“These coming years will be the best four years of your life.”
These were words I must have heard a thousand times throughout my transition from eighth grade into freshman year at De Smet. These words were a promise, it seemed, to my fellow classmates and me as we were about to turn the page and enter into a new chapter of our 14-year-old lives. Not only were they words of encouragement, but more a call to action. It is a call to take high school with all of its glory and stupidity; its excitement and sincerity; and whatever else it may contain; into your own hands, and to shape the experience to fit your own expectations. This promise is one that has intrigued me from the moment I heard it, and I hope for each and every one of you it can do the same.
What has intrigued me, however, is that it is a promise that I never want to see come to fruition. I believe that if De Smet does their job well, and I assure you they will, these next four years are ground zero.
These coming years are the foundation for the beautiful skyscraper of a life that I hope and expect all of you to lead.
Throughout your time and experience here, I want you to have comfort in knowing that you will be given the tools to be successful, both during your time here, and for the rest of your time after.
Before I continue, whether this be a show of hands or in typical De Smet fashion a very loud yell, who is excited to start their freshman year at De Smet Jesuit High School? Okay, now who is at all nervous to start high school?
I ask because I was both. I was excited to a part of the student section, and to finally have seemingly edible food in my school’s cafeteria. I was excited to be a part of the family that is De Smet. I must admit, however, that I had my reservations in regards to coming here as well. I’m known by my friends to be extremely romantic and spontaneous, and those are the two words I would say that described my motivation to choose De Smet. I understand that this sounds ridiculous, but I had a feeling when I shadowed that this was the place for me (I also loved the food at lunch). Right after my shadow date I decided to come here. I’ll be honest it was kind of a light bulb moment and then the rest followed very quickly without me having any idea of what was going on. And then here I was, sitting at freshman orientation in 2015 scared out of my mind.
And you see, I was scared because I knew that I was different from what I thought a “De Smet student” was like. If any of you get to talking to me after this, you will learn that I am not at all “typical” in regards to what most think of when they imagine a De Smet student, I’m kind of weird. And for the same reasons I was scared, today, I am confident that I could not have chosen a better place for me.
At De Smet, whatever it may be that makes you different will make you successful at this school.
This is an idea that follows suit with the Jesuit ideologies, in that the commitment to embracing our insecurities is the key to achieving a progressive solidarity within our class. So be different. It’s cool, I promise.
Who is planning on trying out for the freshman basketball team in November? I was too. However, freshman year I was 10 inches shorter and 40 pounds less than I am right now. So in retrospect, it really shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when I didn’t make the basketball team. However, at the time it was a huge surprise, and I definitely cried the entire ride home even after my mom got me an ice cream cone from McDonalds. That was a low for me. But in that moment, I experienced the aspects of De Smet that make it the amazing place that it is. My acting and improv teacher, Mr. Welling, suggested I audition for the winter musical, Spamalot. I thought that because I had no idea how I was going to meet girls since I wasn’t on the basketball team, I would try out for theatre.
It was that redirection within a moment of rejection...
that allowed me to become a part of what I think is one of the coolest programs within this school. I was accepted into a community of a whole bunch of other people who would also probably not make the basketball team, and I felt at home with them. De Smet has taught me to look at rejection through a new lens. De Smet is a place where you will learn to be men, whatever that means to you. De Smet is a place that acknowledges and embraces hardship. De Smet is a place where you will learn to be successful.
I know that each and every one of you will be proud to say that you are a member of the De Smet Jesuit family. And I hope more than anything that these coming years are not the best four years of your life, but that they will only be the beginning.
This was the Freshman Orientation 2019 Keynote Speech given by Sean Gerty '19 to the incoming Class of 2023 on April 16, 2019...the same day Sean was recognized as one of our 12 Men of the Year.