Address to the Class of 2024 by Brendon O’Keefe ’24

Brendon O'Keefe ’24 was selected by his classmates to speak on behalf of the Class of 2024 during the 107th Graduation Exercises at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola. Read O'Keefe's remarks, as prepared for delivery.

Good morning. What an honor it is to be standing here today. I want to thank Fr. Devron, Mr. Heintz, Mr. DiNovi, the Board of Trustees, and the entire faculty and staff. I want to thank my mom and dad and the rest of my family for their endless love and support. And of course, I want to thank the Class of 2024 for putting their faith in me. After I was selected, I spoke with many of them, and everyone said something like, “You got us all to steal the moon, so I think you’d do a pretty good job.” Many have told me that I have to do the Despicable Me Gru voice… So just so you know, I am about to do something that is very, very big! Very important! When you hear about it, you are going to be very proud! I hope that was good enough for you guys.

Now let us begin. It is amazing to find myself here, because in 8th grade, I was pretty set on going to Fordham Prep. My dad went there, it was closer to home, and on the whole, it was just a more comfortable environment. I only filled out the Regis application because my uncle went here, and my family wanted me to “just try.” 

Now, over the past four years, there have been a lot of moments that made me rethink the decision to “just try.” I’m sure many of you faced a similar worry that Regis actually wasn’t the place for you. You knew it would be tough, but you couldn’t have imagined the grades would be that bad or the nights that late. Shortly after we began our freshman year, doubt crept into my mind. I thought I wasn’t intelligent enough to be here. I felt like Regis was not where I was supposed to be. I think our lack of a real freshman year played into this uneasiness. Simply put, "Zoom school" was a very, very challenging way to learn. Our Latin class found this out the hard way. As it turns out, the grammar concepts of the Ancient Romans are basically impossible to learn through a screen. By the end of the first trimester, all we knew how to say was, “tu es mutus,” to whoever's microphone was conveniently not working when Mr. Bonagura called on them. It wasn’t just Latin that was hard either. I speak for many of us, especially James DelGaudio, when I say that I wish my entire freshman year report card was “mutus.”

Looking back, though, the remote experience did make academics tougher, but that was not the worst part. The real travesty was that our start to Regis High School was completely void of Regis’s special culture. We did our best, with FaceTimes and Fortnite zone wars, but our time remote holds nothing in comparison to the time we have spent face-to-face. It seems to me that when the Class of 2024 is together, there is a certain spirit that is different from any I’ve ever seen. There’s a liveliness that permeates these hallways even during tough academic weeks that you can’t find anywhere else. There is a unique vulnerability on Quest, Emmaus, and all of our other retreats, and you can’t find that anywhere else. There is an uncommon level of camaraderie here that compels us to willingly travel hours to support our classmates in their soccer games and theater performances that you can’t find that anywhere else. There is a special love at this school that causes people to drop everything when a fellow Regian asks for help, and you can’t find that anywhere else. All of these things and many more. This is what we do here at Regis. Nowhere else has it like us. It’s the stuff that makes the tough grades, late nights, and difficult days worth it. It’s the stuff that makes me realize that I was right to “just try.”

My favorite memory of my time at Regis will always be the moments right after we beat Xavier in basketball. The final whistle blew and it all became a blur; I remember running over to Coach Ortiz, hugging him and my teammates. Then, I got turned around to go through the handshake line. And then all of a sudden, I turn, and I see the Regis crowd; it’s this massive sea of red standing shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm, singing our alma mater. What school does that? Academics is not what separates this school; it’s that. It’s the connection, the love, and the joy. It’s the feeling of home. The brotherhood. Throughout these past four years, every single one of us has contributed to it, and it has led to some beautiful moments like that. And although we are departing, this loving brotherly spirit will not leave us. This place is home and the friends that we have met here will always be brothers. 

I’d like to share a lesson my parents taught me as a young lad that I recently discovered a new take on. When I was quite young, my dad would frequently read me the book, Oh the Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss. A few weeks ago, I saw it sticking out of the bookshelf at the preschool I volunteered at for the third trimester. I decided to grab it and as I read, I sat there smiling, thankful my dad read it to me so many times. Here’s a quote: “You are off to great places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” It’s a really uplifting quote — probably why it is so often used in graduation speeches. But as great and inspiring as it is, it’s missing something. Because yes, Class of 2024, we are off to great places, but we can’t forget where we came from.

Our roots will always be stuck right here in this school. Remember your time here. Remember the early morning trains and the late night FaceTimes. Remember the mom proms. Remember the immersion trips. Remember the service sites and the people you have impacted. Remember the Walkathons and the musicals. The Hearn tournaments and the Coffeehouses. The World Cup viewing parties, and the despicable Halloweens. Remember walking into the chapel after you experienced God. Remember the applause from your family and friends. Don’t forget about the clubs you were in and the events you participated in. Don’t forget all those heated debates you had during lunchtime with your friends. (Will Daniels, you have no idea how good Tim Duncan was.) Don’t forget the time you spent in the building. Your favorite seat in your favorite resource center. The hours grinding in the library and chilling in Campus Ministry. 

You might have already forgotten what you learned in your classes, but don’t forget your teachers. When you are sitting in a lecture on trigonometry, remember Mr Quinn’s infectious energy and his legendary foe Sleazy McCheat. And what will a history class even be without a 40-page word document written exclusively in Courier 10? You probably won’t ever find yourself in a Latin class again, but remember the wisdom that Mr. Bonagura has imparted to you. A particularly fitting Latin phrase for this speech, and one that Mr. Bonagura had us say every single day: “Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.” Bene. Which can be translated to, “Perhaps one day it will help to have remembered these things.” 

I think that right there encapsulates it all. Although we are moving on, and won’t get to do them again, these are the things we will remember because these are the things that have made Regis High School a home, and these are the things that made us who we are. 

So yes, this place was challenging. But we were right to “just try.” We were right to fill out that application. The experience we had here cannot be found anywhere else. We were always meant to be here, each one of us. These friends will always be brothers. This place will always be home. And now “You are off to great places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting… so get on your way.” But don’t lose sight of where you came from and the memories you have made. Regis Class of 2024, it’s been an honor. As James DelGaudio would say, “Oh how amazing reality really is.” Now, for one final time… yes, yes, yes. Thank you.

Posted: 6/1/24