Welcome to our new PIERCE-The American College of Greece (ACG) alumni, who received a standing ovation from their parents, friends, teachers, ACG Trustees and guests at the celebratory 2015 Commencement Ceremony held at the PIERCE Theatre on Sunday, June 28.
In his commencement speech, ACG Trustee Dr. Anthony T. Kronman congratulated the 126 graduating young men and women and advised them that though Greece is going through a difficult time, they should see it as an opportunity to pause and reflect, much as Socrates would, in order to make the light of Greece “shine again.”
Dr. Kronman reflected “Life would be so much easier if everything had been prepared in advance—if all the old, reliable paths remained open. But, this is not a piece of bad luck. It is a priceless opportunity that few are ever given. How many generations are called to such a task? Tonight’s graduates, and the families that love and support them, will need all the courage they can muster. They will need stamina and imagination. But one day, years hence, if they rise to the occasion, they may be able to say what only the greatest patriots can: ‘we made the light of Greece, which has lit the West for thousands of years, shine again for all the world to see.’”
Dr. Kronman, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale Law School and its former dean, also prodded the Class of 2015 that “to succeed, they will require a healthy dose of Socratism. They will have to cultivate the same unwillingness to accept the conventional answers to questions that made Socrates so threatening to those who took the existing order for granted. They will have to have the nerve to say that they don’t know why the economic and political order their parents and teachers have bequeathed them must be accepted on faith, and be prepared to rethink it from the ground up. They will have to be as relentless as Socrates was in cross-examining the beliefs of those who claim to know better,” he noted, adding, “They must learn to say, as Socrates did, ‘we are the wisest ones because we know that we know nothing.’ And they have to do this out of a love for their country, and in the Socratic belief that the life of a nation, like that of a person, must be examined to be worth living.”
Dr. Kronman also advised students to be modest and live in wonder in the Socratic way, and to read Plato’s account of the Trial of Socrates once a year for the rest of their lives, as he can “think of no better way of gauging how well one is doing in the struggle to live a life that is as fully human as any can be.”
On his part, ACG President Dr. David G. Horner told the audience that he had faith in the PIERCE seniors due to their intellectual fortitude, strong character, social sensitivity, and extrovert nature. “We have seen them demonstrate the exact characteristics that can, and, I believe, will lead Greece to a new and brighter future.”
Congratulating the graduating class of 2015, PIERCE Principal Olga Julius spoke of the tools that PIERCE has given its graduates, among them values such as the School’s motto: Non ministrari, sed ministrare – to serve, not be served. “Everything you have learned is locked inside each and every one of you. We want you to continue to be creative and dream and make [these dreams] reality,” she urged seniors.
PIERCE Principal Olga Julius addresses the Class of 2015
President Horner presented a host of student awards: the President’s Award was given to Aikaterini Psilopoulou for her achievements in English. The Minnie Mills award was given to Georgios Vergos for his leadership in the school community. The academic achievement awards went to the seniors with the first (Valedictorian) and second (Salutatorian) highest grade point average (GPA). Valedictorians this year were Argyrios Patikos with a 19.7 GPA (including Greek Panhellenic exam grades) and Eva Parisi with a 19.9 GPA. Salutatorians with a 19.5 GPA were Maria Irene Pappa, Senanta Karmai, Charisios Lioutas and Angelike Sykioti.
The Harvard Prize Book was awarded to by B Lyceum student Vasileios Benopoulos, who distinguished himself in a number of school activities.
Speaking on behalf of the graduating students, senior Antonios Belegrinos told his peers that they should give a strong round of applause to their families that have supported them throughout their studies, which the students enthusiastically did.
“Albert Camus said that each new generation thinks that it is destined to fix the world, but it’s mission is perhaps more important – that is to stop the world from spoiling,” Antonios said, adding, “This, our second debt, is objectively more difficult than the first. We have to buckle down and with caution pick through with which pieces of our world are still alive. We have an obligation to maintain the important values and ideals, such as freedom, democracy, solidarity and selfless giving, because these inspire man and help him extend beyond his finite self. ”
Senior Aikaterini Psilopoulou delivered her student address in English, advising her peers “as Steve Jobs said, ‘the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do’…And above all, don’t settle. Don’t sacrifice your dreams; don’t let clouds of doubt distract you from your goal. People will discourage you over time…Don’t let them steal away your enthusiasm, your zest, Don’t condemn yourself to a life of 9-5 misery.” She concluded with the advice: “and in moments of doubt, remember, there’s a compass within you that guides you and a fire that will keep you going throughout this long journey.”
Dr. Horner concluded the ceremony by presenting the PIERCE Class of 2015 with their graduation diplomas, followed by his “charge to the graduates.” In his speech celebrating the PIERCE Class of 2015, Dr. Horner
“charged” the 2015 seniors with seizing all the opportunities before them, building on the principles of the school, 140 years after the founding of ACG, to spread “light and love and hope to those around you.”
Congratulations PIERCE Class of 2015, our new alumni, who also achieved three times more outstanding grades in the Panhellenic Examinations than the national average.
About Dr. Anthony T. Kronman
Professor Anthony T. Kronman is a member of the Academy of Arts & Sciences and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is Sterling Professor of Law at Yale Law School and its former dean. He also teaches Philosophy, Literature, History and Politics in the Directed Studies Program at Yale College, and has authored and coauthored four books and several scholarly articles.
In June 2004, he was named Commander of the French National Order of Merit. He has also served on the board of various non-profit organizations, such as the Yale University Press, has worked as Director of Adelphia Communications Corporation, and has been of Counsel to the law firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner since June 2008.
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