Charlie Mihaliak’s 2018 Graduation Address

charlie mihaliak graduation

A Hairy Situation

In 9th grade I needed a haircut. I had been informed by my mother that the current “situation” atop my head was unacceptable and, unless I was planning on registering it as a national forest, I would need to get it trimmed. Unfortunately, the month was October, and I knew if I showed up at the Super Cuts at 1:30 on a Wednesday, I would get every homeschooled kid’s most feared question: “Why aren’t you in school?”. Why do we fear this question? Well, we don’t really fear it because it’s impossible to answer. We fear it because defining Kolbe Academy is similar to teaching The Waste Land to high school students and, honestly, who would do that? Today I would like to give you the perfect guide to the “Why aren’t you in school?” conversation with your hairstylist.

“Why Aren’t You in School?”

To begin with, we are not in A school because we are homeschooled. With that said, we are very much IN school. You don’t realize that while you have been cutting my hair, I have mentally developed the bullet points for my literature paper so that I can finish it in time to start my physics homework and analyze this week’s papal encyclical. Jokes aside, please hurry, my theology class is in half an hour and participation is graded.

Over the past four years, Kolbe has shown us that there is more to education than autumn and spring weekdays between 8 am and 3 pm. A Kolbe education is hinged upon the time spent outside of class and homework. You know you are a Kolbe kid when you spend an hour arguing with adults about the morality of Achilles. You know you are a Kolbe kid when your first pick-up line is amo-amas-amat- I like you – I like you – a lot. You know you are a Kolbe kid when you ask for better Wifi for Christmas. Most importantly, you know you are a Kolbe kid when just reading the text or solving the problem is not good enough because you need to know WHY. Knowing WHY, is Kolbe’s gift to its students, it’s what separates us, and is, ultimately, why we are not in school.

A Cultural Shift

At this point, you are almost halfway through your haircut and your hairdresser is thoroughly taken aback by your aggressive approach to small talk. Their second question is probably an attempt at the less inflammatory, something along the lines of: what do you do about prom? At this point though, you are on a roll so you continue…

Over the last decade or so, our cultural has both embraced and demonized the idea of a ‘millennial’; a full generation of why-askers. A genus of humans whose endless search for purpose is both an excuse for mediocrity and a reason for immorality. With the millennials reaching the end of their reign, the world is preparing for the new generation, Generation Z.

The Class of 2018 is, for the most part, composed of individuals born in the year 2000 and, therefore is the first sample of Generation Z. This generation is the first to have grown up completely in the limelight of events such as 9/11 – signaling the immediacy and relevance of modern terrorism – and the meteoric emergence of the internet – bringing both great power and inconceivable amounts of information right to our fingertips. Although these are the defining events of our generation, our culture has not yet settled upon the trajectory of ‘Generation Z’. However, popular speculation suggests that we will affect change. The ambiguity of this conjecture is truly remarkable, but it is not inaccurate. For better or worse, the individuals graduating today WILL affect change and, thanks to Kolbe, we know what this change must be; our mission is to know, love, and serve our Creator and, in doing so, spread His message to all of humanity.

The Road Goes Ever On

It has perhaps never been more ​challenging​ to be a Catholic in our society and, we could argue, never been more important. However, WE TOO have power — through our faith — and the tools with which we can spread the gospel and evangelize have ​never​ been more potent. It is our duty, honor, and privilege to commence this work and the hours spent reading Herodotus, conjugating Latin vocabulary, and discovering WHY’s solution is what will ultimately ensure our success.

There are very few times in life that you are given the opportunity to build a narrative. Because this is a ‘homeschool’ graduation, I would feel remiss if I did not quote Lord of the Rings at least once…don’t worry I won’t recite it in elvish. In a touching scene at the end of Return of the King, Frodo Baggins gives his best friend, Samwise Gamgee, a partially written book. Frodo implores Sam to finish the book and, with tears in his eyes, predicts: “…that will keep you as busy and as happy as anyone can be, as long as your part in the Story goes on.” We have a partially written tale in front of us, we have a rough draft of the first part, but just like Sam we have work to do, we have a story to write, we can’t wait to get started.

Well, your haircut is finished, and your stylist is lost somewhere between impressed and petrified. On the way to the register, you begin by thanking Mrs. Lengyel, Mr. Buyarski, and the incredible individuals that make the Academy run. You also thank the teachers who taught you how to write essays, launch rockets, and read the classics. You then thank the Academy and head for the door. You are in public on a school day, but any semblance of embarrassment or fear is long gone.