Dr. Scott Carpenter
Superintendent, Monomoy Regional School District
Office of the Superintendent
425 Crowell Road, 2nd Floor, Chatham, MA 02633
phone: (508) 945-5130 fax: (508) 945-5133
Superintendent�s Commencement Address 2019Posted by Scott Carpenter on 6/2/2019
Monomoy Regional High School Graducation
June 2, 2019
Dr. Scott Carpenter
Today we are about to launch Monomoy’s graduating Class of 2019 off into their futures. This year, I’m going to do something a little different by asking for a bit of help from a few brave souls in order to convey an important life lesson that I sometimes worry we haven’t fully imparted to our children before we send them off into the world.
We live in the second least diverse county of Massachusetts, and Massachusetts is far from the most diverse state in our union. Yet, your ability to embrace diversity and recognize the benefits of divergent perspectives and skills will be crucial for your success in life, and our success as a community and as a country.
In 2014, Scientific American published an article by Katherine Phillips titled “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter.” She emphasized that decades of research on organizational functionality has shown that diverse groups are more innovative than homogeneous ones. When we draw upon the perspectives, skills, and expertise of a diverse group of people, the group is able to come up with more creative solutions to complex problems. When we interact with group members who are different from us, it causes the group to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints, and to work harder at reaching consensus.
So, graduates, as you head off into the future, you will have opportunities in college and in your professional lives to surround yourself with teammates who look and think just like you – or you can choose to surround yourself with those who have different perspectives and cultures. The research is clear: If you do all you can to ensure more diverse groupings, be it race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and more, your project or venture will be more successful.
The positive impact of diversity spans beyond the productivity of teams. Cultural diversity fuels local and national economies as well. Whether at the organizational level, the local level, or national level, embracing diversity enhances output by increasing the breadth of skills, ideas, and innovative solutions.
We are at an inflection point in the demographics of our country, and this is rapidly becoming evident here on Cape Cod. According to the U.S. census, next year white children will be outnumbered by the children from other ethnic backgrounds, who we have long referred to as minorities. Closer to home, our kindergarten and first grade classrooms at Monomoy are nearly twice as culturally diverse as the graduating Class of 2019 on stage here today. And, before our graduates reach the age of 45, the United States will be a “majority minority” country. As a society, we can react to this change with xenophobia, discrimination, and segregation, or we can leverage in our favor the truism that embracing diversity in all its forms makes us stronger.
My Irish ancestors fled a potato famine and immigrated to our country because of a belief that this was the land of opportunity, where they could position their children to have better lives than if they remained across the sea. In the late 1800s, Cape Verdeans immigrated to our region for much the same reason, seizing upon opportunities available within the whaling industry, fishing industry, and the cranberry bogs. The descendants of this Cape Verdean influx have become deeply woven into the fabric of our community, in roles ranging from Police Chief to judge to State Representative to teachers to business owners, including Lombard’s Concrete Blocks, a company owned for decades by Charles and Ella Lombard. I’m pleased that we have Ella Lombard with us today, having recently celebrated her 98th birthday. Ella’s great-grandson and several other descendants of these Cape Verdean immigrants will be poised with their Monomoy diplomas to realize even greater success than their parents and their parents’ parents – something fundamental to the American dream.
Many of today’s first-generation families were drawn to Cape Cod by seasonal opportunities within the hospitality, restaurant, tourism, and home maintenance industries. These parents have gone on to become year-round employees and small business owners. Some of their children are also on this stage, equally poised to leverage the learning they acquired in Monomoy’s classrooms to propel them towards futures their parents long dreamed about. To our bilingual graduates, many of whom had the added challenge of being immersed in a new culture and language while navigating their way through childhood and school, know that your perspectives, insights, and linguistic abilities position you to succeed in an increasingly multicultural and global economy. To all of our graduates, never lose sight of how important cultural competence will be in your lives.
In keeping with this theme, I’ve invited the parents of a few of our graduates to share thoughts and advice from their cultural perspective.
First, we please welcome Jean-Claude Butter, who originally came to Cape Cod to work in food services at Eastward Ho. Today he is a caregiver for Cape Cod Health Care.
Jean-Claude Butter: After coming to America from Haiti in 1996, I was lucky to visit Cape Cod because my cousin worked a Chatham Bars Inn. It didn’t take long to fall in love with the Cape and decided to bring my kids here when they were six and seven. Last year my daughter Darcelle graduated here and today my son Claude is graduating. Having my family here is a dream come true, but I have never forgotten my roots. Our Haitian flag has a banner that reads “L’union fait la force” meaning “Unity creates strength.” As Haitians, we all depend on each other and emphasize this with a proverb “Yon sel nou feb, ansanm nou fo, ansanm ansanm nou pi fo” which means “one, we’re weak; two, we’re strong; together, we’re stronger.” I’ve seen this manifest in the Haitian community, where everyone is always willing to help and support you.
My ancestors used to say, “l’unite dans la diversite est la plus grande force” which roughly translates to “when you have unity amongst a diverse group, that is when you are most powerful.” I am proud to be Haitian and have availed myself to the vast opportunities provided by this country. Graduates, don’t be afraid to express your heritage or background, which enhances this puzzle we call life. Hold fast the values of peace, love, and humility, and remember “L’union fait la force.”
Please welcome Hari Rai and his wife Sabina. They run the Public Café, a hidden gem of a restaurant on Main Street in Chatham with some enchanting Nepalese food that will make you want to embark on a journey to explore their entire menu.
Hari Rai: Good afternoon everyone, or as we say in Nepal, “Sewa Namaste.” I first moved to Cape Cod 12 years ago to work as a prep cook at Scargo Café. Without that opportunity, none of us would be here today, so to Peter and David, thank you both very much. I worked at Scargo for a total of 11 years. My two brothers and my youngest brother’s wife also wound up moving here as well. With hard work, my wife and two daughters were finally able moved here five years ago.
Nepal, where I come from, is a comparatively small country. It is home to 123 distinct languages, with nearly as many separate races, religions and cultures. As we say in a portion of the Nepal National Anthem:
“Sayuan thunga phoolka hami yautia mala Nepali
Bahu jaati bhashha dharma sanskritee chha bisala”
“Hundreds of different flowers, create one beautiful garden.
A multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural populace makes for a stronger society.”
Next welcome Jose Germosen, one of the landscapers who helps make this part of the Cape such a beautiful place to live.
Jose Germosen: I am Jose Germosen, Etai’s dad. My family came from the Dominican Republic. Dominicans have a strong community. We are always there to help each other, much like this graduating class.
When I was young I did not have an opportunity to get as good an education as my children got at Monomoy. My wife and I, like many Latinos, made a lot of sacrifices in order for our children to have a better future by migrating to this country. Thank God, our sacrifices have paid off, as you can see today. My advice to the graduates, is do as my family did – if you have a dream follow it, and be happy. "Si tienes un sueño, persíguelo y sé feliz.”
Finally, I’m pleased to introduce Minster Kirtis Shakespear, who can feed your hunger as a chef at Pate’s in Chatham and feed your soul as one of the ministers at the Zion Union Church in Hyannis.
Kirtis Shakespear: Good afternoon. Eighteen years ago my wife and I migrated from Jamaica to the Cape to work in the hospitality and restaurant industry. At first it was very challenging to adjust because of the diversity of cultures and the fear of discrimination; however, the word of God reminds us constantly that we are all one in his eyes. This helped us move away from fear and embrace people by showing love.
The Jamaican motto “Out of many one people” is a constant reminder for Jamaicans everywhere, that our country is based on the population’s multiracial roots. It emphasizes the fact that we are stronger when we work together. Which leads to the saying “wi li-li but wi talawah” meaning when we work together we may be small but we have great effects in whatever we do and wherever we go. Or, as one Jamaican singer wrote “Wi a one big family living inna dis ya cuntry” – regardless of where you’re from, we are one.
To all the graduates, I challenge you to “dance a yard before you gaa brawd” or do the necessary training at home before you go out in the real world. My family thrives on this saying and are standing here today as proud parents. Graduates you’re getting ready to go out in a new environment take the training that was given here, embrace diversity and trust God in all you do. Monomoy may be a small school district but be reminded that “wi li-li but wi talawah.” God bless you all.
I find speaking at graduation, before a crowd this size, as one of the most anxiety producing things I do each year as Superintendent, and I cannot be more impressed by the willingness and courage of Jean-Claude, Hari, Jose, and Kirtis to help me today. Thank you.
I’ll conclude by drawing inspiration from our Cape Verdean community’s motto of “Unity-Work-Progress.” These words can guide us in weaving together the diversity that surround us. We can foolishly let differences divide us, or we can reap the benefits that unity brings when we celebrate our differences, work together in ways that are smarter, more creative, and more productive, and strive for continual progress as a community and a nation. As you move into your life beyond Monomoy, my hope is that you are well prepared to speak your voice and hear the voices of those around you, especially when different from yours. It was the richness of cultural diversity that made America great. How successfully each of us embraces this diversity over the next several decades will determine, in part, whether we keep this country great.