Skip to Main Content

Baccalaureate 2019 Message Focuses on Carrying Forward the Webb Experience and Achieving Success while Positively Impacting Others

July 26, 2019 By Webb Alumni Office

At this year’s Baccalaureate ceremony, May 12, Webb Salutatorian Anna Bryn Williams and Baccalaureate speaker Valentino Jefferson wove a narrative in each of their presentations that centered on the unique culture that defines the Webb experience and a call for Webb’s graduates to embody and carry that culture forward while positively impacting the lives of others in their pursuit of success.

A celebration of the senior class through music and words, Baccalaureate provides the opportunity for Webb’s graduates, their families and Webb faculty to gather one last time before graduation to reflect on the students’ journeys and growth at Webb School, and to look ahead to life after Webb. In addition to remarks by Williams and Jefferson, Baccalaureate 2019 featured performances by senior violinists Sidney Matlock and Bekka Range, senior violist Zack Tieng, and senior cellist Jonathan Oates, as well as Webb’s Chamber Singers.

In her Salutatorian address, titled Make the World a Greener Place, Anna Bryn Williams described some of what characterizes the unique culture of Webb School. “We are accustomed to Chapel talks where we trust our classmates so completely that we share our deepest insecurities and life struggles with them,” Williams told her classmates. “We depend on teachers to stop at absolutely nothing to help us master subject matter, and we count on each other to accept and embrace us exactly as we are. We elevate not only leaders, but enthusiastic followers. We admire risk-takers, regardless of the outcome. And we’re not impressed by what you have, but by what you give. We’re globe-trotting explorers – friendly, confident, and helpful. And while our various religious, cultural, and personal choices may not be shared by everyone, we know without a doubt that they are respected by all.”

While her class will always be bonded by the memorable experiences they shared, “it’s the small, personal expressions of friendship, humor, and support that have carried us through the trials and tribulations of Upper School together,” she noted, and added that she could not imagine the likelihood of being in another group as immensely talented, charismatic, and quietly ambitious as the Class of 2019.

As Williams prepares to head to Dartmouth College this fall, she admitted to her classmates that it will be difficult not seeing them every day. “You have all become trusted elements in my life,” she explained, “and I will miss each of you. I am humbled by you all and I am a better person for knowing you. Thank you for being unapologetically you – 110 of the most incredibly different and interesting people I’ve ever known.”

Williams encouraged her fellow graduates to embody and practice what they have distinctly experienced at Webb as they get ready to venture out into the world. “We must commit to pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones, to facing tough obstacles and exerting the extra effort required for success,” she told her classmates. “I hope we will continue to listen quietly and respectfully to the stories of others; humbly serve and fearlessly explore the larger world; dance, laugh with others – and at ourselves – as we celebrate life’s special moments and traditions. I hope we’ll joyfully contribute to the success of others, empathize with hardships and struggles, and always choose to take a chance in life. In short, I hope we’ll carry Webb’s unique culture within us and practice it with passion and purpose, wherever life takes us.”

Select the link below for a copy of Anna Bryn Williams’ full Salutatorian Address.
Make the World a Greener Place 

Living a life with passion and purpose was also one of the underlying themes of Valentino Jefferson’s Baccalaureate address, titled Achieving Success and Living with Impact. Jefferson and his wife, Nickola, are the parents of former and current Webb students JoshuaJuwaan ’17, Jahlil ’19, and Jasmine ’20. He spoke with the Class of 2019 about achieving success while also positively impacting the lives of others.

To attain success and live with impact, Jefferson challenged Webb’s graduates to develop their own personal mission statements. “When you define your mission and you understand your purpose,” Jefferson said, “it will serve as a compass that will help navigate your life for years to come. It will drive you to succeed and greatly impact your life.”

Jefferson also spoke about the importance of becoming a person of value and described the following three characteristics that people of value exhibit: they add value to those around them, they behave in a way that shows they value others, and they often do more than is expected or required of them. “Understand that the impact we make in this world doesn’t stop at that first-hand direct interface you have with that one individual,” he noted. “When you become a person of value, the impact you make may grow exponentially . . . remember that the impact you make in this world may go far beyond your years here on Earth.”

Jefferson stressed that the people who make the greatest impact are the ones who give of themselves the most. “Look for opportunities where you can do for others,” he continued, “instead of always looking for others to do something for you.”

Achieving success in life also requires a belief in oneself, Jefferson added. “To be successful at anything, you must first believe you can be successful,” he said. “You must believe that you are capable and that you are worthy. Your belief instills confidence; confidence drives your passion; and passion fuels your purpose.” Encouraging others along the way in accomplishing their goals is equally important, Jefferson pointed out, as it provides the opportunity to make an impact in someone else’s life.

The journey toward success and making an impact on others also requires humility and gratitude for the opportunities one has been given, said Jefferson. “Be humble and don’t ever take for granted that for which you have been blessed with. You will have a positive impact on people when they see that you are humble and know that you are grateful.”

In his concluding remarks, Jefferson reminded the audience that “the impact you make in this world is not determined by the level of success you achieve, rather the impact you make may very well determine how successful you become.”

To view Valentino Jefferson’s full Baccalaureate address, please click here.