Hudson Apel, Class of 2020
Salutatory Address at Founders Classical Academy of Leander's Fourth Annual Commencement
Hudson Apel, Class of 2020
I want to start by thanking our teachers for dedicating so much of their lives to our education, and for recognizing that educating us would require much more than imparting their knowledge to empty brains. It would require their own personal commitment to being exemplars of both moral and intellectual virtue and imparting these to us. Though I know teaching is in itself a noble profession, I think it is rare to have been taught so personably by a faculty as distinguished and as dedicated as we have here.
In particular, I want to thank our guest speaker and founding headmaster, Dr. O’Toole, for having the vision and the dedication to create a school like Founders. You celebrating with us today is one of the many examples of your commitment to us. Thank you, Dr. O’Toole. I also want to thank Mr. Sowers, Ms. Loy, and our Deans who carried the baton to bring that vision to fruition.
If the education our teachers have imparted to us had not been so formative, the past two months and the difficulties both the teachers and students have faced might have been more challenging, but we were well prepared.
It was difficult for us not to be together; this may seem on the surface to be primarily a “social” issue, but I would argue that it was a fundamentally human issue and one central to our education. These struggles have brought to light the oft-forgotten truth that education is a very human endeavor, one requiring both relationships and a recognition that truth exists and can be known. Education’s end is happiness, but the path is practical wisdom, and we are living in a unique circumstance that requires great wisdom.
I would like to take this time to highlight a sometimes implicit, but nevertheless recurring idea in our education at Founders. Our education here helps us to better see and understand the truth, and it turns out that many things in life follow common sense. However, if one has not made sure to ground himself in reality and is not cultivated to love the truth, then even intellectuals and experts can easily go astray and come to nonsensical conclusions that contradict common sense.
Founders has done a good job of steering us away from this trap, but we can see countless examples of people falling into this trap in modern life, and we have seen many examples of it throughout our education. For instance, in Economics, we looked at a centrally planned economy and the problems that arise from it. Yet many people today support this system even though common sense says that we are probably better at making our own decisions than someone else can be from a thousand miles away.
And last year in Philosophy, we read Gulliver’s Travels. Gulliver encounters the people of Laputa, who spend their entire lives only thinking about theoretical concepts and neglecting reality. The Balnibarbi people learn from the Laputans, but their preconceptions about the world are not accurate, and thus they fail to understand the difference between theory and reality. They not only fail in their pursuit of the good but destroy much that was good in the process. Because their reasoning was not based on reality, their attempts at creating a Utopia resulted in suffering and poverty. This lesson has also been echoed in some of our other classes. Mrs. Berndt’s Logic class and Mr. Baker’s Discrete Math class have shown us that our principles must be based in reality, or else we will surely come to paradoxical conclusions. In other words, if we come to conclusions that contradict common sense, then we should check to make sure that we have reasoned correctly, because it is often the case that an in-depth analysis will point us back toward common sense.
Any body of knowledge we have studied, if viewed rightly, has not aimed to provide us with the credentials to graduate on a day like this but rather to cultivate within us a foundation that is firm enough to recognize when something is amiss and is courageous enough to do something about it. We are young, but something that is true is true, and if truth exists, it is clearly worth pursuing beyond our graduation.
Our current unique circumstances demonstrate how quickly a seemingly comfortable life can be disrupted. Our classical education is a gift that we must steward well.
As humans, we long for the good, but we need wisdom to know what the good is and how to pursue it. Across the curriculum—in philosophy, in economics, in math, and in logic—we have seen that our first principles must be grounded in a foundation of reality, in truth. It is a lifetime pursuit to cultivate that wisdom; a wisdom that recognizes the good and can rightly assess in order to pursue it.
Thank you, Founders Classical Academy, for pointing us toward truth and giving us the tools to discern it.
Hudson Apel will attend the University of Texas Dallas in the fall.