Thank you faculty, President Roth, Anna Quindlen family, friends. And of course congratulations to the class of 2009.
I am scared. We probably all have good reasons to be scared right now.
When the nation was scared many decades ago, FDR said, “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.”
The truth is climate change is no longer merely a distant threat, it is happening now. The truth is Social Security and Medicare will likely be insolvent before 2020. We are likely to run out of oil within our lifetimes. That our sense of security proves false is when one of our own can be shot and killed within plain sight. The truth is nuclear weapons continue to proliferate around the globe. The world is in a mess.
Where do we go from here? My classmates will remember during orientation we all got a packet that outlined every hour of orientation. We received further packets on choosing classes. My RA gave us a packet reminding us to eat and bathe. And before I came to Wesleyan my mother gave me one piece of advice, “Everything in moderation, except RICE.” Well, I followed my packets and ate my rice, now what?
Effective this Monday, most of us will not have healthcare or any assets other than some graduation gift cards and our personal collection of pirated media. This is the first time we’ve all been together since orientation. Well, and at the thing yesterday but I forgot about that when I wrote this speech. We are gathered to hear commencement speeches which are all about advice. I don’t feel qualified to give advice. Where is our packet telling us what to do when and where?
I began with the word scared. Maybe scared is not the right word. It’s the same kind of ‘scared’ feeling you have when you are about to get on a roller coaster. Scared but excited, anticipating the adventure of the ride, knowing there will be ups and downs, and sometimes, even upside downs.
I am exhilarated to join a long and proud tradition of Wesleyan Alumni going out into the world on Wesleyan’s terms, broke and in debt, but most importantly, staying true to our values of social justice and civic responsibility. Just look at what we’ve started here. Students in this class began a college in prison program dedicated to break the institutional barriers that systematically hold groups of people down. We demanded that Wesleyan divest from arms manufacturers. Students recently founded the label Future Folk records, a label that rethinks the current music model to democratize the music industry. One student of this class began an ecotourism company to spread environmental consciousness. Another student founded a nonprofit to promote diabetes awareness. We have multiple tutoring programs at t-square and local middle schools. Long Lane farm is also student run, providing fresh organic local produce.
In the same way we recognize our own talents and accomplishments, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the talents of our faculty administrators and staff, whose combined efforts made us stretch our intellect and mold our Wesleyan state of mind. Most of you will be missed.
Finally, look around to your friends in the class. I think one great thing about Wesleyan, is when you graduate you are proud of your friends. I’m sort of proud of myself, for I am part of us. Wesleyan students are honest. Wesleyan students have heart. We are not afraid to speak out. If anyone is prepared to face this mess and create a new way forward it is us. We came to this school four years ago with a bundle of ideals, beliefs and hopes. That Wesleyan state of mind has developed further in our time here together. No packet will give you that.
Thank you friends and congratulations.