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Monday, July 29, 2013

Michael Novogratz 50th Anniversary Speech for Fort Hunt High School Alumni


    Thanks for a great speech, and thanks for including my poem in the speech itself, I feel very honored.

I am glad we shared the same view and pleased to have been included within while striking a chord with so many others.

We indeed are a permanent part of the best high school ever with a spirit that is also second to none.

Your Father was my little league wrestling coach, and we actually wrestled a year together when I was a freshmen and you were a senior, and that is always a fond lasting memory as you were a great leader even then.

    Below, I included your gracious reminiscent speech Mike, as I wanted to post it up for others to find and enjoy.


  1. Below is Mike's note as posted on his Facebook page as he shared his speech in it's entirety for all to share and read.

    This is the text of a speech I gave at a ceremony to honor the 50th anniversary of my high school -- it was only open 23 years and has been closed longer than it was open, but it was a magical place to grow up.

    Fellow Federals,

    I am humbled and honored to be here today… in a sea of green and gold… well, that’s what I see… I am a 7th grader sneaking into the Friday night football game… right over the fence behind the home bleachers…my pals eee Wood, Danny Henry, and Bobby Murray are with me… It’s a glorious night… What could be better…

    Matt Weathers, with his giant afro sticking out of his helmet is dominating…I loved Matt Weathers… never met him but I loved him… when I sat down to think about writing this, I thought of Matt, of Rocky Belk and Mark Mial…. These were the gods of my youth…. I googled Weathers and, to my great surprise found a poem by Steve Swygert... I had never met Steve but our Fathers are both West Pointers… maybe he was raised in a similar house… Sure sounds like it… Anyway, let me read a few bars of his poem as it captures a lot of the spirit I was looking for…

    Steve Swygert –

    I memory erased you away from me,and memory erased me away from you,whose time mirror of life would we be staring through,is this time since my passed life of FHHS even true?


    There was a time when this reality was real,now enchanted in this past we reveal,spirit so great and growing gathering spirit,you know, as I, the spirit we still so strongly feel.

    Ever see Rocky Belk sprint for a T.D. ?His magical hands saving victory for we !Ever see Matt Weathers, # 22, my idol in childhood,just tear up and down cutting up a field.

    Shred my friend,
    shred my friend,
    shred !!!

    His knee gave out instead !
    He was once my idol,
    and friend now still,
    Matt be well amigo and chill.

    With love bro, 

    and thanks,
    for such beautiful fields of dreams,
    we shared.

    Clubs, and orchestra, theater and band,life so full we non stop ran,crew, and wrestling the incredible Rosamond, Ann,on the podium the Feds did, and still do often, stand.

    Do you remember TKB ?
    Kegs at my house and yours too ... for free !
    Government parents, traveling and trusting,
    we were those keg disciples young and disgusting.

    Leaders and friends for all to share.time to study and time to not care,time for sports and time for rebel rousing,work hard, play hard, and enjoy moderate carousing.

    Memories streaming keep staring back at me,some of the best times of my life gone by,today all the while sharing still and getting even better,you Federals, still and always the apple of my eye.


    Fort Hunt high School was everything when I was growing up. It was the center of the universe….and it was awesome… I remember bragging to my college friends that we were the 2nd best school in fairfax county (damn that Langley) and Fairfax county was the best county in the country for education… im not sure if my facts were correct…what is important is I believed it… and why not…we were awesome -- we had awesome athletes… not just in football but our swim team and track team were always winning…. And then there was the band…they were awesome… my parents were so proud that the band would go to Austria in the summers and compete and win…. We had no musical talent in the family, but my grandpa was from Austria…and, because of that my dad just loved the band… I remember Doug Perry who wrestled 105 lbs and went off to Duke…he was a drummer...and at pep rallies he would work the crowd into a frenzy with his wild, war cry rhythms….. for that moment Doug was a rock star...he was the center of the universe… I often wonder if we ever do anything bigger than those high school moments….. (cue glory Bruce Springsteen)…maybe we should ask Doug…

    I was a wrestler… I guess I still am a wrestler... I wrestled in high school, in college and last summer was the U.S.A. Olympic team leader for wrestling… 2 of our guys won gold… and yes, it was awesome... it truly was… but I will tell you a secret… it was not as good as when Elba Jackson bridged off his back in the third period and reversed and pinned his opponent from Mount Vernon giving us Federals our first wrestling victory over the Majors ever !!! . It just was not !!! … I get goose bumps thinking of our fans chanting Elba, Elba, Elba… of our cheerleaders, and mat maids, and the traveling band all adding to the energy… It was glorious... that is high school… that was Fort Hunt High School.

    Yes, Fort Hunt was an awesome place… It was not just the sports (though I think 50 % of my memories are sports, 40 % girls, and 10 % academics)… To be fair, we had awesome teachers… Mr Levy’s government class was truly a right of passage… I learned more about Watergate as a 10th grader than I did studying it in college… I also learned that my name meant ‘new city’… Levy loved a nickname… Mrs. Spettel did more to add to my vocabulary than any person on this planet. She single handedly raised my S.A.T. score 90 points with her vocabulary tests. Nowadays, people get paid big bucks for that kind of tutoring… she did it for free, for the love of it, and she did it with a style more often seen in Vogue than in classrooms. Mr. Hubert might have been the most enthusiastic teacher I even encountered… he would jump up on chairs, he’d get so excited he couldn’t talk… and boy did he like the 48 Brooklyn Dodgers… I wish he was alive to see the movie that came out this year… just to hear his critique… Yes, Fort Hunt had teachers that cared… coaches who wanted to win, and a community that bought in… The more I think about it… we were a model of good public education.

    We had parents who were leaders, who served in the military, or in government, who had high expectations and grand aspirations for their families. While we might have been economically a middle class school, we punched way above our weight. We certainly didn’t feel middle class… We felt like we could change the world… and Fort Hunt gave us this place to stand… Our parents probably deserve a lot more credit than we give them for helping to create this awesome community.

    I had a sister, Jaqueline and and brother Bob 4 and 2 years in front of me, so by the time I graduated, there had been eight years of Novogratz’s... I am sure the Seeleys or the Henrys or countless families have far longer streaks… I am also sure after 8 years, the administration probably needed a ‘novo’ break. – my sister didn’t really get in trouble…Gerry Connelly, our counselor was probably the only administrator to know all three of us well… but me and my brother, that’s a different kettle of fish... Yes, just like I still get nervous when I see a police car, I always think, ‘im in trouble’ when it comes to the administration. Dr Skinner, a.k.a. Kaiser Soze, prowling the halls looking to bust us for something. Droopy Dog John Travis (the nice one) but still with the authority to suspend, detain or expel you, Principlas, Assistant Principals, Counselors, and our own Colonel Klink Dietze, the athletic director, were in reality a big part of creating the bedrock for our school's success. Thirty years later, when they can’t give me detention, I want to thank the school's administration for creating the environment where so many thrived.

    Having and older brother and sister, I felt connected to the stars and goddesses that held court for a decade… I knew the football roster, the homecoming court, and the great musical stars way before I got into high school. Like so many of you, I was vested in the success and failures of this community. The 1982 trip to Danville where we played for, and lost, the State Championship mattered more than the Super Bowl does today. I was Fort Hunt. We were Fort Hunt.

    We lived in a giant snow globe whose borders were defined and whose characters were known. It was the pre- Kardashian age, pre- reality t.v., pre- internet. The only dramas we knew were played out on Fort Hunt Road, or Route 1, or the Fish Market, or in Jock Hall, or the smoking lounge, or in some buddy's house when his parents were away. We didn’t have cell phones, or texting, or sexting, but we managed nonetheless to have first loves, rendezvous with our sweethearts, pop up parties, and heartbreak. Yes, believe it or not we had to break up in person.

    Why have so many of you come back to celebrate a school that doesn’t even exist anymore… that has been closed longer than it was open? It's simple… High School was LIFE... it defined us… it molded us… it readied us to leave home… Heroes were larger…the older girls were always prettier… everything had a heightened sense of importance… homecoming princesses, class clowns, jock hall, freaks, and band geeks – we were labeled, we struggled, we grew up… we had cheerleaders who added spirit and sparkle to our world (and I’m sure a little drama)… we had talented performers, home grown bands, hot rods, and tragedies. The drinking age was 16, or at least that’s what I thought, and M.A.D.D. didn’t exist.

    My sister wrote a memoir of her life trying to change the world, it was mostly a story about her time in Africa… but guess what ?... jock hall gets mentioned on page 1. … I love that !!! Fort Hunt high school and our community is a big chapter in all our novels… it created a common D.N.A. amongst us… a bond that still exists…. It had values of community, and service, and excellence that have stayed with us for 50 years… it is exciting to see so many people today… so many people that made their marks in the world… in their communities… and in this community... last night we had a great warm up party and I looked around and I saw my pal John Burnham who has served as a Navy Seal for 26 years, and I felt a great sense of pride. In some ways I got to share in his success, his commitment to our country, his sacrifices. He was part of my F.H.H.S. family -- 30 years doesn’t erase that. We are all part of that F.H.H.S. family… the school might have burned down, it might have closed down but it's spirit exists in all of us… We carry that strength, those memories, and those values, and for that I am eternally grateful.

    Thank you all for being part of this weekend celebration and for being a part of this awesome community.