Generally Speaking: Yellen gives Fort Hamilton commencement speech

July 2, 2021 Theodore W. General
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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen gave a virtual commencement address to the more than 1,000 graduates of Fort Hamilton High School. Her recorded video was sent to the grads via their cell phones and/or home computers.

The school, like the neighboring Army base, was named in honor of Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. secretary of the treasury. Yellen, who was born and raised in Bay Ridge,graduated as valedictorian from the Shore Road school in 1963. Prior to her appointment as treasury secretary by President Joe Biden, she served as the 15th chair of the Federal Reserve. She is the first woman to hold both positions.

“I am especially honored to be part of your graduation,” Yellen told the students. “Because for more than 50 years, I have been saying what you can say now: ‘I am a proud alum. A proud  alum of Fort Hamilton High School!’

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Photo by U.S. Department of the Treasury

“I am so lucky to come from Bay Ridge and to be a graduate of Fort Hamilton High. My heart will always be here. Fifty years from now you will be saying the same thing. And, as you know, your heart will be here too.”

The ceremonies were unique due to some lingering aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The in- person proceedings took place on the large athletic field adjacent to the school. School officials held four separate ceremonies on the same day with the grads spaced six feet apart in designated  three-chair “pods,” one for the grad and two for their parents or guardians. 

Valedictorian Clarissa DiDonato.

Clarissa DiDonato was valedictorian, Jacob Aznavoorian was salutatorian, Sienna O’Connor was senior class president and Hannah Puelle was student organization president. State Senator Andrew Gounardes, a past graduate of FHHS, was the guest speaker. Principal Kaye Houlihan handed each grad their diploma. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am also a graduate of FHHS.)


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