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Baccalaureate Speaker Gives Rules for the Road

Noreen Lidston, who is retiring on July 1 after 20 years as Head of Lower School, offered graduating seniors "Rules for the Road" during her Baccalaureate address on June 5. In her creative and humorous way, Lidston delivered both practical and poignant advice that will surely have a lasting impact on the Class of 2015. Her overriding message, "Get behind the wheel of that big, bold, beautiful thing called your life and DRIVE!"

Read Lidston's speech in its entirety below. Her words of wisdom really apply to anyone at any stage of life!

Good morning, parents, guests, faculty, and the Class of 2015!

First of all, congratulations to our seniors on reaching graduation day! It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and sleep deprivation to arrive at this point, and I hope you are feeling the pride that comes from accomplishment, and the joy that comes from sharing that accomplishment with your loved ones. Good for you!

I am both honored and delighted that Mr. Britton asked me to give the Baccalaureate address to the Class of 2015. It is unusual, in my experience, for someone from the Lower School to address graduating seniors. It is quite likely that some of you have never been inside of Elderkin or Dudley Halls, and that you have had little interaction with Lower School students except to be annoyed by them on the bus. What could the Head of Lower School possibly have to say that might be helpful, or even mildly entertaining, on a morning like this?

Well, as it turns out, you and I do have something in common at this point in our lives. We are all transitioning away from our familiar roles at McDonogh and are becoming someone else. Very soon, you will be getting your diploma and, immediately after, a card that identifies you as a McDonogh alum. Very soon, I hope to be getting a learner’s permit that identifies me as a candidate for a commercial driver’s license so that I can drive a McDonogh school bus!

We are all on the brink of something new and a little frightening. Less than three months from now, you will be attending college and I hope to be driving a bus. While these may seem like disparate occupations at first, they have more to do with one another than you might think!

Because baccalaureate speakers are supposed to offer graduates advice, I would like to submit for your consideration some guidelines...or Rules for the Road, if you will...about driving a bus and living a good life.

1. Start your journey with a full tank. Make sure you have all the fuel you need to get where you want to go. Fill up on emotional energy, determination, resiliency, and “drive” before you set out. If you need to stop and fill up again, do so without begrudging the time it is taking from your trip. It is better to refuel with family and friends than to run out of gas along the way.

2. Drive Safely. When a big stretch of open road lies before you, otherwise known as college, it is tempting to put your foot on the gas and “open ‘er up” so to speak. Why not find out how fast you can actually go before you blow out your engine? What is wrong with being a little reckless once in a while? What’s wrong is the damage you can do to yourself and others by going too fast. You are not on your bus alone, after all. Others are riding with you. Those “others” might be your hopes and dreams for yourself or they might be the people who love you. Don’t put them or yourself at risk because speed feels good.

3. Use your turn signal if you are changing directions. No journey is without turns. The road you take will have unexpected curves. You will encounter detours and sudden lane closures. You may end up going in an entirely different direction than you first thought. Expect this - it is okay! If, however, you know in advance that you are going to change directions, use your turn signal. Let someone know ahead of time if you can. Call your parents and tell them that you are going to change your major from business to classical trumpet. Let your fiance know if you are having second thoughts. Tell your boss that you are seeking a greater challenge at work. Perhaps she can find you one - like looking for another job! Let your partner know sooner rather than later if you are thinking about another house, or if you have changed your mind about having a baby right now. Although it is possible to veer off in a new direction and survive, it is best to have the knowledgeable support of people who love you in order to make this turn safely.

4. Check your rear view mirror occasionally, but mostly keep your eyes on the road in front of you. It is important to know where you have been, and to remember how you got to where you are today. However, nothing is as important as being present in the here and now, and knowing where you want to go. Don’t lose focus or let yourself become distracted. Attend to what’s ahead and leave the past behind you. (I hear it is very difficult to back up a bus!) The only thing you ever really have is the present moment. Stay alert to what it might offer you.

5. If there is dense fog, pull over and stop. It is dangerous to continue your journey if you can’t see where you are going. If you become engulfed in fog or get lost entirely, stop for a while until the fog clears. While it is tempting to turn on the high beams and keep going, the light reflected off the fog will make it even harder to see. Dogged determination to continue down a road that is hidden in fog can be dangerous. Wait until you have clearer vision before you get back on the road to making a major decision.

6. Open your door to whoever wants to get on your bus. Accept and welcome all the people who want to be a part of your life and ride along with you for a while. You will be meeting hundreds of new people as you move through college and into a career. If they behave well and do not disrupt things on your bus, let them stay! If, however, they misbehave and cause you to become distracted, angry, or sad, put them off your bus as soon as possible and with no regrets! No one has the right to put you and others at risk or interfere with the journey you have planned. Troublesome family members are the exception, of course. You can’t really put them off your bus entirely. All you can do is encourage them to sit a little further away from you and take out their cell phones.

7. Helping other people get to where they want or need to go is a good way to spend your life. Whether you want to restore someone to health, teach them to read, fight for their freedom, build them a house, help them manage money, fix their teeth, or lift the veil of their depression, you will have an enormous sense of reward and satisfaction when you have brought them to their destination safely. Just follow the Rules of the Road!

There is one final thought I will share with you. I have received a number of reactions as I have told various people about my intention to become a school bus driver. Some are incredulous, some are elated and enormously entertained, and some are dismissive. Some have even said this: (hold up “Stop” sign). Expect those same reactions along the way as you share with people what you hope or plan to do next...but don’t be deterred or detoured by their reactions!

A school bus is 10 feet high, 8 feet wide, and 40 feet long! It weighs about 30,000 pounds. It is big and bright, and especially when all its lights are flashing and the stop sign swings out on the side, it makes a bold statement!

Let that be you! Attract some attention as you go down the road! Get behind the wheel of that big, bold, beautiful thing called your life and DRIVE!!