The Bob Christian Alumna of the Year Award Recipient 2012/2013
Michelle Hoeppner-Cagnin '94
Hello HKIS graduating class of 2013. My name is Michelle Hoeppner Cagnin and I am honored to stand before you today as the Bob Christian Alumnus of the year.
But today is a day of congratulation for you! Congratulations to each of you for finishing school work and requirements and for entering a new chapter in your lives. Congratulations to your parents and family members who have guided you to this point and now send you with their blessings to new adventures. And congratulations to the teachers and administrators at HKIS who have worked diligently over the years to turn this motley crew into high school graduates who will move on to change the world.
I understand that your class motto is a quote from Winston Churchill:
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. "
A good quote and quite true. As a graduate of HKIS myself, I understand that your lives are starting a new chapter. HKIS has given you a solid foundation in academics, spirituality, and character development. You are self-motivated learners and world citizens who are empathetic and interested in contributing to society. You have a knowledge and an appreciation of Chinese culture. With this foundation, a world of opportunities is now open to you.
That being said, a world of opportunities sounds like a good thing but it can be a bit overwhelming. With high school graduation, you take on new responsibilities and a continued quest to find your passions and your calling.
For me, this quest has taken me on a wonderful adventure from the urban poor areas of the Dominican Republic to rural villages in mainland China. From interactions with those who have power to those who do not realize their own power. I have been honored to work with the Lutheran church and with international non-profits. I have used my skills in intercultural communication with my husband's family in Italy. I have experienced joy, love, heartbreak, and grief.
This world of opportunities is a burden without faith, hope, and love. For me, high school graduation is the end of the beginning phase of self definition. At the beginning phase of self-definition, we start to figure out who we are as individuals. We often learn this in two ways. The first is through instruction, our family or friends, telling us who we are. The second is through comparison and rebellion. When you are growing up, it is important to understand what you stand against and what you do not believe in. However, as we move into adulthood, I believe that this negative definition of self – a self-definition according to the things we are opposed to – changes. We start to seek our passions and callings. We define what we have faith in, the values by which we want to live our lives, the things that we are willing to sacrifice for. This process usually comes with confusion and sometimes with pain. My hope and prayer for you is that you continue to struggle and fight and make mistakes on the road to defining who you are and what you want to be. Saint Francis of Assisi said,
‘Start doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly, you are doing the impossible.’
Traveling mercies to each of you as you find out which impossible things can be made possible though your contributions. Blessings!
A full story on Michelle Hoeppner-Cagnin '94 will be featured in our next Winter issue of DragonTales.