PHOTO COURTESY OF STONE RIDGE SCHOOL OF THE SACRED HEART
John G. Roberts, Jr., the Chief Justice of the United States, speaks to the Stone Ridge class of 2018 during their graduation on June 7. His daughter, Josie, is a member of that graduating class.
PHOTO COURTESY OF STONE RIDGE SCHOOL OF THE SACRED HEART John G. Roberts, Jr., the Chief Justice of the United States, speaks to the Stone Ridge class of 2018 during their graduation on June 7. His daughter, Josie, is a member of that graduating class.
After the 83 graduates of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart’s Class of 2018 had walked up one by one to receive their diplomas on June 7, Catherine Ronan Karrels, the head of school, introduced “Josie’s dad” as the 2018 commencement speaker.

“Mr. Roberts is famous around Stone Ridge,” said Karrels, noting how he frequently attends plays that his daughter is performing in and “participates with joy in father-daughter field day,” which the school holds every year.

But outside of the Stone Ridge campus, John G. Roberts, Jr., is also pretty well known as the Chief Justice of the United States, said Karrels.

Roberts, who had previously embraced his daughter in a long hug after she received her high school diploma, said his first thought when writing his address was to reflect on how things had changed since he graduated high school in 1973.

As a refresher, he did some research on what was happening in that year, and found stories about intense partisan division in Washington, violence in the Middle East, a special investigation of the Watergate scandal, and John McCain being released as a prisoner of war from Vietnam.

In the midst of all of that, he said, “Americans were captivated by a royal wedding in England,” when Princess Anne and Mark Phillips got married.

So he decided not to talk about how things had changed.

Instead, he gave the class some advice based upon what sociologists have studied about their generation, which has been named “Gen Z.”

One trait of Gen Z sociologists describe is being more anxious about making life decisions, but the chief justice told the students not to spend too much time worrying.

“You will face lots of important choices in your life,” he said. “Some will turn out good, and some not so good.”

But in the end, he told them “twists of fate” will determine more in their lives than the things that they can control.

Sociologists also say that Gen Z is less happy than generations in the past, but Roberts told them, “Happiness is a choice.”

“There is a darkness in the world, but you are called to be children of the light,” he said.

The United States of America “is founded on happiness,” Roberts noted, before reading the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence, including the well-known phrase stating that all people are entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

As a result, “you have a patriotic duty to be happy,” he joked.

He also warned the graduating students to “beware of the robots,” like artificial intelligence and big data. While advances in these technologies have done lots of good in the world, such as advancing health care, Roberts wanted to caution the students against allowing technology to alter the way they perceive the world.

“I don’t think robots will take over the world,” he assured them. “…I don’t worry that robots will start thinking like us. I worry that we will start thinking like machines.”

He noted how these technologies are embedded into so many different websites, so that people receive recommendations of what to read, watch and listen to based on what they have already read, watched, and listened to, and are also pointed toward people and ideas based on people and ideas they have already been drawn to.

This process, he said, has the possibility of resulting in an “oversimplification and narrowing contrary to individuality and creativity.”

The way to respond to the increase of artificial intelligence in today’s society, he said, is to “ensure we develop and use real intelligence,” which means thinking, and not just gathering more information.

“Set aside time each day to think about things,” he said, encouraging them to put away their books, phones and computers temporarily to just reflect on the information they have learned and what it means.

“Acquiring more knowledge is less important than thinking about the knowledge you [already] have,” he said.

Doing so often requires solitude, which might be difficult since another trait of Gen Z is that they are in constant communication with others through things like social media, he said. Roberts encouraged the girls to save some time for being alone, even in the midst of the many things they will be invited to get involved in once they arrive at college.

Lastly, Roberts encouraged the young women to remember the “fortitude of the many women who came before you whose efforts ensured you would have opportunities they did not.”

Among those women he noted were Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice; St. Madeline Sophie Barat, who founded the Society of the Sacred Heart; and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, who brought the Network of Sacred Heart Schools to the United States.

Thanks to those two saints, the young women had the opportunity to attend the school from which they would “go forth today with diplomas to change the world,” Roberts said.

Based upon valedictorian Grace Christenson’s address to her fellow students, it is safe to say that is something the class intends to do.

Reflecting on how “well behaved women rarely make history,” Christenson said her fellow classmates have taught her “the power and importance of radical misbehavior,” not through their stealthy online shopping during classes, but rather in how they have stood up for social justice by doing things like walking out of school to remember victims of gun violence.

Christenson concluded her speech to her classmates by saying, “lets go make some history,” which was later affirmed by the words the girls sang during their class song, reminding them “the rest is still unwritten.”