The Rhythm of Life: THIS 2012 Grads Offer Wishes for the Future

On Friday, June 15, 14 seniors from Tsinghua International School marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. As the second graduating class in THIS history, the students upheld a tradition that began only last year.                                                                                                                       

Around 200 parents, friends, and fellow students gathered in THIS’ auditorium, which was bedecked in red lanterns, Chinese infinity knots, and Tsinghua’s school colors of purple and white.

The graduates – who hailed from five countries (the US, China, Canada, Japan, and Indonesia) – wore black gowns and caps accessorized with purple stoles and tassels. They’ve been accepted to the following universities: New York University (NYU), University of Toronto, University of Southern California, Barnard College, Keio University, University of British Columbia, École Hôtelière de Lausanne, University of Waterloo, University of Miami, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

The ceremony was presided over by Masters of Ceremonies Tyler Shelden (THIS mathematics teacher), Toni Dong (assistant director of administration) and student MCs Jeffery Yu and Shannon Zhao (both juniors).

After some opening remarks from Executive Principal Shi Ping and High School Principal Wang Dianjun, THIS’ eighth grade students received certificates from Secondary Director Martha Ortiz. The students spontaneously started clapping during the Grade 8 montage video that followed.

This year’s keynote speaker was local personality Kaiser Kuo, director of international communications for Baidu. He is also a writer, rock musician, media commentator, and former columnist for beijingkids’ sister publication, the Beijinger. “A commencement speech is one of the hardest things a writer can write,” he noted.

“We go into college as children, and some of us come out as adults,” he said, reminiscing about his own university days. “College is where you first fall in love with ideas, fight about them, and challenge them.” Kuo recalled staying up late to have deep conversations with his college roommate (“what we called our ‘awe of the universe’ talks”), who remains one of his closest friends.

He stressed the advantages that THIS graduates would have, as bicultural and bilingual world citizens: “You will be in a unique position and be able to see things from both sides. Build bridges! Resist the urge to be offended by some people’s attitudes about China.”

After Kuo’s speech, a video montage of the seniors’ baby pictures, activities, and universities was shown. Then, elected student speaker Cameron Sun (Sun Jiahong) took the stage. Originally from China, Sun plans to attend Brown University in the fall. He’s undecided on his major, as students only have to pick in sophomore year. Scroll down to reach Sun’s speech in its entirety.

The speech was followed by the sealing of the “wish box,” in which each graduating student inserted their wishes for the future. The contents will be revisited at the Class of 2012’s 20-year high school reunion.

Then, THIS’ choir filed onstage to perform a jaunty song called “The Rhythm of Life” from the Broadway musical Sweet Charity. The catchy chorus goes:

Yes, the Rhythm of Life is a powerful beat,
To feel the Rhythm of Life,
To feel the powerful beat,
To feel the tingle in your fingers,
To feel the tingle in your feet

Right before the seniors received their diplomas, a rather unlikely father-daughter comedic duo took to the podium. THIS parent Li Gang offered his best wishes to the graduating class, with his daughter (and senior) Jennifer Li translating in English. As the audience roared to his deadpanned jokes, he ended with a personal entreaty to a teacher: “Get married and have kids soon! Your parents have been waiting for a while!”

Indeed, the rhythm of life is a powerful beat.

For more pictures from THIS’ graduation ceremony, check out our online gallery. All photos by The Bloom Family Photography

Student Speaker Cameron Sun’s Full Speech:

Thank you, Mr. Shelden and Ms. Dong.

Dear parents, faculty, students, and friends of the THIS Community.

It is a great honor to be speaking on behalf of the Tsinghua International School Class of 2012 today.

Two weeks ago, the seniors decided to put me up to a tough challenge: writing and delivering the graduation speech. At the same time, Principal Shi came up to me and said that if the audience doesn’t like my speech, the school’s not going to give me my diploma, I’m not going to graduate, and I will be a miserable person for the rest of my life. With that said, in the next five minutes or so, please take my speech seriously because I don’t want to stay in high school for another year.

Thank you.

OK. So I realized that this is one of my final moments at THIS as a student, therefore theoretically I could say anything I possibly want to because two hours from now, I will be out of this place, and none of you will ever find me again. However, I know Mr. Rathbun is videotaping this entire ceremony, as usual, so I’d better behave well so next year when people watch this video, they are going to say “Oh, that guy is smart, and Brown University made the right choice.”

I want to begin my speech with a salute for the unrivaled and invincible graduating class of 2012. Without any opposition, we are crowned the best senior class in the history of THIS. All three student council presidents this school has had so far are or were members of this class; we have the fastest cyclist; the most elegant dancer and singer; a computer engineer; an eighteen-time world champion in laughing; a budding photographer; a swim team captain; a healthy diet advocate; and the one and only Indian in this school.

Juniors, I know you all are very jealous right now. But suck it up!

I love THIS, and THIS has been so far one of my most unforgettable experiences. It has helped me to improve in many ways as a person as I leave my teenage years behind and become an adult.

The most amazing thing about THIS to me personally is its diversity and the many hidden talents of the students. For the first time in real life, I got to know two brilliant Indonesians; a Finnish person who can speak Chinese; a smiley and coffee-holic Greek; a 2m-tall giant from Lithuania; a man who speaks six languages; and many nice and funny dudes from Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong. We also have many talented dancers, singers, and musicians who constantly lure us to their performances and leave us mesmerized by their talents.

Thank you THIS, for giving me some of the best teachers I could ever have. I would not have ever achieved so much without my dedicated teachers, who are also my mentors.

Mr. Cheng: You have been in many ways more than merely a teacher to your students. I know this sounds like a nightmare, but Lily Zhu will come back to check on your dietary habits. By then, she will only be harsher because her degree in nutrition from NYU will qualify her to do so. So be prepared to become a vegetarian.

Ms. Xia: Your natural sense of humor has made the supposedly boring AP statistics class full of fun. Every joke you’ve made has helped Rainy to set a new laughing record. You are also always the person I can talk to when I have life issues. Thank you for always being there for me.

Ms. Bian: 在这个学校能遇到一个老乡实真的太不容易了,尤其是一个真正关心我生活和未来的人。谢谢您。

Mr. Pryor: You have been very helpful in helping us understand American history and culture. This class is much needed because most of us are heading to the States this fall. Thanks to you, now I wouldn’t freak out when people ask me who Abraham Lincoln is.

Dr. Daisy: C’est difficile à trouver un autre professeur qui est meilleur que vous. Votre cours de chimie est le meilleur cours de ma vie scolaire. Je penserai à vous!

Coach Webb: Thank you for waking up at 4 o’clock in the morning in the past year for the swim team. You are staying at THIS because it needs you. I’m going to visit in the future and by then if the swim team sucks, you will suffer.

Mr. K: Thank you for not failing me in Spanish, and I apologize for not saying this in Spanish. Hopefully one day I will be able to speak six languages as well. And I will always remember the advice you gave me yesterday while I was looking at my graduation photo in the hall way.

Mr. Hammond: You’ve helped all the seniors to get into great colleges! Thank you so much for what you have done so that we don’t have to stay in high school for another year.

And lastly, Ms. Li: Thank you for being our homeroom teacher for the past two years. I hope us seniors have made you a proud homeroom teacher, and we will come visit you in the near future.

Thank you again THIS, for the great friendships I’ve forged here. I know that in the future wherever I go I am going to feel just like home, because I have friends across the globe. I have to say goodbye to you all at this moment, but it’s only temporary. We will always just be an email, a phone call, or a plane ride away from each other.

Before I finish my speech today, I have but three suggestions for you people down there.

First of all, can we please get something other than cheese and Hawaiian pizza for parties in this school? I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many pizzas in my life before this school year started.

Second, y’all have to stop buying instant noodles for lunch! Seriously. It has been proven scientifically that eating instant noodles is the prime cause for worse class performance and worse grades.

Third, please respect your fellow classmates and teachers and take your trash with you, and stop sticking chewing gums onto desks and chairs.

The THIS Class of 2013, I apologize for mocking you earlier in this speech, but the truth is, you are the more diverse and versatile class. I have so much faith and confidence that you guys will excel in your senior year and rock everybody’s world. Please carry on our legacy and make the THIS Community proud.

Congratulations again to the middle school graduating class and the Tsinghua International School Class of 2012. We made it!