Gramling Urges Students to Confront the Uncomfortable

Gramling departs Berkeley with thoughtful remarks on his experiences and advice for his graduating class.

George Gramling

Samir Saeed
FACE YOUR FEARS: Gramling ’19 encourages students to “embrace the discomfort”.

Good evening. My name is George Gramling and I am truly humbled and honored to have the opportunity to speak today. I have attended Berkeley since pre-k and have had the pleasure of being part of this wonderful graduating class.


I would like to take a moment to celebrate our graduation. Despite all the dangers in this world – global warming, bad test grades, water guns, denim, and yes even facial hair, we have finally made it! We have victoriously crossed the finish line and will now begin our next journey. Let’s breathe that in – we are at the beginning of the rest of our lives! Heading off to college always seemed so far away, but now, our time has come to walk this stage, shake the Headmaster’s hand, and receive our long-awaited, well-earned diplomas.


Regardless of where you came from, how long you’ve been here, or where you plan to attend college, we have been, and will continue to be family: a family that is loving, caring, and humble. We are a family that offers support and encouragement for one another. We are a family that knows how to stick together through thick and thin.


As a family, it’s safe to say that we’ve been through a lot. And today is most likely the last day that our family will all be in the same room together. So, it is my honor and a great privilege to address our family collectively. Thank you.


Perhaps our first appreciation of our Berkeley family came in fourth grade when we each welcomed, with open arms, our newest family member: a plant. After a few weeks of caring for and protecting our little green buddy, we received our first ever IBM Laptops. What a time to be alive. In 5th grade, we went to our Lower Division graduation dance where we boogied the night away, anticipated the world’s impending doom from the 2012 tsunami, and contemplated the very intimidating jump to Middle Division.


In Middle Division we learned to overcome that awkward stage where we wore braces on our teeth and clothes that just didn’t fit us right. I wish someone had told me how goofy I looked. We traveled to New York City in 8th grade where our family spent most of our time with the beloved Tim the Tour Guide. We danced to lyrics we didn’t understand and said “Yolo,” “Swag,” “Cray Cray” and “Yeet” as if they had always been part of our vocabulary. It took courage to live through those transitional years, surely college cannot require more courage than we mustered together as Middle Divisioners, right?


Freshman year we made the quite confusing, but ultimately beneficial, jump from Edline to MyBerkeley and in our sophomore year we… we… honestly, who knows what we did that year. Then junior year came around. We were finally upperclassmen, presented with a lot more AP opportunities and a lot more responsibility. But ultimately, it seemed like we all just sat in our bedrooms and grinded away at homework. And now here we are at the end of our senior year. Sick with a case of “Senioritis”, still in disbelief at the Ice Bucs amazing season and relieved to be through with the ever-so-stressful college process.


As I look around, I can see many different emotions flowing through each of you, students, teachers, and parents alike. Some of our family is sad to leave this amazing school while others are ready to spread their wings and take on a whole new set of challenges. But like I said, we are a family. And we all know you can’t escape your family, can you?


No, you can’t! So while escape is futile, nonetheless many of us will be off to different cities across the country. We are about to leave this comfortable, insular environment in pursuit of our dreams. With all this newness, we are bound to feel uncomfortable. And I say – embrace it!


Trying to avoid discomfort is like trying to avoid growing old. It’s going to happen whether you like it or not. Comfort is easy! It’s nice and cozy! But if we don’t get comfortable with being uncomfortable, we will choose the path of least resistance rather than the path that is right for us.


One way to face the challenge of newness and discomfort is by saying “yes.” Is that your current practice? When a friend or family member calls you to go to lunch or hang out, do you agree, or do you make up an excuse to sit on your couch and eat pizza? When offered an opportunity of any sort, do you accept and dive in head first, or do you shy away?


We must learn to eagerly accept certain challenges, even those that make us uncomfortable. Like applying to “reach universities” or choosing to intensively study in hopes of receiving credit hours from our AP exams.


Class, we have faced many challenges throughout our lives at Berkeley and by saying yes and embracing these opportunities, we have proven to ourselves that even the challenges that make us uncomfortable cannot stop us. Coming to Berkeley in itself was an uncomfortable and challenging task, but we stepped up to the challenge and we said yes to Berkeley. Now, we have had the most amazing, influential educational experience possible. Would we be here if we hadn’t found a way through that initial discomfort?


No, and we have ourselves to thank for that. This moment has arrived because yes, we have worked very hard: learning, competing, doing, achieving. We did it, but we did not do it alone. Look around. See the faces of our teachers and faculty, our Headmaster, our coaches, our parents. We owe them our deepest gratitude and appreciation for the love and support they have given to each of us not sometimes, but every single day. We, as a class, are the outcome of those in the Berkeley community who have helped us achieve this moment and whose shoulders we stand on. We are here because of this support system. So thank you to our loving families, thank you to our dedicated faculty, and thank you to our gracious administration. Your dedication to our educational growth has made us who we are today, and, by the way, I think we turned out pretty well.


So, to sum up: Embrace that discomfort, say yes to new things, but don’t forget each of us could not be where we are today without family. And no matter where each of us ends up, we have the Berkeley family right here in this room to hold us up.


Let us go forth strongly and happily, taking with us the virtues, talents and knowledge that we have absorbed through our BPS experience. I love you all, thank you for the memories we have made and the love that you have provided. Thank you and go Bucs!