PUTNEY -- Riding atop the rails of a hay trailer, a tractor and on roller skates, in Putney School fashion, the 2012 graduating class told the world they're ready for whatever it may bring.
Gaia Raimondo, of New York, one of the two senior commencement speakers, said prior to the ceremony that she's not sure exactly what she's going to study at Bard College this fall, but whatever it may be, she feels prepared for it because of her education at the Putney School.
"This has been the best four years of my life," Raimondo said. "Ever since freshman year this has been heaven. I've met a lot of amazing people so (graduation) is both sad and exciting."
Of the 59 graduates, 8 are from Vermont, 14 from different countries including South Korea, Turkey, China, Canada, Thailand, and Guatemala, and 37 from 13 different states across the country.
Combined they've worked on 720 different projects, held three sports championships, put on four musicals and spend more than 2,000 hours of work on campus and in the Putney community, said School Director Emily Jones.
"You all should be proud of your work ethic," she said. "You're leaving Putney a better place than you found it ... and you're leaving a lot of yourselves behind to carry that legacy."
Jones described the graduates as "hard-core idealists" where "good wasn't ever good enough" for them and she encouraged them to hold on to that idealism and apply it wherever
During his commencement address, former Putney School alum and president of Hampshire College, Jonathan Lash, told the soon-to-be graduates that change is one of the only things they can count on in life.
"You will live and work in a world turbulent with physical, social and technological change," he said. "It will be a world made smaller by connection as money, goods, knowledge, ideas and images flow almost frictionlessly across boarders, creating both acquaintance and conflict, opportunity and threat."
Lash talked about the ever-changing landscape of social media and how it can enable revolutions as well as undermine privacy.
As more people with increasing wealth demand more goods and food it creates pressures on natural systems and causes disruptive changes in the world's oceans, forests and climate, he said.
"The pace of change is accelerating," Lash said. "It took 46 years from the time that the first power lines were rigged for 25 percent of Americans to get electricity. Thirty-five years for the telephone, 16 years for 25 percent of us to get a personal computer, seven years for Internet access and seemingly minutes for most tech-savvy young Americans to get an iPhone 4."
With rapid shifts in technology, global markets and the means to attend higher education, 70 percent of the 59 graduates will end up in jobs that haven't been invented yet, he said.
"You will struggle to solve problems we do not yet understand, collaborating with people on multiple continents through institutions not yet credited," Lash said. "You can learn anything, invent what you need, build what you can image. You can be the change."
Putney graduates are ready for anything, he said, and challenged them when called upon to follow the example of the recent Occupy movement with a slight twist.
"Occupy democracy, occupy education, occupy commencement, occupy your work, but I only ask this," he said. "When you get there, for goodness sake don't sit around beating drums, do something. Ignore boundaries, ask questions and ignite expertise with creativity."
Josh Stilts can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.