December Bench Talk: Language of Leadership

Once again this year, Headmaster Peter J. Caldwell had a little help with his December Bench Talk as the 11 students in his Language of Leadership class each delivered a short speech that they had crafted.

This year, the students presented personal stories around the overarching theme that “Fear, uncertainty and discomfort are your compasses towards personal growth.”  


WATCH: A Class Bench Talk


Here are their reflections: 

Sara Blanchard ’20:
I stepped out of the car and began walking towards the big white pillars with a pit in my stomach. My first day of freshman year at MBS was a nerve wracking one. I had spent the past nine years of my life at the same small elementary and middle school, and did not feel prepared to throw myself into someplace so large and unfamiliar. My fear had been building up gradually for this first day upon realizing that I would be leaving my closest friends and I would be entering my new school alone. Despite my nervousness, I obviously ended up getting through that scary first day, and since then, have had countless amazing experiences that made the fear far beyond worth it. Even though I was intimidated, coming here and exposing myself to a new environment taught me that it is worth facing fears and delving into something unfamiliar, especially if you want to grow.

Ryan Brown ’20:  
Everyone picture this. You are chilling, lazy day, not a care in the world. But, like a raging bull, your mother barges into your room and starts screaming because its a “mess”. Classic. This happened to me in the summer of 2013. I was told my room was over-crowded with jerseys, and that I could no longer buy more unless some were to be sold. I feared not being able to buy jerseys and at this moment, I feared my mom, so, like anyone would, I went to my dad and complained. He then helped me create an eBay account and sell my first jersey - Something that I still continue today. Brown’s Jerseys was created that day due to fear of my mom.

Ethan Hong ’21: 
All right - imagine being in a foreign country where you do not speak the language. Now imagine being stuck in the middle of a hundred-acre vineyard. Even further, imagine being an ignorant, stupid seven-year-old. That was me. I was in Italy years ago and if you couldn’t guess, I don’t speak Italian. My family and I were visiting Tuscany and we were visiting a gigantic vineyard. At the time, I had my favorite white teddy bear, snuffles, and naturally, I decided to go on an "adventure" with snuffles. Basically, I ran away from the group. Ten minutes later, I was lost and scared. I just sat on the ground, and cried -- seriously. After a while though, I bravely walked to the closest house and, surprisingly, and to my great relief, my parents were there. That day, I ventured out alone and got scared; however, using courage helped lead me back to my parents and this would never have happened without a simple action: trying. So never get discouraged in difficult times. All that you need to do is simply try. 

Anna Bajak ’20:
I felt as if I were in slow motion, flipping underwater, ha I thought, I can do it too. Suddenly it all sped up and I landed, bouncing on my back. My hands shot to my face I took a deep breath. When I pulled my hands away my white gloves were red. I rushed off the trampoline to my mom, blood was wiped from my face and my mom gasped, I looked in the mirror and my nose was completely crooked. Just the third time I was able to jump on my trampoline I broke my nose because I could not allow for my sister to do something I could not. Looking in that mirror I realized I should have been comfortable even happy that my sister was better than me at something. 

Jackie Levy ’20:  
To my surprise, when I peered down to look into the ocean, I saw what seemed like over a million jellyfish. I’d like to note that my feelings towards the ocean are not ones that are a specific love or particular hate. But, after seeing the swarm of jellyfish, I was leaning mostly towards a feeling of being petrified. I tried to focus on the instructors taking out the scuba gear instead of paying attention to the distinctive movement in the water. But, even distracting myself couldn't take away from the thought of “there is no way I can do this.” Nevertheless, these spine-chilling jellyfish could not obscure the beauty that the Great Barrier Reef had to offer that day. So, rather than passing up a once in a lifetime opportunity, I decided to put my fear to the side and jumped in the water without looking back. 

Sam Ephraimson-Abt ’20:   
When I went to the Rolling Loud Music Festival, ten friends and I were on the LIRR going to Citi Field. We were listening to music and having a good time, excited to see our favorite rap artists. DeMarcus approached our seats and surprised us all, leaning against the train wall and nodding his head to say what’s up. He asked for aux to the speaker then put on his favorite music. We secretly used shazam, a music recognition app, when he asked us to guess the name of one of his songs. When we correctly guessed the song, DeMarcus got excited, suddenly dancing and telling entertaining stories about his high school sports teams or friends. DeMarcus’s friendly nature made it easy for us to interact with him even though he was a random stranger because we had so much in common. This story reminds me of the power behind a good laugh and fun times and how it overpowers the fear of not knowing others, even a homeless man like DeMarcus.

Oliver Simon ’20: 
My 30 seconds of glory in the air started with a loud screech, but after a few seconds, I felt a rush that I had never felt before. For spring break in third grade, my family and I went to Costa Rica. We were at the most adventurous excursion: the Tarzan jump. At first, tears of fear dripped down my face after I peeked over the ramp and saw 13 stories of nothing. I refused to do the jump. Then, after witnessing much of my group complete it safely, including my seven-year-old sisters, I wanted to try it again. Terrified out of my mind, I walked tentatively down the ramp, I was clipped in, and then, suddenly, pushed right off. I felt like I was Tarzan until I safely landed on the ground. To this day, when I am scared, I think of Tarzan and the obstacle that I overcame that day. 

Kyle Torre '20:
I found myself staring at the girl my friends were making fun of. Everyone was eating their lunch in a huddle of friends.  But this girl was sitting alone, letting her legs dangle over the edge of the stage. Despite what my friends thought, I felt like I had make sure that girl didn’t feel alone. I got up off the floor of the stage.  I could feel the heat of the spotlight from my friends as they watched me walk to her.  She did not look up at me when I sat down next to her. “Hey,” I said.  She jumped as if I scared her.  I looked into her eyes, and she stared at me blankly, as if I wasn’t even there.  Her eyes were completely grayed out, and her pupils were barely visible-- she was blind.  Her face lit up with a smile at the sound of my voice. I ate with her every day after that for the rest of the summer. 

Tristan Long ’21: 
A few summers ago while in Thailand, my family and I were walking around Bangkok markets I saw a fresh seafood stand. I myself am not a big fan of seafood, at first glance the stand scared me, there was an old lady behind the desk with a huge knife and live fish on the chopping board. There were tubs of water all around her with live fish, eel and sea urchin all around her. My family was talking about how pretty the architecture was but, I was watching this old lady. She chopped the fish’s head off without hesitation and when she looked up she made eye contact with me. She made this hand signal to come over. I hesitated and then went to her stand. In rough English she asked if I wanted anything to eat. I pointed at the tub with squid in it. Without hesitation she grabbed a squid cut it and put the remaining meat on a plate and squeezed a lemon on it. She then handed it to me and said, “Welcome to Thailand”. 

Dillon Pamnani ’20
Fifteen years ago I turned three years old at my grandparents' house in Staten Island, New York. It was a familiar place for me as my family had to move in for a couple of months after the nine eleven attacks ended up destroying our apartment in Battery Park City. I was back at my grandparents' house to celebrate my third birthday by having a fireman themed party where I would get to ride with real firemen. I still vividly remember waking up excited and my sister explaining to me what a birthday was. While I was excited for weeks about going to the fire station, for some reason when the time came to actually get to fulfill my dreams, I became filled with uncertainty. I had always enjoyed pretending to be a fireman, but I was afraid of the responsibility of having people’s lives depend on me. Of course my three-year-old self did not realize that I didn’t have any of this responsibility. and I rode with the fireman that day. Till this day, this remains one of my most vivid memories of my early childhood.

Evan Zakhary ’20: 
Almost four years ago I met my peer leader, Joey Valazquez, by walking into the wrong book discussion room during Convocation Day. When he saw the panic on my face, he invited me to join the discussion he was leading and introduced me to the room of upperclassmen. I was terrified but he fully included me in the discussion even though I was an underclassman who read a completely different book than the one they were discussing. What Joey did for me could very well be one of the most formative events in shaping my high school experience. His act of compassion defined my time at MBS and established my belief in the interconnectedness of our school community. Joey’s simple gesture inspired me to overcome my fears, step out of my comfort zone, and become a peer leader myself to create the same positive ripple in someone’s life that Joey had started for me.

Thank you!


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