Fishing & Friendship: Student Body Presidents’ Convocation Speech

On Friday, Aug. 30, Student Body Presidents Sallie Vick ’20 and Vijay Chhabra ’20 spoke together at the School’s annual Convocation ceremony. It was the first time both presidents have presented at Convocation. Below is the full text of their speech.

Sallie
Two years ago, standing in the dark alongside a stranger, I carelessly cast a line into the pond without the intention of actually catching a fish. I had just moved to a new neighborhood, was looking for a friend, and I knew that a classmate lived nearby. In an attempt to make a new friend, I invited him to go fishing based on the fact that I had seen a pond down the street from my house. When we arrived at the pond, I pretended to be a skilled fisherman, although I am not, nor do I typically enjoy fishing, bugs, or worms, but with hopes of fostering a new connection.

Vijay
So this new girl moved into my neighborhood and asked me to go fishing. I just said yes because I was excited by the possibility of making a new friend who liked to fish. By the time we got to the pond it was already dark, and I learned pretty quickly through observation that she didn't really know how to fish. While this was somewhat discouraging, and I grew increasingly frustrated by our complete lack of fishing ability, I had to take a step back and think. I wasn’t standing out in the dark on a humid Friday night with the sole purpose of catching fish. I was out there standing in the tall grass, with bugs everywhere, in order to make a connection. 

Sallie
So neither of us caught a fish and I seriously questioned my new friend’s fishing abilities, but through that night we established a connection. I knew that I had a friend in Vijay Chhabra.

Vijay
In this light we’d like to first teach you all about fishing because fishing is ultimately what started our friendship, which has now developed into a co-presidency. But there are a couple of questions you have to ask yourself before you go out to fish. You must first decide, do I want to fish?

Sallie
Do I want to make meaningful connections a priority in my life? Whether it is making new friends or continuing to foster existing relationships, I’d like to argue that prioritizing your relationships is the most important thing you can do. Everyone in this room has been impacted by someone else in this room. That's the power of connection. With connections you become purposeful. You give and receive care. You feel and show love. Now, will every connection in your life bring you care or love? Absolutely not, but you learn your own identity, you’re pushing your boundaries, you’re doing something bigger than yourself, and that's where the meaning comes from.

Vijay
I think we sometimes begin to lose sight of this big picture meaning. It’s very easy to prioritize tangible things, and while I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m saying in our personal experiences obsessing over things such as grades, recognition, and athletic achievements aren’t the only things that lead to fulfillment or joy.

Sallie
For example, in Biology last year I really wanted an A. I spent countless hours on homework, studying, and with Mrs. Beardsley. Reflecting on Biology, I don’t remember every detail but I remember perfectly the impression Mrs. Beardsley and my classmates left on me. We go to class to learn material, but what we really learn is from each other. Mrs. Beardsley’s selflessness, patience, kindness, and sympathy left an impression on me larger than any grade could offer. Connections like these have so much importance and value that I hope you realize you want to fish.  So next you must ask yourself, where should I cast my line?

Vijay
Who do I want to associate myself with and how do I decide who to reach out to? To answer these questions, I would like everyone to look around the room. The students and teachers around this room are all very involved in the School community in one way or another. There are so many opportunities presented to all of us to get to know each other.

Sallie
Looking at all of our clubs, Quests, Intensives, theater productions, sports teams, and Advisories, we see platforms of endless opportunities. Each day at this School provides another opportunity to extend your gifts to others. 

Vijay
I advise you all to take advantage of these opportunities wisely. Avoid making decisions as to which extracurriculars you become involved in based on which of your current friends are also pursuing them. Create your own path. Everyone in this room has both something to offer and something to learn. I think in middle school and high school it is very easy to set boundaries for yourself, or give yourself limits. It is easy to choose to surround yourself with people who enjoy similar hobbies, or are of a similar age or similar background, but until you break these self-imposed limits you might be missing out on getting to know some fascinating people. I understand that it is easy to feel content in your current situation, but there's always more for you. Seeking to push your social boundaries is just the first step to expanding your horizons. Now that you know WHY you want to fish and WHERE you want to fish you must be wondering, how do I fish?

Sallie
How do you make these connections? The first big step is what you’ve done today, establishing awareness. Awareness to intentions, intentions to actions. Just like fishing. Before you catch a fish you have to find a rod, untangle your line, bait the hook, before you ever even cast the line. These purposeful actions in catching a fish are more similar than you may think to establishing relationships. 

Vijay
Find your rod.

Sallie
This is who you want to connect with. 

Vijay
Untangle your line.

Sallie
Check in with yourself. You can’t catch a fish with a tangled line. Become secure in your own identity, your own desires, and then let them be known.

Vijay
Bait your hook and fish.

Sallie
To make the best connections, use your best bait, meaning offer the best version of yourself. I have so much gratitude to many people in this room, so I owe all of you my best self. Fruitful relationships perhaps offer the same, or more, feelings of pride and joy that catching a fish offers. 

Vijay
Now that you all have learned how to “fish,” it is up to you to go out and employ your new skills. Get outside of your comfort zone, march to the beat of your own drummer, try something new in an attempt to make new connections and meet new people. We are privileged to attend a school like St. Anne’s-Belfield. Therefore, we should all take advantage of the wonderful community we have built here in the short time we have left because before we know it one of you fourth grade students is going to be up here giving your own Convocation speech. On that note, we’d like to offer you all two challenges for this upcoming school year. The first is extend yourself to make new connections or nourish existing ones. With each connection we become closer as a community. 

Sallie
The second is buy into this community and take a chance. Bring your best self to those around you. Sharing your gifts to something larger than yourself brings strength and value to our community.

Vijay
Perhaps our fishing analogy has gone about as far as it can go AND Sallie still can’t fish, but regardless of whether you are a fourth grade student, a high school student, a parent, a teacher, or a grandparent our challenge is that you resolve to foster a connection with someone that you, before today, might have considered to be an unlikely connection, an unlikely friendship. Our promise to you is that when you have done this enough you will see that some of these relationships will end up being the ones you cherish the most.

Sallie
As they say, you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. You teach a man to fish, he has friends for life. 

Vijay
Thank you and have a great year!

 

More photos from Convocation 2019 are available on the School’s SmugMug account. A recording of the ceremony is available on the School website. Please email communication@stab.org for the passkey. 


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