Monday night was the occasion of the annual East Hampton Star All-Star Awards in which we give recognition — and an dinner out with family or friends — to local high school juniors whose academic and extracurricular performance has been noted by their respective schools’ administrators. This year, as I drove to the dinner at East Hampton Point restaurant, I was thinking about what the world that these young men and women were inheriting would be like.
As I do before such events in the privacy of my pickup truck, I talk out loud to myself, working out what I might say. But most of the time when the microphone goes on my better ideas go right out of my head, and I find myself wishing I had made crib notes. This time, however, one idea stuck: that these students, most of whom will be college-bound by this time next year and entering professional adulthood in five years, will be facing a time of unprecedented challenge.
This, I told them, might sound scary, but in my view it was something to be envied. Out of great obstacles come great solutions, I said, thinking of climate change, global population growth, and economic inequality. If there was one generation I truly envied, I told them, it was theirs.
The way the All-Star Awards night works is that a representative or two of each school’s administration or faculty gets up while dinner is being served to say a few words about their nominees. The range of accomplishment and background we learned about was, as it usually is, remarkable.
Sometimes the selections surprise us. I was moved when Jack Pryor, the principal of the Bridgehampton School, spoke of two students, Vanessa Cruz and Made Aditya Nugraha, who came to the district — and the United States — knowing little English and, through hard and unrelenting work, did well in their course work and won the admiration of their peers and faculty. Vanessa is from Mexico and Made from Bali.
When her turn came, Maria Mondini, an assistant principal at East Hampton High School, said that when she spoke about her students’ sky-high grades, volunteering, and sports accomplishments, she couldn’t help wonder where she had been in high school. This is a sentiment I share each year at the awards. “This is,” I told the group in all modesty, “a club of which I would not have been a member.”