Town Square

M-A Principal Denise Plante's remarks to the Class of 2007

Original post made by David Boyce, Almanac staff writer, on Jun 11, 2007

Below are the remarks of Menlo-Atherton High School Principal Denise Plante in speaking to the graduating seniors of the Class of 2007 on June 7, 2007 in Atherton, CA.

On behalf of the Menlo-Atherton High School faculty and staff, I welcome to the joyful graduation of 2007.

Joining us in celebration today: (who I would ask to stand as I call your name) are: our superintendent, Dr. Pat Gemma and Sequoia Union High School District Board Member Dr. Sally Stewart – thank you for helping us to honor our graduates.

I particularly wish to give respect, recognition and a warm welcome to the parents, family, friends and significant others who are here today. We are mindful and appreciative of their contribution to your achievement through their support, sacrifice and encouragement.

I am honored as principal to present these gifts to our world, the graduates who are seated here before you. Graduates, Happy Thursday, Happy Graduation Day.

Please join me in welcoming social studies teacher Mr. Jim MacKenzie. He will recognize this year’s retirees.

I have a special presentation for Mr. MacKenzie who will retire this year after 40 years of teaching and also who is a M-A grad from the Class of 1963. He can aptly be called, Mr. M-A. As you know, a team from Menlo-Atherton High School traveled to Disneyland in May to be honored by the State Superintendent of Schools for being named a California Distinguished School. The theme at Disneyland related to ours which was “A Year of a Million Dreams” This special graduation cap is for you for helping to make many dreams come true and making M-A one of the Happiest Places on Earth.

So, because we are friends let’s be distinguished together.

Seniors, each and every one of you is an awesome, powerful, resilient human being capable of living the life you design for yourself. You are high achievers. I have watched you volunteer, compete athletically, make the honor roll, earn highly competitive scholarships, build robots, and create beautiful music. You have held jobs, entertained senior citizens and buried friends. You have written business plans, competed in speech and Latin conferences, planted trees, protested for the cause of fair treatment of our nation’s immigrants and raised money to build a school in Afghanistan. You have been tested academically, athletically and emotionally and you have succeeded. Besides being named a CA Distinguished School you earned the first honor as the recipient of the PAL Commissioner’s Cup which recognizes the top school in the county for its excellent athleticism and sportsmanship.

Last year I watched the dance team perform an interpretive dance to Martin Luther King’s address to Washington, I have a Dream, where among other things, he dreamed that his four children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. This inspired our admin team to choose the theme, Dream Big. You will recall meeting in the J Building at the beginning of the year where we shared with you our dream to have all of you on this field today. We reminded you that “once a Bear, always a Bear”. You are part of a rich legacy of former grads including humanitarians, politicians, successful businessmen and women, athletes and entertainers.

Debasmita Chanda wrote:

Dreaming big is important. So remove the barriers that will stop your dream.

Every great accomplishment begins with a seed of belief.

"Always remember there are only two kinds of people in this world," said Robert Orben, "the realists and the dreamers. The realists know where they're going. The dreamers have already been there." What stands in the way of dreaming big in your own life? I would like to share three of the most significant barriers to dreaming big dreams. As you hear them, ask yourself whether one or more are keeping you from really going after what you truly long for.

Number 1. Fear. Vincent Van Gogh said, "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore." Is there a particular fear that is keeping you from venturing out to the big sea of possibility? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of insufficiency? Whatever the case may be, before you pack up ship ask yourself: What's the worst that could happen by trying to achieve my dream? If the best that could happen outweighs the worst that could happen, move forward in confidence.

Number 2. Lack of knowledge. Just because you don't know all the details, that's no reason to keep from dreaming big. History is strewn with great discoveries that came as a result of an adventurous soul simply venturing into the unknown with a dream to make a difference. If you're using lack of knowledge as an excuse for not pursuing your truest dreams, ask yourself: What is the least I need to know in order to go for it? Seek to gain that knowledge, and then move forward.

Number 3. Negative associations. "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions," said Mark Twain.. "Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too can become great." What type of people do you associate yourself with? Are they people who are as excited as you are to see you achieve all that you desire? Will they hold you accountable for doing the things you need to, to get where you want? "Show me who you frequent," reads a French proverb, "and I will tell you who you are." To ensure that those you associate with aren't keeping you from your dreams, ask yourself: Do I spend more time with dream makers or dream breakers?

Classmate Christina Dixon writes, “I aspire to be a cardiac surgeon for a few reasons. First, it is my dream, second money should not be a factor in medical care, third, the most loving person I know, Inez Clewis, my grandmother, encourages me because of her heart condition. I believe that by achieving my goals, I can give a great deal back to my community because I will have the opportunity to perform open-heart surgery and other procedures on those who most need it. Christina dreams of completing her medical degree and establishing a heart foundation that will be full of the love her grandmother exhibits for her family and others.

Other seniors wrote in English class that you dreamed of unlocked bathrooms, your poetry published or works shown in galleries, to be a veterinarian, film director and scientist. You dreamed of marriage, kids and a dog, and you considered M-A a mountain and that you were at the peak and have succeeded together.

Seniors, an anonymous author wrote,

If there were ever a time to dare, to make a difference, to embark on something worth doing, it is now.

Not for any grand cause, necessarily-but for something that tugs at your heart, something that's your aspiration, something that's your dream.

You owe it to yourself to make your days count.

Have fun.
Dig Deep.
Dream big.

Know, though, that things worth doing seldom come easy.

There will be good days.

There will be times when you want to turn around, pack it up, and call it quits. Those times tell you that you are pushing yourself, that you are not afraid to learn by trying.


Because with an idea, determination, and the right tools, you can do great things.

Let your instincts, your intellect, and your heart guide you.


Believe in the incredible power of the human mind.
Of doing something that makes a difference.
Of working hard.
Of laughing and hoping.
Of lazy afternoons.
Of lasting friends.

The start of something new brings the hope of something great.
Anything is possible.

There is only one you.

And you will pass this way only once.

Thank you.