by Timothy Sanzi
On Thursday April 28th, the East Greenwich High School Chapter of the National Honor Society held an Induction Ceremony to welcome new members from the junior and senior class. The National Honor Society works to provide student-run services throughout the school, including Peer-Tutor programs and SAT prep.
The ceremony, attended by family and community members, listened to inspired speeches by Mr. Podraza, several NHS officers including President Jeremy Bernard-Sasges, and James H. Eldredge Principal Mr. Dominic Guisti (as keynote speaker). A candle lighting accompanied by short speeches commenced which extolled the four virtues of every National Honor Society member: Scholarship, Service, Leadership, and Character. Every new name was called and new members shuffled onto the stage to sign their name in the book and receive their certificate and pin.
Mr. Lenox, advisor of the chapter, gave the closing remarks. (The entirety of the speech can be found below). He spoke passionately about acceptance, with a special emphasis on transgender rights, citing Caitlyn Jenner and a young child named Mia, who are both transgender individuals. The speech was met with mixed reactions, with some angered at Mr. Lenox’s choice of topic. Despite some displeased with the speech, Mr. Lenox called each one of the new members to be “a model of tolerance and kindness.” When asked her opinion about the speech, Anna Buckley responded, “I think his choice of topic scared some people, but his passion and emotion during the speech was certainly evident. It was very unique and made a statement.”
The 2016-2017 National Honor Society will convene soon to discuss new officers and possible projects. The Spectrum and its staff would like to extend congratulations to the new members of the EGHS National Honor Society.
Mr. Podraza, Mr. Giusti, Parents and Guests,
Thank you for coming this evening to our Induction Ceremony.
Also, congratulations to our new Inductees and to our graduating seniors. I envy you for having so many opportunities ahead of you.
In the summer of ‘76, I was 10 years old. Patriotism was sweeping across the nation as we celebrated America’s bicentennial. I distinctly remember climbing onto the roof to view fireworks displays throughout the summer. We painted the fire hydrants in our neighborhood as revolutionary soldiers. But the events I remember most were the Summer Olympic games in Montreal; where American athletes collected their share of gold medals; one person in particular.
For me, Bruce Jenner was the epitome of the male athlete. In my mind, being a decathlete, Jenner won 10 gold medals. And Wheaties was not my favorite cereal, but with Jenner’s image on the box, I would have a second helping. In light of events over the past year, I struggle with Jenner’s gender change. I was raised to be content with who you are, and to be true to yourself. For Jenner, this presents a conflict.
But during his… rather, her interview with Diane Sawyer, Caitlyn Jenner said something that struck me as profound. She said, “I am not a woman trapped in a man’s body. This is who I am.” This statement is not only a courageous step for Jenner, it prompts all of us to re-examine gender stereotypes.
A second story aired the same week as the Jenner interview but received much less publicity. I think it is a story we can better appreciate. It is about the gender identity and subsequent change of girl named Mia. Mia is 4 years old.
I cannot comment on the gender awareness of a toddler. But like so many of us, I can identify with parents who exhaust themselves trying to help their child discover his or her identity; whether it be intellectual, athletic, or appearance.
After much consultation, the decision was made. No surgery, no hormonal therapy; just a haircut, a name-change, and a new school. With that, Mia became Jacob.
This story troubles me because someday a ‘Jacob’ will enter my classroom. As a teacher, I pride myself on helping students feel comfortable so they may take on greater academic challenges. But I don’t know how to make Jacob comfortable. I don’t want to be that teacher standing over a student announcing, “What do you mean you don’t know what gender you are?” Wouldn’t this just destroy a student’s sense of trust and confidence?
But this I do know. I know Gender should not be a factor concerning a student’s performance in the classroom. I know that I cling to some stereotypes that can be gender-biased. And I know I can look to each of you, members of the National Honor Society, to be a model for tolerance and kindness.
You have demonstrated the ability to make this a safe place; a place where we can dialogue and learn from each other. Tonight is simply a declaration of these values. From this point forward, I ask you to embrace these values and make them your own so they become a driving force behind everything you do. This is what it means to be a member of the National Honor Society.