Castilleja commencement emphasizes sisterhood, social responsibility

Screenwriter Callie Khouri delivered keynote speech to school's 62 graduates

The Castilleja School Class of 2019 gather around in a circle and raise their bouquets in celebration following commencement on June 8, 2019. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Carrying bouquets of red roses and clad in white dresses and pantsuits, the 62 members of Castilleja School's Class of 2019 linked arms and held hands as they marched before their family and friends to celebrate the completion of their high school careers Saturday afternoon.

Keynote speaker Callie Khouri, screenwriter of "Thelma and Louise," emphasized the importance of honoring trailblazing women in her speech. "I call myself a feminist to honor those women who went before me and put it all on the line," she said.

"This time of year, speeches are being given all across the country about your ability and your responsibility to change the world. I want to tell you, you will be surprised at how resistant the world will be to change, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn't try."

Khouri, whose niece was among the graduates, also urged the audience to resist the temptation to measure their success by comparing themselves to others.

"In today's environment, everyone is photographing themselves, projecting a highly curated image on social media, as if we are selling ourselves to an invisible audience," she said.

"If you're like I was at your age ... you also have tremendous self-doubt. I'm sure that each one of you could offer me a fairly detailed list of what you see as your imperfections. Don't. I urgently implore you more than anything else to purge yourself of this natural but viciously counterproductive inclination to compare yourself to the unrealistic versions created on social media."

Although Castilleja no longer selects a valedictorian, the school presents the Castilleja Award to students who demonstrate conscience, courtesy, character, courage and charity, known as the "five Cs." Sophia Nevle Levoy, one of the recipients of the award, spoke about the importance of acknowledging her responsibility to improve the world during her speech.

"A lot has been said about making choices that are good for us, choices that help us lead emotionally healthy lives," Levoy said. "But something we talk about less, because it can come across as moralistic, is 'how do we make choices that are good for the world? How do we make choices that wield our power wisely?'"

Claire Pisani, another recipient, talked about the courage of the students around her, particularly when it came to speaking up and asking for help.

"What I think encapsulates much of what I've learned from all of you is that admitting you need help and asking for it does not make you weak, but is in fact one of the strongest things you can do," Pisani said. "Time and time again, I am inspired by classmates who reveal this kind of courage when they meet with teachers one on one, ask for extra time or extensions on assignments, or approach the counselors for advice on social and mental health issues. There is great strength in showing others who you are, not just in the good times but in the bad."

Head of School Nanci Kauffman gave the closing speech, starting with a letter she received from a community member who was moved by the kindness that Castilleja students had shown her. She also acknowledged the growing preference among today's leaders for discord over civility.

"In business and in politics, we see leaders who lack tolerance and marginalize certain groups, in many cases, women. Instead of respectful debate amongst leaders, we sometimes witness hostile confrontations," Kauffman said.

"It is in this context, coming of age in a climate of discord, that your acts of kindness to one another and to others truly are noteworthy. ... We trust that you will be the leaders in the movement to take back kindness."

Related content:

Facebook album of Castilla School's 2019 graduation ceremony

• View the full list of Castilleja School's Class of 2019 here.

The moments, songs and emojis that define the class of 2019: Seniors reflect on their high school careers

Visit Graduation Central for more stories and photos capturing commencement celebrations across Midpeninsula high schools.


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14 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2019 at 8:23 pm

Congratulations, all! Wishing you much love, laughter, strength, and joy as you move into the next phase your lives!

15 people like this
Posted by Alum
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2019 at 2:08 am

Couldn’t wait to graduate from Castilleja. So much pettiness with no boys to offset the female neurosis. This wasn’t real life, it was like being in a female prison. Girls are taught to be ultra feminists. Feminism has its place but there is a difference between females and males. [Portion removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Lies
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2019 at 10:58 am

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2019 at 11:06 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

I misread this to believe for a second that the screen writer was a Casti grad -- as Grace Slick was.
I was going to sugget she write an original treatment about the Donnas.

2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2019 at 11:11 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Hey don't castigate this group of innocents.
Come to think ot if: that's a cool name for the brouhaha over the school expansion: CastiGate.

Also, this might be inappropriate for this thread but it is a true fact and not fake news that when Eve Ensler spoke at Casti the columnist of the local paper Janet Luca Norton wrote about the event without mentioning the name of her most famous book and project.

[Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2019 at 11:18 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

10 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2019 at 11:24 am

[Portion removed.] I wish these young women the best and applaud them for thinking about their responsibility to make the world a better place. That is a lot better than many other teens graduating today.

25 people like this
Posted by Sisterhood Is Over-Rated
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2019 at 2:09 pm

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2019 at 2:18 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Don’t take my comments out of context.

22 people like this
Posted by Sisterhood Has Its Limits
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2019 at 3:47 pm

[Post removed.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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