The 2020 Commencement Poem by Julia Caterson

In the 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, the character Mike Campbell famously answers the following question:

“‘How did you go bankrupt?’

‘Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.’”


Everything in life seems so sudden unless we focus on the gradual 

Whether that be falling asleep or falling in love

Learning to ride a bike or graduating high school

Suddenly, here we are

Donned in white dresses and graduation suits

They told us high school would fly by, and right now, that couldn’t seem more true

No more Friday uniforms or All-School Convos

Ahead of us, our future has never seemed so imminent

But our time as Berkeley students didn’t fly by


If for a moment you forget the importance of the gradual nature of high school

Let me remind you of freshman year us

We stood at the backs of the bleachers at football games

We lost every Battle of the Bucs

We dressed in Bermuda shorts and our main source of entertainment came from watching old vines

However, day-by-day, we learned to navigate the ins and outs of this new world

We embraced the freedoms that came with outdoor study halls and explored our interests through a wide array of new extracurriculars


Then suddenly, we weren’t the “babies” anymore.

As sophomores we tackled our first AP’s

We took our driver’s license tests

Then we arrived at school at seven 

just so we would have the time and space to repark a couple times


As juniors, we pushed ourselves to the limits

Ensuring that we had fun without cracking under our academic schedules

We went to Prom and survived the SAT’s

We rose into our first leadership positions 

We solidified our understanding of nuance in APUSH

We tested our mental barriers in AP Bio 

And analyzed Gatsby’s green light in our English classes


And suddenly, we were seniors

We had the senior lot all to ourselves

We could have milkshakes every day for lunch

We lined the front row of every game and starred as the leads in the school plays

We became the captains of teams and the editors of publications

We had our last Spirit Week

And our last Headmasters

We walked with our senior kindergarten buddies for the first time

And from afar and in our hearts, we walked with our senior kindergarten buddies for the last time.


It’s the start of a new decade

The beginning of a new chapter

Some might warn us this is when life really starts to move fast

But if we focus on each moment, each experience 

We can avoid fears of the suddenness of life


Because each year, month, and day at Berkeley brought us new lessons, both of academics and of life

Our experience at this school taught us to think for ourselves 

It has been a safe space to explore our identities and our passions

Braces came off, glasses swapped for contacts

We matured together and grew together

And we have the friends of a lifetime to show for it


This is the end of the Berkeley chapter of our lives

How suddenly it may seem that we find ourselves on this last page

But it was a chapter packed full with all of our experiences over the last four, seven, or fourteen years at this school 

Experiences that have shaped us into the class we are today

A class that will never forget the alma mater

And a class that will take what Berkeley has taught us, and use it to make an impact on the world around us

The class of twenty-twenty