Mr. James Choi, Head of Enterprise Business Development for Bloomberg Industry Group and BIM parent Class of 2032, was the Class of 2021 guest speaker. Read Mr. Choi's speech below!

Ms. Aust, esteemed faculty and staff, and all who are here that partner in the vision for BASIS Independent McLean – thank you having me to help celebrate the tremendous achievement of our seniors graduating today.

I also want to take a moment right at the start to recognize the love, support, and leadership of your parents. Make no mistake, they are the great booster rocket that has helped get you here today.

Well, seniors, you made it! In a few minutes you will no longer be high schoolers – you will become college students who are simply waiting to move onto campus for the first time.

My message of celebration and encouragement to you today is simple: Be a pioneer.

Although pioneers are a rare breed in this world, I’ll make the argument that you’re already one.

Who among us here – parents and faculty included – went through a global pandemic during one of the most consequential times of the academic journey, their senior year?

Seniors, you have broken ground and set a new path by navigating the past 15 months. And you have navigated it with great success. You are a pioneer.

How many of us here decided to break from decades old – in some cases, centuries old – systems and schools to join something like the great experiment we have come to know as the BASIS Curriculum education? You did. And you are triumphant in completing the BASIS Curriculum journey today. You are a pioneer.

Owning the persona of being a pioneer may be the single biggest ingredient to being successful and making an impact in college and in your future profession.

I’ve seen the impressive list of schools you’re going to in a few weeks and the good news is that they are environments that support and reward being a pioneer. That won’t always be the case in your life. You will more often be told to “know your role” and “stay in your lane” – so make the most of your time in college.

Test what fits for you, who you really are. Make mistakes, take risks, have arguments. Discover your passion, then find another and mix the two. Learn who will come with you and who will slow you down.

College is where I learned that being an English major and taking acting classes gave me the upper hand in almost any business situation I’ve encountered. It also taught me one of the most important traits of being a pioneer: being comfortable with complexity – like when my lay-up chemistry class was unexpectedly taught by Nobel laureate Roald Hoffman. The course was titled: “Why the Sky is Blue” yet we ended up learning RNA polymerase transcription.

I also learned to be comfortable with complexity when my astronomy course – a class that an upperclassman swore would just be about looking at pretty pictures – ended up being taught by Steven Squyres, the principal of the Mars rover mission. On day one, he challenged us to figure out how to use a planet’s gravity to slingshot us back to earth after running out of fuel.

College is a time where the fall and punishment of mistakes are blunted and the opportunities for wild success are limitless.

And then in another four years, when you’re sitting in another ceremony like today – though I’m sure it will be a larger audience, with a much more entertaining speaker – you can be confident in what your version of being a pioneer is as you head to Wall Street or Silicon Valley or grad school or a lab where you will be the pioneer who develops a vaccine for cancer.

As you enter the “real world” at that time, I encourage you to find meaning in your pioneering. We pride ourselves in being pioneers where I work at Bloomberg. We want to change the very way people do their work in the professions we serve. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it, innovating the way entire industries do their work around the globe. But perhaps one of the best parts of my work at Bloomberg is that it has meaning beyond what I just described.

At the end of every year, Mike Bloomberg sends us a message stating that he gave away something like 87 cents of every dollar the company made to lead and support efforts in climate change, global health issues, investment in education for underserved, under-represented groups, and many other worthy matters. Through my work at Bloomberg, I have learned that the best version of being a pioneer is to work at something that has meaning. It is not enough to be successful – to be a true pioneer, you must lead a life of impact, of consequence, of legacy.

As I close, let’s come back to today. To this very moment.

You have earned your pioneer badge. You made it through one of the strangest times in our world’s history. Be proud. Be confident. Be comfortable with complexity. Have meaning in what you do.

And thank your parents and teachers. Never miss the chance to express your gratitude to them and recognize the pioneer in them, too.

Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be a part of your momentous day.

Now go off and have a double serving of summer – make up for the summer that wasn’t last year and stack it on top of the magical time of moving on from high school to college.

Congratulations! Have fun!