shays

The following remarks were delivered by Jeremiah Begley, faculty member and adviser of the St. Thomas Aquinas chapter of the National Honor Society at Cathedral High School. He offered this reflection at the annual induction ceremony at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield.

Just a few hundred yards that way is the Springfield Armory. And the Springfield Armory isn’t much used any more, but it’s extremely significant because in the 1780s there was a farmer named Daniel Shays. And Daniel Shays had some financial problems and these financial problems were exacerbated by, basically, the political structure which was in place at that time – the Articles of Confederation. And Daniel Shays rounded up a group of his fellow Massachusetts farmers , and they made an attack on the Springfield Armory, which thankfully was repulsed. But it was a near-thing. And you can tell how near of a thing it was if you read the Federalist Papers – Hamilton and Madison and Jay’s wonderful arguments for the adoption of a new constitution in New York state. And every single one of those 85 Federalist Papers – it’s almost palpable. You can feel the urgency of how much of a crisis Shays’ Rebellion was, how untenable the Articles of Confederation were, and how much something new needed to happen.

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And I bring this up, first of all, because it is a local connection, but also because Hamilton and Madison and Jay were a part of a founding generation. And we’re in a very similar position right now. I want to take the time again to welcome our guests from Holyoke Catholic High School who have joined us this evening. Thank you so much for being here. And we at Cathedral are so excited to work together because we recognize that we, all of us, together, are also part of a founding generation. We’re the founding generation of what is to be a new high school – a new chapter, a new era in Catholic secondary education in this city, in this county, in this diocese.
And I think it is interesting because a founding generation is a tricky thing. It’s not something you chose. The founders of our country did not choose to be born at that particular time to weather such a crisis as Shays’ Rebellion and the related things that happened. It was thrust upon them, and they rose to the occasion.

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Being in a founding generation is not something that is comfortable. It’s not something where you switch on the cruise control and coast. It’s something that requires something from all of us and a lot from a few of us.
And you students in particular, you didn’t choose to be part of the group that had to be in Wilbraham for most or all of your tenure. You didn’t choose that. It was thrust upon you. But I am so proud of you because you have risen to the occasion. And I commend you for that.
But as much as being part of a founding generation is not something that one chooses, and it’s not a path to comfort, I can think of no better way to receive an education than to be a member of a founding generation. Fifty years from now, all of you students will still remember and still recount the roles you each played in this new era. You will never forget what you are about to do in the next few years and neither will we.
Thank you so much. God bless you and may God continue to bless this wonderful community.

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