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He started his career in the family real estate and hotel business in Florida from which his concern for the environment steered him in public life. He has served six Florida governors and two presidents in many positions, including terms as chairman of the Florida Department of Air and Water Pollution Control, and Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Beyond his government service, he helped found 1000 Friends of Florida and has served as both president and chairman of the board of the organization. He currently or has served on the boards of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Geographic Society, Yellowstone National Park, Everglades Foundation and Hope Rural School.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Remarks by Nathaniel Reed before the Greenwich Country Day School on October 12, 2012

Good Morning!

Headmaster Rohdic, distinguished faculty, fellow alumni, parents, and guests, and most importantly, students of the Greenwich Country Day School.

I am both deeply honored and truly delighted to join you today on the 65th anniversary of my graduation from the Greenwich Country Day School.

I invite you students to take a moment and try to envision this school as it existed when I attended:

Neither television, nor educational movie films existed then.  Computers, portable phones, and mercifully portable video games, had not yet arrived.  Satellites were not yet whirling above us allowing instant internet communication with every corner of the world and were so still far in the future as to be barely imagined!

In the classroom, we sat with notebooks and pencil facing our teacher who often stood before a large chalkboard.  We practiced our penmanship on writing tablets with 3-line spacing to help us correctly size each letter.  My worst fear realized was to be called by the teacher to put my work on that chalkboard before the entire class!

The school was comprised of grades 1-8; there was no kindergarten, nor 9th grade.

The entire student body numbered but 103 students.  

I would ask you students to bear with me a moment as I seemingly digress, but allow me to share some names with you.  I don’t expect you students to recognize them, but others here today may recall them.

Helen Jacobus, Arthur GrantArthur Luther, John HealyLeland Johnson, Walter Davis Jr., Mlle. Rose Marie Rouvel, Hector Hart and Edward Hillard.
I have just read a list of some of the teachers who invested their lives as MY teachers at the Greenwich Country Day School.  For myself and my classmates, some of whom are here today, these were the individuals who first prepared us for the future through the rigors of continuing scholastic education, discipline in the hallways and classrooms and good sportsmanship on the athletic fields.

I recognize that my campus environment was one that you students today can hardly envision.  Today your school encompasses pre-kindergarten through the 9th grade.  Your student body this year numbers 893 students.  Today, the Greenwich Country Day School is the largest independent elementary and middle school in the United States!  I’m dumfounded that today a single grade could be almost as large as the entire school was during my tenure.  The internet gives you instant access to the world, and the laptop computer literally brings anything, and everything, right to your desk.  The computer stylus now seems to be as common as the pencil. My grandchildren don’t write letters from school; they send me emails, or put posts on Facebook and Twitter – I admit to being somewhat baffled by it all.

Some things have not changed at the Greenwich Country Day School:

The dress code seems quite similar to me, although perhaps more fashionable and comfortable than we enjoyed.  I began school here in the first grade and distinctly remember tightly woven, very itchy, crew-necked black wool sweaters with the orange circles on one sleeve.  In the Upper School, boys were required to wear coat and tie, while girls wore dresses.

Most importantly, the quality of education, and the high standards of your teachers remain a benchmark of the school ever-as-much today as they were 65 years ago.  Their challenging mission today remains the same as that of my instructors; to prepare you in the best way possible to face the ever-changing world beyond the school gates; truly a most formidable on-going responsibility when you consider how much has changed since I was here, and will continue to change for your futures.

As I’ve outlined, the Greenwich Country Day School has changed a great deal from when I was here, as has indeed the entire world.  As you contemplate the magnitude of changes I’ve outlined compared to your world today, I would ask you each to imagine for a moment what your world will be like 65 years from now.  I would suggest that breathtaking breakthroughs will continue to advance our culture at a rate that will make what you today experience as cutting edge technology perhaps as obsolete as the blackboard is today.  In another 65 years you students might well look back at the iPad, the automobile, or even the internet as if they were related to dinosaurs.

The distinguished writer Tom Friedman has written extensively about what he calls the “Flat Earth”, his characterization of our world today where countries borders are now perhaps more like sieves than fences.  A world where international goods, ideas, and even germs race about the globe at an ever-increasing pace as technologies ranging from computers to aircraft to inter-dependent economies forge bonds that make all of us feel more tightly linked and closer together.

That’s the world that you students will inherit, and the one in which you must be able make your way.

And that’s what the Greenwich School strives to prepare you for; not OUR world of today, but YOUR world of tomorrow.

Your desire to learn - and excel - everywhere from the classroom to the sports fields - should be considered one of the greatest gifts that the schools’ faculty can offer - or perhaps even force-feed you!

Perhaps no-one illustrates this fact better than myself!  My first four school years were spent here.  My father was a trustee and briefly acting headmaster.  On December 8, my father, volunteered for World War II, was assigned to a base in Lexington, Virginia, far from our home in Greenwich.  The Reed children were enrolled in public schools there, but my parents quickly recognized that the situation was wholly unacceptable – we were doomed to illiteracy if we remained there - and decided that my brother and I would be sent back here.  Our Greenwich house was closed, so I lived with a remarkable Maine couple, Edith and Arthur Grant.  The Grants made us members of their family; a loving family not dissimilar to our parents love and abiding interest in our growth as human beings.  We all lived above the old Greenwich Day School gymnasium.  My brother Adrian spent one year, and I two years with the Grants, catching up for the years lost in Lexington.  At war’s end, my parents returned to Greenwich and I continued as a student here through my graduation in 1947.

This spectacular campus is the result of the commitment to excellence by generous graduates and parents.  They have all believed in a fundamental fact: your early education forms the foundation on which each of you will build your future education, and it also instills the basic ethics that will guide you the rest of your lives.

The journey of life is filled with a vast number of experiences and my memory bank is full of the care and motivation that highlighted my years at this school.

I have fond memories of every teacher, including those who frankly intimidated me – for my own good.

I vividly remember Mr. Locke, the head of the Music Department who taught us as a student body how to sing in modestly good harmony to hopefully impress our parents!

I also remember the extraordinary beauty of Mr. Bartholomew’s playing of the piano at many of the daily school meetings that began the school day.  I also remember the sheer terror of standing before the whole assembled Upper Classes when, as 8th graders, we were required to give a 5-minute speech.  I still distinctly recall one of my best friends, smart and articulate, stepping forward in front of his classmates, taking a long breath, and then stiffening and becoming unable to utter any sound - for a very long two minutes before the Headmaster gracefully took him back to his seat.  We all thought “Oh, what if we are hit with the same plight of stage fright!”

One of the most important changes in the school life occurred in 1943 when John Webster was appointed Headmaster.  He met every student at the front door as we poured from our Ford Station wagons into school, shook hands with each of us, looked squarely into our eyes and, with a pat on the back, sent us to our classrooms.  After dropping our books at our desks, we then marched behind our teacher to our designated seats in the meeting room for school assembly where the Headmaster briefly addressed us all as a group.  The Headmaster met us each again every afternoon as we left for our cars.  He always stood by the door, shook hands with every student, remembering everyone’s name, requiring of us a firm handshake and a returned look into his penetrating eyes.  He took time to have one-on-one meetings with every member of the upper school well before the term’s end.  He read to us from a folder each student’s report which included their academic standing and comments on the students work habits, deportment, determination and aptitude.  He was a major figure in our collective lives.  Usually calmly, but occasionally more demandingly, he conveyed the need for better deportment in the corridors, excellence in the school rooms and sportsmanship on the playing fields.  Failure - neither academic nor behavioral - was acceptable.  We truly feared the potential meeting with our parents if we committed serious misdemeanors or were lax in our studies.

Homework was carefully analyzed.  Our reading schedule was checked and rechecked.  We wrote compositions weekly and the teacher’s rigorous comments – written in red ink with frequent circles about spelling, punctuation and the subject matter could nearly bring tears to our eyes. Sometimes an encouraging note was appended, or sometimes in my case, a more intimidating one!

We were ultimately sent forth on a glorious spring day, marching to receive our diplomas.  After a forgettable address, possibly like this one, parents and grandparents circled us and gave us individual ovations of congratulations.

We were now off to a new world.  In most cases our umbilical cords were severed and we went on to preparatory schools where the Country Day School foundation would be tested very quickly.

Today I’ve been honored as a distinguished alumnus of the school; given the many truly distinguished individuals who are school alumni, I indeed feel very honored by the award.

For you students, perhaps my career illustrates what opportunities might lay ahead for each of you.  I always admonish students to “Follow Your Passion”, that is; find what you really, really WANT to do and then dedicate yourself to it.  I’ve had the great good fortune to do just that.

I am actually one of four Reed boys to attend Greenwich Country Day School, as all three of my brothers were also students here.

Our paths all have the common ground of beginning here, but each of us pursued different interests in life from our foundation here.

My brother Joseph, the Reed family ‘baby’ served as Assistant to the Chairman of one of the world’s most important banks.  He was then appointed and served as Ambassador to Morocco.  Following that stint of duty, he was then appointed Ambassador to the United Nations serving as Under Secretary-General.  He was given “leave” to serve as Chief of Protocol for President George Herbert Walker Bush.  He returned to his position at the United Nations where he is in his 30th year of service to that institution and the American people.

My brother Samuel had multiple careers including becoming the publisher of the famous American Heritage Magazine which won a Pulitzer Prize.  He served on important boards protecting and managing Shelburne Farms and Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

My brother Adrian graduated from West Point and after military service moved first to Wall Street and then became a successful farmer on the eastern shore of Maryland.  He was a highly successful breeder of Charolaise cattle.  He was vitally interested in education and was a trustee of a small private school on the Chesapeake.  He served on every imaginable board that promoted wise land use and enhancement of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

Following my graduation from Greenwich, I graduated from the Deerfield Academy, then from Trinity College.  Following military service as an Air Force Intelligence Officer, I returned to my family’s winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida.

My initial plan was to join my parents in their management of a family company responsible for developing a small residential community on Jupiter Island.  I also became a partner in cattle ranching and a major citrus grove and juice processing plant.

I also hoped to spend as much time as possible fishing.

Very quickly upon my arrival in Florida I became interested in the environment of that state, and the challenges faced in managing such as diverse tropical paradise in the face of burgeoning growth.

After a year of touring the state and learning of the environmental problems, and opportunities, I discovered that I had found my passion!  I resolved to devote my efforts to protecting Florida’s fragile environments.

Very shortly thereafter, a truly maverick individual named Claude Kirk pulled off an astounding political upset and was elected Florida’s governor.  He wanted Florida’s environmental problems to be addressed, not ignored as they had been for years.  I had advised him on environmental issues during his campaign and he asked me to join him in the state capital as his Environmental Advisor.  He offered me an office next to his and a salary of $1.00 year.  I accepted and moved to Tallahassee.  I actually commuted frequently from Hobe Sound, as I had left my young bride at our home there!

Governor Kirk and I attacked every conceivable problem from air and water pollution to wetland destruction.  The legislature created the first regulatory agency to address air and water pollution in Florida and he named me to chair the group.  We established the first protective rules in Florida and the programs to abate these serious pollution and health problems.

Some Florida issues became national environmental issues and I was soon traveling to Washington on Florida’s behalf, learning of national issues and meeting a wide array of scientists, activists, and politicians.

President Richard Nixon offered me the opportunity to come to Washington as one of the Assistant Secretaries of Interior.  My responsibility was to oversee the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Who would not want the opportunity to manage and grow our national park system and protect America’s wildlife!  It was indeed the very best of times!  I served under Presidents Nixon and Ford, and was invited to remain under President Carter, but decided that I wanted to spend more time with my family and returned to Florida.

Back in Florida, I returned to my interest in state issues and have spent the years to date appointed to more state commissions and boards than I can now recall.  Today, I am especially active as the Vice-Chairman of the Everglades Foundation dedicated to restoring the vast Everglades ecosystem.  I’ve also had the extraordinary privilege to serve on the boards of a number of national organizations such as the National Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, National Resources Defense Council, Atlantic Salmon Federation, National Geographic Society and many more.

And I’ve kept fishing!

To you students I can only say ‘Follow Your Dreams’.  I’m an example of how personally rewarding it can be.  The fact that my three brothers and I went in four totally different directions, all with success, just shows you that Greenwich Country Day School can indeed prepare you for almost anything!

Go forth, with energy and determination.  As Churchill advised the students of his preparatory school; “Don’t Give Up; Never, Never Give Up!”

Heads up; it’s a fascinating world out there.  Your life’s journey is based on a strong foundation. You will leave here prepared and ready for the next challenges.  Be of good cheer and be determined to excel in whatever field of endeavor you choose.  Be prepared to shift gears if you fail to find interests that truly fascinate you, captivate you and challenge you.

And, don’t leave here without thanking the men and women who have dedicated their energies to building your Greenwich Day School foundation.  You might not realize it now, but this extraordinary faculty will become the foundation of your future memories, for you truly ‘Start Here’.

Trust me; someday you will remember your faculty just as I remember mine!

God Bless You - and go forth to do good deeds!