2022 Wilton High School Graduation Speaker: WHS Principal Dr. Robert O’Donnell

Graduation 2022 (photo: GMW/Lori Buchanan)

“It is an honor to greet and welcome graduates, students, staff, parents, community members, Dr. Smith, and members of the Board of Education. We also want to welcome family members, some of whom will be viewing this ceremony virtually across the nation. I extend a special shout-out to Joe Eustace and our WE-TV team for filming and broadcasting the ceremony for the world to see.

“Graduates, it is outstanding to see you all here together today for this momentous occasion. Congratulations! I am so pleased that you’ve been able to enjoy these last weeks together. If your smiles, laughs and camaraderie at the senior picnic and yearbook signing on Wednesday are an indication of your joy you’ve been experiencing, then you are doing great. I hope that you will have an outstanding and memorable PGP tonight.

“On this occasion, I want to share with you a brief, but important message of hope and optimism. You sit here today, extremely well prepared for the challenges that you will face beyond our school. Be confident in your learning and in the preparation, and you’ll be ready to have a major impact at work at college and in the military. Our excellent teachers have prepared you well, and I am confident that you’ll excel in this next phase of your lives. I trust that you’ve expressed your gratitude to all of your parents for working hard to place you in the Wilton Public Schools.

“Recently, I was reading an article in educational leadership entitled, ‘Future-Proofing Students.’ The article was written by Dr. Michelle Borba, who is an educational psychologist, teacher and international speaker. She has written many books and recently penned a book entitled Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine. (By the way, you’re all shining today.) The author cited some traits most highly correlated with resilience, mental health and performance.

“The first trait is self-confidence. Again, please be confident in yourself and in your preparation. Individuals who focus on their strengths are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs, more than three times [as] likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general; further confidence is a key trait that recruiters and organizers seek when hiring employees.

“The second important trait cited in this article and the one that we have sought to instill in you in Wilton High School is empathy. So many of you have demonstrated empathy with each other over the past four years in your student design service projects. Empathy is essential for future-proofing students because it boosts human traits like trust, creativity and pro-social behaviors.

“You’ve demonstrated a third trait cited by this author with flying colors — perseverance. Your high school landscape may not have turned out exactly as you would’ve painted it, but here you are together today, feeling like champions because of your personal focus, your effort and your intrinsic motivation.

“A survey by the National Association of College Employers revealed that 100% of employers expect you to have tenacity, professionalism, and a strong work ethic. You have learned all of these traits here at Wilton High School.

“Finally, optimism is a key trait for your future prospects. Dr. [Borba] writes that optimistic kids view challenges as temporary and able to be overcome. With optimism, you are more likely to succeed at school and at life. Personally, I am far more optimistic about society, our nation and world events knowing that we are sending graduates like you out as the next generation. I’m confident in you.

“In closing, thank you for your immeasurable contributions to our school community. Dr. Smith, I present to you this well-prepared, confident, empathetic, optimistic, Wilton High School graduating Class of 2022. Thank you.”


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