Dr. Vincent dePaul Schmidt receives a commemorative poster from Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, representing its 20,000 hours of community service. Hal Brown photo
Dr. Vincent dePaul Schmidt receives a commemorative poster from Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, representing its 20,000 hours of community service. Hal Brown photo
In June of 2021, as the new Superintendent of the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Trenton, I was honored to be asked to say a few words at the graduations of our high schools.It is always a scary endeavor to speak in front of an audience you do not necessarily know well.On top of that, you want to be impactful, uplifting, and most importantly short. As a speaker, you hope that perhaps the graduates and their families want to hear what you have to say, but you also realize it’s exceedingly hot and folks want to get on with their post-graduation celebrations.

In searching for a way to deliver those impactful and pithy remarks, all the while trying to keep their attention with a quip or two for the few minutes I can hold their attention on a hot day, I thought about the following scenario:  I have just landed on an airplane from a trip.  The flight attendant has come onto the airplane’s speaker to give us the lay of the land as we taxi to the gate.  Using this as the premise, these are the sentiments I delivered to the graduating Class of 2021:

On behalf of Bishop David O’Connell, I am honored to be with you today.  I would like to thank and congratulate the teachers, administrators and the parents of the class of 2021.  Your faith in us this year kept us going and ultimately led to the wonderful celebration today.

Graduates, thank you for allowing me to visit with you on this joyous, but warm day. I wanted to give each of you a present, but a $100.00 gift multiplied by the number of students here today was a math problem that was too big a number.  Giving you each an ice cream treat was a logistical nightmare.  Therefore, I decided to give you the best gift of all that a superintendent could share…a short speech!

I have a quick question for you…have any of you ever flown on a plane?  (hopefully hands go up)

Has anyone ever listened to the flight attendant when you land? (again, hopefully hands go up)

If so, perhaps you will recognize what I am speaking about…

On behalf of the Diocese of Trenton, let me be the first to welcome you to alumni status.  The local time is X:XX.

Please stay in your seats until the ceremony has come to a complete stop and the principal has turned on the light indicating that it is safe to turn your tassels and move around d, and you have a 2 ½ to 3 month layover before the next part of your journey. 

Getting to this part of the trip has been like NO OTHER!

But you not only survived; based on what I have seen by your college acceptances, you have thrived.

Thank you for sticking with the journey and not parachuting out early.

The next part of the trip is planned.  You have received your boarding pass today/tonight and you are all packed.  Your baggage is filled with all you need to succeed in the area of academics, you have developed your social consciousness, and your faith is going to continue to develop into a real relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Remember everything you were taught here. Go out and make the world better tomorrow than it is today. Be a leader. Be Christ-like. “…and remember to put your seat backs and tray tables into their upright and locked positions.”

Thank you, Class of 2021.