Frankfurt International School’s Class of 2012

On Saturday 9 June 2012, Frankfurt International School’s class of 2012 received their diplomas during a graduation ceremony at the Oberursel Stadthalle. Below is the speech I shared with the class:

What an absolutely glorious day for graduation.

Everyone knows what Post-it Notes are: They are those great little self-stick notices, often yellow in color, that we all have used at work or in school. Most people love them. Some might argue that our senior class has a Post-it obsession. However, what most of you may not know is that Post-it Notes were not a planned product.

Good afternoon graduates, parents, faculty, and friends of our class of 2012. It is a great honor to welcome you, share a few thoughts, and introduce an incredible graduation speaker.

No one got the idea and then stayed up nights to invent it. A man named Spencer Silver was working in the 3M research laboratories in 1970 trying to find a strong adhesive. Silver developed a new adhesive, but it was even weaker than what 3M already manufactured. It stuck to objects, but could easily be lifted off. It was super weak instead of super strong.

Post-it Notes covered the Upper School as part of the 2012 Senior Prank

No one knew what to do with the stuff, but Silver didn’t discard it. Then one Sunday four years later, another 3M scientist named Arthur Fry was singing in his church’s choir. He used paper markers to keep his place in the hymnal, but they kept falling out of the book. Remembering Silver’s adhesive, Fry used some to coat his markers. Success! With the weak adhesive, the markers stayed in place, yet lifted off without damaging the pages. 3M began distributing Post-it Notes worldwide. Today, 42 years after Silver developed the super weak adhesive, Post-it Notes are one of the most popular office products available.

The Post-it Note exists today because its inventor realized that experiments that don’t yield the expected result are not failed experiments, but may offer lessons or opportunities to be used in the future. While it took one person to invent the adhesive, it took a colleague to be faced with a problem and, instead of giving up on the problem or accepting old, mediocre solutions, he was inspired to think differently, creatively and arrived at what some might call an “economic masterpiece.” 

The simple yellow Post-it Note became a symbol of the class of 2012 when they blanketed our halls with them as their Senior Prank this year. However, the origins of the Post-it Note are symbolic of this class because they too know how to give value to that which others might cast aside; they have the intellect, creativity and character to solve problems in a way that may change the world in ways that we cannot currently imagine.

In the same way the inventors of the Post-it Note could not envision its huge success, I’m sure your parents could not have imagined the person you would become when you first entered the world.

• Would they say their son will start or be an editor of a magazine?
• Would they guess their daughter is going to be a veterinarian?
• Would they have known he or she might speak four languages, be a songwriter, or be involved in humanitarian work in another country?
• Each member of the class of 2012 has a story to tell, but we only have time for a few.

Our stories begin with the Class of 2012 giving. Many of you have been to the Kalahari – some more than once. Others have joined in the Poland Drive or participated in the student futures committee with our Board of Trustees. Some have served as leaders of the Student Forum or Student Congress.

This was a very dynamic class of artists – exploring many media forms and techniques. Those who attended the IB Art Exhibition this year saw a great deal of diversity in our student artists. This year’s art exhibition proved that this group of graduating artists was more than prepared to uphold the strong tradition of visual expression we have every year at FIS.

The visual arts is only one of the areas in which our soon-to-be graduates excelled, and the stories continue through the performing arts. You have been a particularly creative class and this year we had a number of seniors in concert band, a thriving choir and FIS Singers membership, and many actors and dancers who performed in Zeitgeist, Beyond Imagination, and Dance in Studio 186. All of this underlines your commitment and loyalty, since most of the rehearsals and performances have taken place in your free time – which, as we all know, is a rare commodity for FIS Seniors!

Your stories of athletics are filled with ISST Champions, ISST all-tournament team, and ISST records broken. You lead, participate, and set the standard for sportsmanship. One of you even broke an ISST record with a shoe untied.

Graduates from the Class of 2012

Academics are of course at the core of our school. The class of 2012 is one that we can be truly proud of for their academic efforts, success, and commitment to learning. I recall a student working on a project that required adults to sit in a cage petting a rabbit where our blood pressure was measured before and after the rabbit petting. In one of her readings she became concerned when she noted very high blood pressure in what appeared to be a healthy adult. That seemingly healthy adult saw a doctor, required surgery, and is doing very well now. (The rabbit is now working full time at the Mayo Clinic.) From Frankfurt our students will go forth to continue their education around the world, with acceptance to schools in the UK such as Oxford and Cambridge; in Canada to McGill; the United States at Stanford; across the Pacific to Korea Sky Universities in Seoul and Yenisei; on to Japan’s Kyoto University; and here at home at exceptional German Universities.

In addition to academics, arts, athletics, and service, the class of 2012 can be summed up as being one of the friendliest, cooperative, helpful, united, and fun loving classes anyone can remember. As a father of two children at FIS I am so impressed at how the 12th graders set an example and talk with the younger students. It certainly wasn’t the norm with the seniors when I was in school. When the music was turned up at Prom last Friday night, it was clear this was a very special class of friends that will last a lifetime.

As you move on, however, like the many Post-it Notes that were stuck to my shoes six weeks ago, I hope you remain stuck to FIS as the fine graduates you have become. FIS will always be home for you.

Our graduation speaker this afternoon has yet another story to share. He is an individual who has no fear of transformation or transition.

The FIS mission begins with the statement that we inspire individuals to develop their intellect, creativity and character to become independent, adaptable, socially responsible and internationally minded citizens. This afternoon, I am pleased to introduce Oliver Reese

The long-standing Schauspiel Frankfurt is the largest theatre of the spoken word in the Rhine-Main region and is also well regarded across Germany as a platform with a nationwide profile. Oliver Reese has been theatre director 2009/10 season. 34 actors make up the fixed ensemble and form the core of the programme.

Some 35 new productions are developed per season. As a repertory theatre, the plays on offer change daily. Besides classic productions from Goethe, Schiller, Lessing and Kleist, the programme also includes numerous premieres and first performances and also has programmes specifically aimed at children and young people.

He brought new wind into the Frankfurt Playhouse – not only did he organize the renovation of the existing theatres, he opened up a small additional stage for smaller audiences. He also brought the best theater directors in Germany to Frankfurt for various productions as well as directing some of the pieces himself. He brought in a new troop of actors as well. His strategy has been very successful – the playhouse has never been more popular than in the last three years with many of the performances sold out. He made a big splash with one of his early productions – a German version of the Beatles White Album – an eclectic mix of music and acting.

Oliver shared a story with me when we met and like the Post it, his mother and father has one idea of what Oliver should pursue, yet Oliver had quite another. Oliver is a father of two daughters and we are fortunate to have such a creative force here to share his thoughts with our soon to be graduates of FIS. 

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