Chief’s Farewell – Matt Ross

Matthew Ross

When my brother graduated from Redwood seven years ago, his yearbook photo was accompanied by a quote from the classic movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:” “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I thought I understood it then, but recently it’s taken on a different meaning for me. It sounds quite cliché on the surface, but I suspect Matthew Broderick really snuck some meaning into the 1986 comedy with those words.

Maybe it’s because we spend all of our time thinking about where we’d prefer to be, very rarely living in the present. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you to slow down and reflect—just for a moment. I invite you to consider some ideas that I associate with this essential act of mindfulness.

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I have come closer to understanding, with the guidance of one particular Redwood teacher who wished to remain anonymous, the purpose of my education thus far. Regardless of whether you believe this has been the purpose of your education, I hope you will find it thought-provoking. And I hope it will lead you to your own conclusions about how education can be used as an instrument in the search for meaning in our lives.

In his essay, titled “Spoiling Children,” my teacher argues that the purpose of our education has been to more deeply understand ourselves and, therefore, our world. I would like to think I have begun to consider the question that he poses: Why does our education matter? Attempting to answer this question, as my teacher writes, is a critical part of our development as young people, and a crucial first step toward understanding how best to lead our lives.

When I read my teacher’s essay on this topic for the first time, I felt overwhelmed with relief. For some reason, those 5 1/2 pages seemed to amount to everything I had wondered throughout my Redwood education. Finally, I was reading the thoughts I could never put into words.

These ideas surrounding the concept of purpose can be distilled down to one question I have contemplated for many years: What are we going to do with our lives? I spend a lot of time thinking about what I can do with my improbable existence, and I encourage you to do the same.

We must be unnerved by what we see in this world when we leave behind the comfort of childhood and innocence. This healthy and necessary discomfort with reality comes after being exposed to its concurrent beauty and ugliness through education. In the end, I hope that in my attempt to be not only an intellectually curious student but also a self-aware human being, I have initiated the journey he describes: an education that ultimately translates to “develop[ing] empathy, … acquir[ing] a sense of justice, and promot[ing] compassionate action in our world.” The goal of our education, in other words, is to encourage us to be more aware, transforming our thoughts into action as we mature from innocence to experience. The purpose of our four years here is to graduate with the determination to do good in our world, taking into consideration not only our own lives but also the existence of humanity altogether.