During the middle school graduation ceremony, August receives the Henry Ward Beecher medal. This medal is given to honor those students “who have been notable or exemplary in certain areas throughout the school year.” The award is named after Henry Ward Beecher, a great social reformist and clergyman in America in the nineteenth century.
It is important to note Mr. Lawrence Tushman’s speech during this graduation ceremony. Mr. Tushman is the director of the Middle School. His speech revolves around kindness, the need for it in everyday life. He says this:
The best way to measure how much you’ve grown isn’t by inches or the number of laps you can now run around the track, or even your grade point average—though those things are important, to be sure. It’s what you’ve done with your time, how you’ve chosen to spend your days, and whom you’ve touched this year. That, to me, is the greatest measure of success.
Further, he quotes this from the book The Little White Bird by J. M. Barrie:
Shall we make a new rule of life . . . always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?
Through these and other quotes, Mr. Tushman communicates the theme of kindness to his audience. Later on, while preparing to present the Henry Ward Beecher medal, he enumerates desirable qualities that can push human beings to greatness. He says this:
Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings.
Clearly, August is worthy of this award, for, throughout the school year, he has shown kindness to himself and to other students. He has been friendly to all students, even when his friendship is not reciprocated. He has braved unkindness in all forms as a result of his facial deformity. There were times when he felt like giving up and not going to school anymore, because of the bullying and rejection from the other students. However, his strength of character has seen him through it all. He has made friends who are proud of him as a person, friends like Julian and Summer. His strength of character has enabled him to perform well academically, in a somewhat hostile environment, even though this is his first year in school, having previously been homeschooled. While initially he was shunned by many people at school because of his face, his beautiful traits shine out to capture the hearts of many people at the school by the end of the year.