Retired Supreme Court justice addresses graduates at Brunswick
GREENWICH — Prominent speakers at commencements are not a rarity in town, but Brunswick School outdid even Greenwich’s history when graduates and their families learned that retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy would be delivering the address at Wednesday’s ceremony.
The school kept the speaker’s identity under robes until the graduation, when attendees opened their programs for the independent school’s 117th commencement exercises.
In the Dann Gymnasium, Kennedy, 82, greeted the 100 members of the Class of 2019, including his great-nephew, Timothy Kennedy Saunders, as he took the podium for his speech.
“Remember: Know your history and traditions,” Kennedy told the assembled students, parents, staff and friends from beneath the backdrop of a painting of the Brunswick Bruin climbing from a giant brown-and-gold B.
Kennedy told the graduating seniors that they are responsible for safe-guarding the traditions of Brunswick School, their families and the United States. The school has a history of alumni who fought wars for freedom; the family is where young people learn respect; and the nation has a tradition of outlining and enshrining its citizens’ freedoms, he said.
Nominated to the high court by President Ronald Reagan, Kennedy served from Feb. 18, 1988, until his retirement on July 31, 2018. He was succeeded by his former law clerk, Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation hearings made headlines.
In a speech sprinkled with references to Aristotle, the Founding Fathers and Alfred Tennyson, Kennedy told the graduates civility and democracy are at stake in our nation.
“We must show (the world) that we are capable of having a discussion, that we can have a consensus, a dialogue that is rational, thoughtful, fair and kind,” the retired Supreme Court justice said.
William Frauen Jr., the class valedictorian, introduced the event’s Ivy Speaker, fellow graduate Thomas Kimberlin, a commended student in the 2019 National Merit Scholarship Program and recipient of an award from the Greenwich Arts Council.
Kimberlin spared few of his peers in jokes of the kind that are the hallmark of high school graduation speeches. But when he told a story about a time he experienced failure, and felt the support of his fellow students and teachers, the student turned serious.
Once, he vowed to complete an astronomy project independently. He staked out what he thought was the star he was searching for and programmed his telescope to take five hours’ worth of pictures. On deadline for a science competition, Kimberlin reviewed the photos but saw only a gray line.
He did not expect his peers to be sympathetic — or to agree to partner with him on another project. But they did. Likewise, his teacher continued to encourage and support his project.
“I don’t care where you go next year. You’re not going to find people like you will here,” Kimberlin said. “Don’t be the kid that found the wrong star. Embrace the support around you.”
Eight seniors were presented with special awards celebrating academic standing, community service and athleticism, as well as leadership, generosity and positivity. Twenty of the graduates had been students at Brunswick since prekindergarten.