2016 Dr Coffman Speech Excerpts

As an avid historian dedicated to helping students understand how previous events affect present circumstances, each commencement address delivered by Dr. Coffman in the spring of 2016 contained a theme of “misunderstanding the past” while referencing a famous historical speech.

Excerpts from 4th Grade “Moving Up” Ceremony, TPS Class of 2024

On always challenging yourself…

My third-grade teacher, Mr. Borman, taught me nothing worth accomplishing happens without a struggle or without help from others.  We learned that you need to try every day to get better, to always look for ways to help others and be willing to seek out support when you need it.

His philosophy ties into a quote we’ve been talking about in Primary School.  Olympic medalist, and former world record holder, Bonnie Blair said, “Winning means you’re doing better than you’ve ever done before.”  Mr. Borman, and our teachers here at The Prairie School, agree.  Solving an easy problem is not nearly as rewarding as unraveling a challenging one.  Even though you will make mistakes working with the harder problem – you will learn from those mistakes and be better for them.

On the importance of continual learning…

Your brain is a muscle and every time you ask questions, try out new ideas or search for knowledge, you grow and strengthen your brain. So this summer and next year, try new things, ask challenging questions and work with others to find the answers.

Excerpts from 8th Grade Commencement, TPS Class of 2020

On the group’s upcoming class trip to Washington DC…

When you go to Washington next week, pay attention.  When you come home, get involved.  Figure out what you believe and what you stand for.  What should the role of government be and how can it best accomplish that role?  This is an election year, and although you won’t be able to vote, I hope you will take the time to develop nuanced and informed opinions on each of the issues.  Can you do this for me?

Excerpts from Upper School Commencement, TPS Class of 2016

On how Prairie parents play a vital role in their child’s academic success…

Before we end our ceremony, I would like to take a few moments to add my thanks to the parents and families of our graduates.  Prairie is not easy – and without your support these graduates would not be here today.  The faculty and I thank you for partnering with us to prepare them to succeed in college and lead lives of purpose.

On the importance of understanding context…

As you head out into the world, I urge you to always pay attention to context.  Too often in today’s society we look for mirrors instead of windows and, metaphorically, we think every problem is a nail because we have a hammer in our hand.  Remember – context matters.  Every situation and the people involved in it are unique.  When you are faced with a challenge, slow down, observe the situation, ask questions, and reflect.  Use the context to help you understand and solve the problem in front of you.

On living a life of happiness and satisfaction…

For those of you headed off to get an education that will help you earn a lot of money, remember that your financial success is a means to an end and only the beginning of your duty to society.  I hope that all of you will use your resources, time and skills to make a difference in the lives of others.  You will be happier and more satisfied than you can imagine.