Looking at this array of shiny, happy faces before me all I can think is, what a nice class you have been! Isn’t that great? You’re all nice!
A lot of people think that the word “nice” is a platitude, a word someone uses to describe another person when they can’t think of anything else to say. Or worse yet, nice is pejorative, a passive-aggressive implication that someone is actually insincere and putting on a facade to cover their truly horrible nature.
Psychology Today notes that the personality trait that comes closest to “niceness” is the quality of “agreeableness, which includes the tendency to be kind, sympathetic, straightforward, altruistic, compliant, tender, and modest.”
According to studies done at the University of Illinois and North Dakota State, people who are nice are likely to become nicer when they have positive experiences with other people; because you are likely to be friendlier to someone who smiles, shows sympathy, and goes along with the group. Nice people are also more able to stay upbeat and positive even in challenging circumstances. So basically: niceness breeds niceness.
Based on the research referenced in Psychology Today and the Oxford Living Dictionary that defines niceness as “good-natured or kind,” I feel that the word nice is an accurate representation of the Class of 2018 as a group. And while you are all distinctly human and not immune to the glasses of self-interest that most teenagers wear, you have all helped support my theory of niceness with an abundance of smiling! Even during some of the toughest times, a smile, albeit a small one, most often accompanied the tears. And interestingly, everyone in this class has an incredible smile.
Objectively, the Class of 2018 was unusual in some respects, but most notably in terms of academic achievement. This is a highly motivated and hard working group and the report cards have been outstanding. In an academically strong class such as this, the battle to be on top could be fierce – on assignments and tests or with university applications and admissions. But instead of the “I’ll-stomp-on-anyone-to-get-to-the-top” mentality of many competitive environments, what I saw was a group of people who genuinely and sincerely encouraged and supported each other through the highs and lows of an intense and fast-paced year. I saw new friendships develop and existing friendships deepen as you shared the experiences of Jouvence, playing on teams and winning championships, building robots, debating, spirited Sudoku challenges, endless hours of You Tube watching, epic group studying sessions and elaborate lunches furnished by UberEats. I saw a group of people who respected their peers, understood that life is more than school work, valued having a laugh and took time to have fun with movies and PJs, dress up days, and class adventures outside of school. What I witnessed was the growth of a community.
When I think about how each of you is still at the beginning of your life journey and how each of you is going in a different direction – to a different university, following a different academic program, in a different city, country or continent – I feel encouraged that your innate niceness will spread. Your beautiful smiles and warm hearts will be shared on a much broader scale, your positivity and integrity will continue to bring people together and build communities of caring, compassionate and good people. This is an amazing gift.
Outside the blessed walls of LCC, a sense of community can sometimes be hard to find. People can struggle to make connections with others. As individual focus increasingly falls to the device in our hands, it is easy forget about the person sitting right beside us. Personal interaction and connection can become lost in algorithms, status updates and likes. But the Class of 2018 is different. While your devices are certainly dominant features in your lives and pockets, your actions this year have proven that you understand the value of being connected to others. That having a place and being a participant in a community has meaning. This makes me hopeful for the future: the future where you are leaders, innovators and influencers, the future where your natural niceness makes an impression on someone and that positive interaction motivates another person to be nice to someone else. Niceness breeds niceness.
I believe the future is in good hands with the Class of 2018 who will absolutely have an impact on the world by the simple virtue of being themselves.
My final words to you, the Class of 2018:
Stay connected to your family and friends (and LCC)
And never stop smiling,
Kimberly Tulloch Wynn, Coordinator of the Pre-University Program and Director of University Advising