by John Cunningham ’13 –
For a long time I have thought about what I might write my chapel speech on, and during that time I was looking for an experience that might be significant enough to share with all of you. My inspiration came only a few days ago, when Mr. Deary talked about being thankful. I felt as if he wrote his speech just for me because, like him, the Cunningham and Drew family is quite large, and Thanksgiving for us is the opportunity to have everyone together under one roof. I am thankful every day to be part of such an amazing family. I decided that my chapel speech should be a thank you note to my new family – Pomfret. From my best friends and teachers and coaches, to the kitchen staff and facility workers, I am truly thankful. I even wrote this thank you note in my own handwriting as Mr. Deary suggested. It turns out my handwriting is pretty awful, and even though it would probably be easier to “lick the stamp and everything” and just let you read my speech on your own straight from your mailbox, I’m sure Mr. Fisher wouldn’t approve. So for your sake, and my own, I typed it out and saved all of you the trouble. Here it goes:
I remember the advice my parents gave me right before they left me in my room at Pyne. My dad, being so wise, told me “Don’t be stupid, if you get kicked out I’ll kill you.” Thanks Dad for advice I’ll never forget. My mom, inspiring a little more confidence in me than my dad had said, “Be yourself, hit the ground running and have a good time.” She was telling me to “jump right in” as Mr. Fisher would put it. Fortunately enough, thanks to Coach Burke and Coach Rowe’s firm belief in fitness, I literally hit the ground running. Instead of jumping right in I was thrown into a starting position in a sport in which I knew one thing: kick the ball high and wide when it comes near you. And I don’t mean to ‘pump my own tires,’ but I’m not half bad at that. So, to Coach Burke and Coach Rowe and the guys on the soccer team, thanks for being my first and my best friends here at Pomfret. You guys made it easier for me to be my goofy self and have fun. Max, you were the first kid to ever talk to me here on the Hilltop and, you probably don’t remember it but it meant a lot to me. Now you’re my best friend and you’re going have to deal with me for another four years. So thank you, and happy birthday.
Before I came to Pomfret most of my contributions in school could be seen on the field or ice. I played my sports and did my homework and that was it. Here at Pomfret, all of you have encouraged me to broaden my horizons and try new things. For the first time in my life I took an acting class at school, and to this day I couldn’t be happier with the choice. Thank you to Mr. Lamb, and the kids in my Improv and sketch comedy class, for teaching me not only how to act, but how to try new things. It was with Mr. Lamb that I learned to “jump right in” and I’d like to think that I’ve been doing this ever since that class. I do my best to embrace every moment with as much enthusiasm as possible, and I work hard in everything that I do because I know that Pomfret expects nothing less.
Today, I am a prefect, a key head, a member of the DC committee, and a tri-varsity athlete and I owe all of my success to this School. I am thankful for all the encouragement that you have given to me. No smile or hello as I pass by goes unappreciated, and I do my best to make sure that I give it right back, or offer even the simplest of gestures to someone who looks upset. I have done my best to uphold Mr. Deary’s attitude of gratitude while I have been here. He talked about imagining our lives without family photos, trophies earned, and went on further to talk about imagining your life without an entire limb. When we do things like that it is easy to be thankful, and when I try to imagine life without people like Coach Wolanin and Mr. Clinton and Coach Sheehan, I just don’t think I would be the same person. I have learned from them how to be a better son, brother, friend, and student and I wanted to thank them for teaching all of us how to be better people.
My neighbor, Dr. Petit, said something that I will never forget at the memorial service for his family, “Help a neighbor, fight for a cause, and love your family.” I have done my best to stick to this motto and it is one that everyone here at Pomfret does even if they don’t know it. I can’t thank you enough for all the support you have given me. Pomfret is a place where kids don’t have to be afraid to try new things; they can be themselves and have confidence. You have let me be the goofy, fun loving kid that I am. I wake up everyday thankful that I can go to class and have fun and learn something with people that are just as enthusiastic as me. You have all taught me to appreciate the things that I have and I can’t thank you all enough for everything you have done for me.
To the guys in my advisory and Mr. Tucker, you’re weird and I couldn’t love you guys any more then I do; I can always look forward to a good laugh on Thursdays.
Finally, I can’t go without saying “thank you” to my family. Mom and Dad, you are my biggest fans and I love you guys. Drew and Griffin, you guys are the best brothers a guy could ask for. I miss you two dorks. And Daly, I know it’s tough being the only girl, but you know you love me, and I have to admit that you’re pretty cool too. I don’t approve of your new “he’s just a friend” friend Jimmy. I love you all so much and miss you every day.
Thank you so much. And I mean it.