Chris Herren Remains the Unparalleled Assembly Speaker
by Eshani Chakrabarti on Friday, June 10th, 2016
On October 2nd, 2013, Chris Herren addressed the Milton Academy community as the Samuel S. Talbot II ’65 Memorial Fund Speaker for Counseling and Community Issues. Almost three years later, Herren remains one of the most impactful speakers to reach Milton students.
Chris Herren discussed his journey from being a local Fall River High School basketball star to eventually playing on two NBA teams. Indeed, following high school, Herren played Division I basketball and went on to play for the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics. Some students walked into Herren’s Wednesday morning assembly anticipating a dry, forty-five minute success story, but Herren quickly captured their attention with a gripping narrative about his experiences as an intravenous drug addict.
At the beginning of his speech, Herren exclaimed that his goal was to change the path of one student in the audience. He recounted his struggles of being estranged from his family – how he began using harder and harder drugs and ultimately became hooked on black tar heroine.
The speech had many impactful moments. At one point Herren acknowledged that, at his speeches, there is always a group of boys sitting in the top corner, ignoring everything he says. He then addressed that group, telling them that he was just like them in his youth, and, for him, it all started with drinking and smoking on the weekends. Resonating with many students, his speech remains one of the highlights of all Wednesday assemblies at Milton.
A survey of 182 upperclassmen who were present at the Herren assembly reveals that 66% of students think his speech has been the most impactful at Milton. It’s undisputed that Herren’s speech was remarkable, but what does it say that no assemblies in the past three years have come close to the widespread positive response which his received? Have assemblies gotten worse? Have students gotten more cynical? What is it that Herren had that other speakers are lacking?
Three years after watching the assembly, I still remember the details of Herren’s speech. I still remember looking around the Class IV section of the ACC and seeing every single person devoting their full attention to him. In my opinion, speakers in recent years have lacked the transparency that Herren provided. He reached students because of his openness. His speech wasn’t self gratifying. On the contrary, his honesty provided a personal account of how easy it is to fall onto the wrong path. As teenagers, we’re faced with difficult choices every day. So many high school students claim they only “smoke and drink on the weekends,” but how far does that go? Herren grew up in Massachusetts. He feels like one of us, and that connection we had and still have with him is what’s lacking in recent assemblies.
Reflecting on the assemblies given throughout his time at Milton, Andrew Byun (I) believes, “Chris Herren’s speech was one of few speeches given at Milton that effectively gave a powerful message across to the audience. Rather than treating the audience as naïve highschoolers, Herren told the harsh reality of his past with no sugarcoating which made his message regarding drug abuse and addiction all the more serious, shocking, and enlightening. Milton should strive to bring more people like Herren.”
Three season varsity athlete, Clare Lonergan (II), understands the pressures that often go along with athletics and similarly appreciated Herran’s honesty. “Chris Herren’s talk my freshman year had a huge impact on me. I was especially astounded by his extremely personal stories and by how he threw away his amazing basketball talent for his drug addiction. His openness really got through to students, in a way that most assembly speakers have a hard time with.”
Teddy Beaudoin (II) also believes Herren effect was undeniable, “Having Chris Herren speak my freshman year set the bar high for future Wednesday assembly speakers. However, ever since I’ve been continually disappointed when speakers are mediocre at best. Even though we’ve had some interesting speakers, none have come close to Chris Herren’s emotional journey.”
Although Milton has brought many strong assembly speakers, none have compared to the eloquence and honesty brought by Chris Herren. Rumor has it, the Milton counseling department intends on bringing Herren back after the graduation of the Class of 2017. I’m certain that the next generation of Milton students will benefit from his guidance.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=8184