Principal Collins addresses the 2019 National Honor Society Inductees:
When I first became principal of St. Thomas Aquinas, a former principal offered me a bit of advice. “Whatever you do,” he said, “surround yourself with people of integrity. You’ll make mistakes, you will fall short sometimes, but if you and your team are honest...and open...and committed to the school’s mission...you can survive those mistakes.”
Over the years, I’ve made my share of mistakes. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with an outstanding and honorable team of administrators who serve an exceptional faculty and staff...beginning with Mr. Holtz in 2009, and continuing up to Mrs. Caron, Ms St. Laurent, Mr. Brown, Mr. Adams and Mr. Cullen today. In fact, I would be proud to hold up any of the adult members of the STA family as examples of integrity and character. You young men and women can confidently look to every one of them as role models.
Why do I mention this? Well, you’re not being inducted into the National Academic Society, or the National Scholars Society, or the National Smart Student Society...though you are indeed that. No, the operative word is Honor. National. Honor. Society. We can ask for nothing more important of you than that...to live your lives in the service of your own honor.
And when will honor come into play in your lives? It will be when you are being tested by events, when your patience is being tried, when the challenges you face are so numerous that you are left weary to the bone. At those times, it will not be your intelligence that serves you best nor your skills nor your expertise. It will be your integrity, your nobility, your very character.
Sophocles, the great Greek tragedian once said, “Honor isn't about making the right choices. It's about dealing with the consequences.”
We live in a time when honor and honesty seems to be in short supply in the world outside these walls. Daily, we see the evidence of this where people are all too willing to trade their self-respect and integrity in exchange for proximity to power. Where far too many individuals seek to curry favor from those whose price for their servitude is that person’s soul.
But here, in the place where we say “welcome home,” you have been blessed to learn the value of possessing an unvarnished character. You learn it in the Scripture and the literature you read, in the art and music you experience, and even in the Math and Science you explore because every one of those subjects are taught by people whose only driving force is to how to best serve your needs.
There is a play by Edmond Rostand called Cyrano de Bergerac. It’s the story of a tragically homely man who is both an accomplished swordsman and poet. Despite this, he lives in relative poverty because he will not abandon his values for fame or fortune. When a friend tries to convince him that perhaps he should compromise so that he won’t starve, he says:
“What would you have me do? ...Scratch the back of any swine/ That roots up gold for me? Tickle the horns/Of Mammon with my left hand, while my right/Too proud to know his partner's business,/Takes in the fee? No thank you! .../Calculate, scheme, be afraid,/Love more to make a visit than a poem,/Seek introductions, favors, influences?-/No thank you! No, I thank you! And, again, I thank you./But.../To sing, to laugh, to dream/To walk in my own way,/Free, with an eye to see things as they are.../[And] with all modesty/To say: "My soul, be satisfied with flowers,/With fruit, with weeds even; but gather them/In the one garden you may call your own."
During your time here, we have surrounded you with people of integrity. In the next few years, as you head out into the world, I ask you to do the same for yourself. Seek the companionship of those who will trust, value and love you for who you are. You have been found worthy of membership in the National Honor Society; you have earned it by demonstrating Scholarship, Leadership, Character and Service. And those are astonishingly admirable qualities.
Don’t ever sell yourself short. You’re too valuable for that. And heed the advice I once received: surround yourself with people of integrity -- you will value their friendship. More importantly, they will value yours.
Congratulations and may God bless each and every one of you.