Residing in the Hearts of These Brave Young Men
By Christopher D. Day P’12,’13, Head of School
Our students—our boys—are together in their isolation. Pining for one another and for the community that they have built together, Cardigan boys, present and past, know the bonds that develop to create this brotherhood. The strength of that bond is never more noticeable than when we are necessarily separated from each other.
Our school is led by our ninth graders. As they go, we go. It has ever been that way and will always be so. This group of young men has led with empathy, they have shown ginormous courage and self-sacrifice, and they have cared for each other and helped each other find their way home. But whether they come from Melrose or Monterrey, Boise or Beijing, Seoul or San Francisco, their common home is here, on The Point, and inside of each one of them. This crisis has shown us that the Cardigan experience transcends borders. It resides inside the hearts of these brave young men.
The tears that often stream down the faces of our boys at Commencement reflect sadness...but not the kind of which most of us think. I have come to believe that they are tears shed to mark the value of shared experiences, often completely mundane, that combine to create this magical brotherhood—a bond which our boys aren’t taught to articulate or describe by their teachers. They know it though; they know it because they built it...through races to the locker room after a rainy practice in the fall, through helping a hallmate do his job collecting the dorm trash. It’s putting time in on a dish crew at mealtime, and it’s supporting a brother as he stands on the stage in Humann and does his best to make music come out of his instrument. It’s meshing so well with your teammates in hockey that you know—YOU KNOW—that you can sauce a no-look pass to the high slot and your linemate will be waiting, poised for a one-timer. The strength of our community is the amalgam of lots of delicate moments and pieces. So when we are confronted with a challenge like we all are now, the Cardigan boy knows how to react. The inner strength, which is the hallmark of a Cardigan boy, is the salutary residue of living in this community.
Each year at Cardigan is unique, comprised always of some rich admixture of people, programs, and shared experiences. Comparing one year or graduating class to another is like trying to rank one’s children; it can’t—shouldn’t—really be done. This group, however, the Class of 2020, and those who surrounded them and helped shape their Cardigan experience—their younger brothers, faculty, staff, and supportive families—has featured a poise and strength that belies their existence as “middle school boys.” The reservoir of love—for one another and for this greater community and for the experience that is, and has been, Cardigan Mountain School—deserves special recognition. These are “foxhole boys,” the kind you want on your side during tough times and the kind who will provide a shoulder—free of judgement—and a laugh and folly in turn. These boys have led and continue to lead us through. Their composition, like that of a great sports team or orchestra, cannot be assembled through a selection of individuals. Their greatness comes from their existence in this moment as a collection of brothers, vibrating together from all corners of the globe, producing an exceptional whole, whose strength and core were revealed by the challenges it encountered—challenges that shed the layers of frivolity that all of us carry in our lives like pacifiers.
I’ve often remarked that there is no magic to this place, to this experience. The ordinary, when lived by the insistence of Cardigan’s Core Values, becomes the extraordinary. The pages that follow are filled with examples—from this year, from these boys, to Cougars past. They share a bond that is earned by embracing the commitment to one another, to the healthy growth of a boy, at this time and in this place. Together alone, together.