick frequently coached us on how we should conduct ourselves and to respect others; he taught us to be gentlemen, just as he was taught when he was a student. He encouraged us to be diligent and to persevere — to never give up.
Calculus class was also special because Mr. Bostick never required homework. We seniors thought we were in for our best year yet, after we heard this. No homework, plenty of free class periods, and a few more months to go before we graduated. Then, something happened. One morning, as Mr. Bostick had concluded his lesson for the day, his eyes began to tear, and soon after, he began to weep. As tears came down his face, he announced to us that his mother had passed away the night before. Our hearts were crushed, when he told us this. We became very sad, since we had become close to the elder Mrs. Bostick during her residence at the City, and because we also knew how much Mr. Bostick loved and cared for his mother. At that point, we also had realized how dedicated Mr. Bostick was to his students and to this school. So, despite not being given extra work, we assigned ourselves our own homework from our textbook and we worked hard for Mr. Bostick, who worked so hard for us.
Mr. Bostick, who has been the longest standing principal at Developing Virtue, has helped establish our school, to become the first fully accredited Buddhist high school in America. And, he has done this in accordance with the teachings and spirit of the Venerable Master Hua (our school founder), which is no easy task. So, on behalf of all alumni and students, we want to thank you for everything that you have given us.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the Developing Virtue seniors of 2014. It is no easy task to graduate from our school. I wish you the best of luck, and I hope you will continue to use common sense and hope you continue to Try Your Best!