First of all, welcome families and friends. Second, congratulations class of 2008. And third, I love you. My fellow graduates, we have been so fortunate in knowing each other. We have spent the last four years watching each other excel at what we love, whether it is academics, theatre, the school newspaper, sports or music. You all amaze me with your individual talents and leave me in awe at the thought that the next four years will only include two of you. I want to take this opportunity to let you all know how irreplaceable you and our Island are.

It wasn’t very long ago that I was sitting on a bus with my teammates traveling to a lacrosse game when Rachel Schubert said, “Hey guys? If we lived off-Island do you think we’d be sitting on the ground outside a Cumby’s sipping a Big Gulp?” Puzzled, we all looked out the window to see what she was talking about. Sure enough there were six kids no younger than we sitting outside that Cumby’s on the ground sipping their Big Gulps. We all looked at Rach and with a reassuring tone replied “Noooo.” Often I hear students saying that they can’t wait until they can get off this rock. But we are no more on a rock or isolated than those six kids sitting outside Cumby’s. It’s important for us to take control of our lives and morph them into what we want. Living on this Island makes us more than capable of achieving anything an off-Islander could.

I don’t know any other high school in the country that would use a piece of dark blue sea glass and a rock with a white ring around it as a motivational pump-up for their playoff lacrosse game. I also don’t know of any other high school where everyone knows you, your family and your 13-year-old Labrador that enjoys wandering through traffic for all the attention it gets. When your brother comes home from college he asks you to check out the waves with him at South Beach, not check out the newest movie. This is a place where dirt roads, not paved, take you to the most beautiful places as well as the most secret of Islander spots. Skipping class doesn’t involve the mall, but the beach. The odds of getting pulled over by a cop and him being the dad of one of your friends is alarmingly high. The Island that we live on is a place like no other. I never realized how different Island living is until I hear my sister in law, who was here visiting from the Midwest, say that she couldn’t sleep because the fog horn kept her up all night.

Sometimes it is due to these matchless qualities of the Island that off-Islanders often assume that we don’t live in what they consider to be the real world. What those people don’t know is that we don’t need a 45-minute boat ride to insure ourselves that we have finally encountered the real world. I’m sure the CEO of a bank in Edgartown thinks that he has reached the real world. Yet he still has oars hanging on his office wall in case he needs to row home and the Chappy ferry isn’t running.

A couple of years ago my brother Paul lived in the real world of Ohio. Every day he would pull up to the same intersection at the same time on his way to work. For Paul, life had hit a very low and boring pace at this intersection. However, the one thing that kept him moving was the fact that every day a young, pretty blonde would pull up in a car beside him at that same intersection. While he was initially at a loss for how he was going to catch her attention, he eventually realized that this girl had a Black Dog bumper sticker on her car. That was it! His big in! He picked up his phone and called in one MV bumper sticker to my mom who sent it to him the very next day upon being told by her son that this was “extremely urgent.”

Nothing ever came of the girl and my brother, but the important part is you never know when being an Islander will get that girl or guy at the intersection to set eyes on you — just kidding.

The Island finds its ways to work itself into the most remote places. It leaves its mark on anyone who experiences its effect. It is a place we will be able to call home forever and it will evermore be the way in which we all stay connected, no matter where our lives may lead us. It for this reason that I have a small gift for each one of my fellow graduates. Class of 2008, daRosa’s and I wanted to give each of you your own MV bumper sticker. I hope these stickers will serve as reminders of our irreplaceable friends, our timeless memories and our favorite Island.

Jane Alexander is class essayist.