2019 Potomac School graduation

Diego Gebhardt speaks to classmates during commencement ceremonies at the Potomac School on June 7, 2019.

Thus far in life, Diego Gebhardt has attended seven schools (in the U.S. and across the globe). At the Potomac School, he found his niche.

“This class is one of the most diverse and well-rounded out there,” Gebhardt told fellow members of the Class of 2019 during graduation ceremonies held June 7 at the school.

It was an environment, he said, where students have “a global sense of community, doing things for the greater good.”

The remarks of Gebhardt, who has won appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, were in line with head of school John Kowalik, who praised graduating seniors as “a spirited, friendly, enthusiastic and cohesive class.”

(Kowalik also gave thanks to Mother Nature for cooperating by keeping the rainclouds away and the humidity down during the morning ceremony.)

In remarks to classmates, Gebhardt encouraged everyone to find their own direction and put in the effort to find success.

“I’m not perfect . . . but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to be. If you want to be the best you can be, you have to work for it,” he said.

That was a theme echoed by Harry Strong, who heads the debate and speech program at the McLean school and was selected by seniors to provide faculty remarks.

“Many times, winning does require risk-taking. Of course, risk-taking sometimes involves losing – and learning to get better,” Strong said.

“We never seem to learn much from winning, but from losing and failure, we learn the most,” he said. “No one ever discovered anything, created anything – somehow changed the world – without taking a risk.”

“There’s a greatness in each of you, but that greatness will not be realized if you don’t take the risk,” said Strong, who has been on the Potomac School faculty for three years. “True leaders risk it all to chart a new path. While most of us would not risk it all, leaders do.”

Gebhardt, whose years at Potomac School also included participation in a number of sports including swimming and lacrosse, told classmates not to overthink the attributes needed in becoming a leader, but rather break it down to its simplest forms.

“I don’t believe that leadership is some big theatrical show,” he said. “To me, it is simply having people be able to count on you.”

After 40 minutes of speeches and other preliminaries, it was on to the final act – diplomas handed out to the 112 graduating seniors as they prepared to take their leave and head to their varied futures.

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