Paul's Reunion Welcome Speech
August 7, 2010
The Marriott at Glenpoint, Teaneck, N.J.
Dickens wrote that it was the best of times, the worst of times. When the class of ’67 entered Wingate, the Beatles had just arrived on our shores and by the time the class of ’71 left Wingate, the Beatles had broken up. And in between was a time of great turmoil and change. The civil rights movement had made great strides; the women’s movement was growing; and even the gay rights movement took its first steps. When we entered Wingate, the girl students could not wear pants; but one cold winter, they staged a rebellion. And, when they did wear skirts, they were shorter and shorter. Meanwhile, the hair on the boys grew longer and longer.
Our time at Wingate was punctuated by a divisive teacher’s strike, unrest after Martin Luther King was shot, political strife, and an endless war. We seemed never to be in class, between strikes and demonstrations. But, in our time in Wingate, we went from innocent and naïve to a little less innocent and a little less naïve, as we took our first steps in truly finding ourselves and becoming adults.
We all had some teachers that should have been put out to pasture long before we got to Wingate, but we all had some who helped set us on our paths, helped find us find ourselves and proved to be good role models.
Today, George W Wingate high school may no longer exist except in our memories. But the building on Kingston Avenue still stands, virtually unchanged, and our tour yesterday brought back us back 40 years. But, most importantly, Wingate campus is doing what it always did-educate a new generation and help them find their places in society, as Wingate did for us. And, it appears that it is doing that job well again with a dedicated staff and a school devoted to community service. Wingate even has a garden now, showing that new, innovative ideas are taking root in Brooklyn. The school needs us today to help repay for what it gave to us.
While we could have limited this reunion to Wingate graduates, we wanted to share this evening with our friends, some who had gone to Wingate but graduated elsewhere, some who never even went. But all who had grown up with us in the neighborhood. This reunion is as much to remember our corner of Brooklyn as it is to remember Wingate.
One final note. Forty years ago, I met Bonnie, when we commiserated over unrequited loves. I pined for her friend, and she pined for mine-- neither of which are here tonight, I might add, so don’t look for them. We became friends, and then lost track of each other until last year, when I saw her pop up on classmates.com. I sent her a message asking if she remembered me, and I guess I am unforgettable, because she did remember me. Then, one day, as we are emailing, she mentioned something about pulling together a reunion. I had wanted to do something for a while, but never got around to it. So, I said, sure, I’d be willing to help. Silly me! Little did I know that Bonnie meant business when she said something! Almost as if she had been in the army, or something. Next thing I knew, I had signed on to co-run this shindig. Anyway, Bonnie’s drive and determination is what really made this reunion a reality. We have over 200 people here tonight and this weekend—with yesterday’s tour of the school, and tomorrow’s brunch, has been—and is—truly one to remember. With that, I welcome you all to the Wingate 40th reunion!