David Simon to B-CC Grads: 'You Are Responsible for Everything'
The 453 graduating seniors of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School were urged by David Simon—writer of "The Wire" and a fellow B-CC alum—to constantly ask themselves if they are changing the world for the better.
Three and a half decades ago, Simon—head writer and executive producer of HBO's "The Wire"—had been one of those smiling students dressed in blue and about to receive a diploma. As "the lumpy white guy" droned on at the podium, Simon had his thoughts on only two things: booze (Would his fake identification work at the liquor store?) and women (Would he finally 'get the girl' at the shore?).
But on Monday morning, June 4, "now I'm the lumpy white guy," Simon said, as he stood at the podium, addressing the high-powered, B-CC senior class of 2012 in the auditorium of DAR's Constitution Hall.
His advice to the students was simple and empowering:
"[Now that you have graduated,] you are responsible for everything. ... The hard part is that you're responsible for the folks you don't know ... in your country and your world. ... This responsibility is epic. ... It's almost too big for the heart."
Simon recognized the clash that B-CC graduates—including himself—experience when they set foot outside their home base in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area.
"I grew up in Montgomery County. I mean, 'Damn, nice work if you can get it,' " Simon said, referring to the county's relatively high standard of living in comparison to Third-World cities and countries, as well as to places closer to home—like Baltimore, where Simon worked as a journalist at The Baltimore Sun after graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park.
"There were places in that city that floored me, that stunned me, and it's not even a Third-World city," Simon said of Baltimore. Moving from Montgomery County to Baltimore "changed me in ways that I've been addressing ever since."
But, "you don't have to move to Baltimore, Mogadishu or Karachi and flagellate yourselves because you happened to be born in Montgomery County. ... This world needs you. ... These times call for more. ... You might be a little shocked to find out how much need there is."
Simon urged the students to always ask themselves if they were making the world a better place, or a worse place. Channeling Franz Kafka, he added that while one can turn away from others' sufferings, holding back from making a difference is the one suffering that can be avoided.
The students of the class of 2012 have already started to make a difference. They raised enough money for two class gifts: $5,000 for a scholarship fund and $5,000 to donate to A Wider Circle to help those recently displaced by a fire at the Round Hill apartment complex in Chevy Chase, Catherina Leipold, the class of 2012's community service chair, announced at the graduation ceremony.
B-CC Principal Karen Lockard praised the class: "You can do anything. You are the leaders of the future."
B-CC is one of the nation's top schools—"you did that," Lockard congratulated the class, which received $17 million in college scholarships. (Countywide, the graduating class has earned more than $238 million in college scholarships, according to a county schools press release.)
Of the 453 students in the class, 88 are members of the National Honor Society, and 80 are International Baccalaureate Diploma candidates. Thirty-two students have earned both distinctions.
"You have learned at B-CC to work hard, to set your goals high," Lockard said. "Your life is now in your hands."
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