Asking the Right Questions
Superintendents GHS Graduation Speech
June 18, 2015
What a glorious night! Loving family, friends, faculty, administrators, Board Members, distinguished guests—all gathered here in Cardinal Stadium to honor and celebrate our newest Graduates, the Class of 2015.
Tonight is a night for joy, good words and great moments—all of which should become lifelong memories.
Dr. Winters advised me that my role this evening is to share WISDOM.
The Wisdom I will share is simple, but exceedingly difficult to do well. For you, as soon to be GHS Alumni, the challenging and difficult are exactly right. You have learned how to persevere with rigorous tasks.
My shared wisdom tonight is to CHARGE you with ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. Position yourself, train yourself, and coach yourself to always ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.
What do I mean by, THE RIGHT QUESTION? An old colleague, Dan Rothstein, started The Right Question Institute 25 years ago. In their own words, “The Right Question Institute aims to make democracy work better by teaching a strategy that allows anyone—no matter their educational, income or literacy level—to learn to ask better questions and participate more effectively in decisions that affect them.” Mr. Rothstein and his work have become well known in many arenas—school reform, health care, voter engagement and political processes, and the advancement of Microdemocracies (democratic action on the local level with any public agency or public decision).
So, simply stated, ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS puts you in the public process. ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS places you at the heart of highly effective communities, schools, universities, medical care, governments and private agencies.
However, and here is my big plea, THE RIGHT QUESTIONS are ones that that move us forward and upward. THE RIGHT QUESTIONS are considered and pursued so that they are affirmative and developmental. THE RIGHT QUESTIONS strive to make us stronger.
The RIGHT QUESTIONS do not tear down or destroy. The RIGHT QUESTIONS are not the cynical ones—the questions raised solely to stump people and make them look bad. THE RIGHT QUESTIONS are not ones that leave only the questioner feeling smart. Don't just stop or destroy with your questions; rather, prompt a redirection and positive movement.
Let me turn to the 2015 Women’s World Cup, now underway in Canada, for a living example. A soccer example shows that THE RIGHT QUESTIONS really are about THE RIGHT ACTIONS.
The great World Cup Soccer Player—she not only breaks up the play, the attack coming at her, but she starts a productive play in the other direction. She closes down the attack, contains the movement, wins the ball, and then begins a new play. The lessor player breaks up the play, maybe stopping the immediate attack, but not letting her team regain the ball and become productive.
Of course, there are times when you just need to stop an action, or, in the World Cup example, the player going to goal. Far better, however, is to make the stop and do something constructive with the ball to restart the game.
We all know that it is far easier to break something up, to tear it apart; to tear it down. Building and creating are far more difficult.
Class of 2015, you are up to the challenge of building and creating. You are up to the challenge of ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS—the QUESTIONS that put you in our public processes in constructive, forward-looking and creative ways.
Think about the hard work of your families, teachers, coaches, directors, counselors and friends. All that hard work has given you the capacity to ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. You have learned these many years in the Greenwich Public Schools to think critically, converse thoughtfully, push for the truth, to seek knowledge, to write, to compute, and to make sure that what is done is right, is just, and is in the service of all around you. All these talents and skills are the keys to ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.
Class of 2015, our Nation and World need your leadership. Go out and become known for ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.
IN SO DOING, YOU WILL BE PEACE, YOU WILL FIND PEACE, YOU WILL MAKE PEACE.
GO WELL, CLASS OF 2015!!