The following is a transcript of the June 3, 2017 address to the graduates of the class of 2017 given by Henry Deteskey '17. Click here for photographs from the 2017 graduation exercises.
Good Morning. I'd like to thank Fr. Lahart, Mr. Labatt, Dr. Tocchet, and most importantly, my brothers, the class of 2017. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this morning.
After I learned that I would be giving this speech, I received an email from my academic advisor, Mr. Amatrucola. It read: “Congratulations Henry for being selected as the graduation speaker. I'm not going to lie: but I'm a little frightened as to what that might bring.” Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mr. A! Luckily, however, I had The Triumvirate—Father Andreassi, Mrs. Skrapits & Dr. Nofi—help me prepare a speech that would still allow me to receive my diploma. And I can assure you my mom and dad are especially grateful.
As I began thinking about this speech and my time at Regis, I thought about the hundreds of inside jokes, typical teenage locker room conversations, and the wonderful, I mean absolutely delightful, stories from co-ed freshman year dances.
After making a long list of memories I realized I cannot share today, so many other memories that made my Regis experience so unforgettable still flooded my mind.
From sitting in front of the fire on the Emmaus Retreat hearing affirmations from my closest friends to “face timing” classmates at two o'clock in the morning asking for a study guide
There have been so many events, inter-actions and people that have molded the past four years together.
I would love to share them all, but, because I have been given a time limit and because I promised my mom I would not get any more JUG, I am going to focus on the one thing that unites all of my memories… gratitude.
On the senior Emmaus Retreat this year, Father Lahart shared a piece of wisdom that I will never forget. He said: "Sometimes we get lost in what we want and forget what we have."
While you may not have all scored a 1600 on the SAT or passed Coach Donodeo's dreaded Presidential Fitness Test or escaped Mr. Galarza's probing eyes as you took a sip of Gatorade in the library---the list of things we want, or wish we had may seem endless, but what we have, what we have been given, is far more important, and we have all been given the gift of Regis.
If not for Regis I would not have been forced to fill an entire chalk board with the words: “I will lock my locker.”
I would not have gotten JUG from Mr. Quinn who watched in horror as the class of 2017 stormed the physics lecture hall and accidentally tackled Mr. Phillips.
While these events may seem small in retrospect, they have played a role in something much larger. If it weren't for our experiences at Regis we would all still have 131 classmates but not 131 brothers. We would still have 58 teachers but not 58 mentors;
And because of how much we have learned and grown, we would not have the same love, honor and respect for our families.
So it is in this spirit of gratitude for all that we have been taught and all that we have been given, that I invite the entire class of 2017 to recall with me some words that as freshmen may have seemed strange or even a little scary, but now have become a model for how we will show Regis that we are grateful for our experience.
So, Brothers, The Class of 2017, I ask you now to please stand and join me in saying the Prayer for Generosity.
Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.
St. John Francis Regis: pray for us.
Please take your seats.
Regis taught us to be generous.
Walking through the halls of Regis as freshmen, weighed down by 50 pounds of textbooks and stressed out because we had two tests, a lab report, and a paper due the next day, did we ever think about how we could be generous?
Did we ever think we would want to help or to reach out to someone in need when we seemed to have needed so much, ourselves?
Well in remembering these four years, I think we can all see how much Regis has taught us to move beyond ourselves and to strive to become true “Men for others.”
Regis taught us to serve God, and to give and not to count the cost.
Think about how many times our class, our teachers, and the whole Regis Community have given of themselves for others in need. Was it organizing a grub day for our friends at St. Als in Kibera?
Was it working at a food pantry or nursing home as part of our freshman retreat? Was it playing basketball and then holding hands in prayer with young men on Rikers Island as part of Catalyst?
Yes, these and so many other experiences have shaped us. And what they all have in common is that they helped us see Christ in our school, and in places as close as East Harlem and Camden, and as far away as Ecuador, and even Kenya.
Regis taught us to fight and not to heed the wounds. Regis taught us to toil and not to seek for rest.
I know when I reflect on these lines I think back to a moment that I now believe forms the bedrock of my Regis experience. Several months ago, I walked into the locker room and watched a group of freshmen stare at symbols of hate and disgust scrawled on the walls of our school, but more importantly, our home. I had freshmen coming up to me asking me if vandalism was common at Regis.
Our identity as a Catholic School that stands for diversity, love and respect was at risk of being fractured.
The sharpie that was used with the intent to bring us down instead gave rise to a roar of passion and unity that we have never heard before. That sharpie brought the entire Regis Community—students, faculty and staff—together.
And we, the Class of 2017, stood as a model for what it means to be a Regian for the underclassmen. The wounds made us stronger, closer, and never in my life did I feel more honored to have stood next to you, my brothers.
Regis taught us to labor and not to ask for reward.
Think about your Christian service.
The men and women you assisted with getting a hot meal, the children with disabilities that you helped educate, the patients in hospitals whom you gave Holy Communion.
And what did we receive for our service?
A piece of paper telling us that we fulfilled a requirement?
No, far more than that.
Regis taught us that the greatest reward does not come from earning a big paycheck or owning a fancy car, but through the genuine interaction and communion with those in need.
We pray these lines all the time but do we really see that they apply to us all-- students, faculty and, of course, parents?
What sacrifices have you, our parents, made to help your sons get through Regis?
Whether it was long car rides home from athletic events or Hearn Tournaments;
Or late nights worrying whether your son would ever finish his homework and get some sleep; or those first few mornings of our freshman year when so many of you prayed that your sons would get to school safely...desperately waiting for “the text”—you know the one…”I’m Here”
Despite these worries and stresses, I know that you, the parents, are just as grateful for Regis as we are.
My mom always tells me, "Hen, if you're happy than I'm happy."
And I can assure you that all of us, whether we found a passion for math, met our future best man, or found a role model for life, will ALWAYS be grateful to Regis, and grateful to you, our parents.
We are all bound by a common gift—Regis High School—and it is to Regis whom we are indebted.
It is Regis that taught us how to be generous.
It is Regis that has taught us that the knowledge and passion that we hold in our hearts are there to make the world a better place. And it is Regis that turned 132 random kids into 132 members of one family.
Our time as students has come to an end, but the memories, friends, and lessons learned will never leave us.
To the class of 2017... Remember how much we have and how much we have been given, and “go out and set the world on fire.” Thank you.