2017 Commencement Speaker

The Class of 2017 graduated on Friday, June 9, 2017. Their Commencement Speaker was Matt Eskin, who is stepping down later this month as our Assistant Head of School to join the administration of Abington Friends School as Middle School Director. We wish Matt the very best.

 By Matt Eskin, Assistant Head of School

It’s been an amazing seven years here at The Philadelphia School. I’m so grateful for all of the ways that students, faculty, staff and parents have touched me. Truly, it’s been an honor.


Many huge life events have occurred for me during this time. My son, Lev, spent his first four years in school here, and I was able to watch him learn, grow, and thrive, thanks to so many of you.

We (my wife Kristin and I) adopted our daughter, Gracie, just less than three years ago, and the support from this community was overwhelming.

Shortly after Gracie came along, my father passed away...and that’s where I really want this story to begin.

My dad grew up in Philadelphia. He was born in South Philly during the Depression and then moved to North Philly. My dad was Philly through and through. He attended Central High School, then Temple University, and finally the University of Pennsylvania for graduate school in social work.

My dad, a social worker most of his life, grew up with a different perspective. Not only did he grow up during the Depression, when resources were limited, he grew up with a younger brother who was severely disabled and eventually died when my dad was just seventeen.

What emerged through my dad’s life, who my dad became, was something else though. He was someone I always truly admired. One of the qualities I most admired about him was his sense of gratitude for all he had in the world. You see, my dad never believed he deserved anything, and since his death, I’ve thought a lot about that word, “deserved,” and I’d like to share some of those thoughts.

I believe there are some things NO ONE DESERVES, though we all experience them.

No one deserves to be treated badly, humiliated, picked on, or  spoken down to.

No one deserves to be treated differently because of their ability or disability.

No one deserves to have a tougher path in this world simply because of the color of their skin, nor do any of us with “white skin” deserve the privilege that bestows us.

So what does it mean to deserve something?

Well, I was shocked when I looked up the word “deserve” in the dictionary. Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines the word simply – “Deserve, To be worthy of.” Well, if my dad didn’t believe he deserved anything, he was just wrong, because he was worthy of so much.

But when I look more carefully at my dad’s sentiments, it drives me to think more deeply about the word, or at least the role it plays in our lives today.

It is easy to look over at this incredibly talented group of soon-to-be graduates and say, “you are absolutely worthy of this day...you deserve to be here.” But it is also true that there are thousands of other 8th graders in this city and hundreds of thousands in this country, and I can’t imagine how many in the world.

 I ask the TPS Class of 2017, “Do you deserve it more than they? Was it just of your own agility that you arrived here at The Philadelphia School?” By the dictionary definition – to be worthy of, we’d be hard-pressed to come up with a single 8th grader in this city or beyond who didn’t deserve to be here on this stage now with you.

I don’t share these thoughts to invoke any guilt. Remember, you deserve it as much as anyone else; I share this idea to challenge you...to challenge myself, to challenge all of us, to constantly reflect on how others have supported us.

For all that you are worthy of, those who surround you, support you, challenge you, even frustrate you (your parents, your teachers, even your friends sometime), play a huge role in sharing all that you deserve.

When you leave The Philadelphia School and you study hard and you get that A on a test or a paper – and then tell yourself, “I deserved that”–  remember the others. Remember the classmates, the teachers, even the former teachers who played a role when you make that team, or perform that amazing piece, or get a role in that play or musical, or create art worthy of all our eyes. You may say to yourself, “I deserved that,” but then take a minute to remember those around you who helped make it happen. Certainly recognize your own efforts and congratulate yourself on all that you accomplish, but remember to stop and think about those around you who played a role.

And as you tornado through this complicated world, impressing and influencing others with your talents of heart and mind, think deeply about those who deserve opportunities but don’t get them the same way you and I do. Consider how you can share your talents in ways that create more opportunities for others less fortunate so they receive all that they deserve too!

Thank you.