Samuel Morreale ’19, a Science in Society and theater double major, delivered the Senior Class Welcome during Wesleyan’s 187th Commencement ceremony on May 26. The text of his remarks as prepared are below:
For me, and many others, Wesleyan has been a space of refuge and respite; it has been a place of escape. My experience here has allowed movement from a place of confinement to a place of “freedom.” I’m not naive; I know I am not truly free and probably won’t ever be. Truth is that I escaped one type of confinement only to enter another. But the space afforded me by this institution offers its own type of liberation. I am a poor, queer, black/brown, first-generation student who is the son of recent immigrants. In many ways, I was not meant to end up here, nor am I welcome. My displacement at Wesleyan is and has been felt every day. Yet the opportunity Wesleyan has offered is clear. Because of this space I now have the power to name—a power that is as liberating as it is controlling. My Wesleyan education has given me the opportunity to take a critical view of myself, the labels I am given, the narratives I am ‘meant’ to live, the narratives you are ‘meant’ to live, and have the power (or at least the illusion of power) to refuse or accept any of it. Thinking with Saidiya Hartman, Wesleyan has given me the space to imagine my own realities—my own histories—by recognizing the histories before me as presented to control where my own history can go. Before Wesleyan, the course of my life was linear, unquestioning, and controlled by a greater social system I was not privy to understand. After Wesleyan, these things may all still be true! BUT now I am filled with defined questions, anger, passion, ambition, and ability to recognize where this social system mediates my life. I have a determination to use this newfound power graced by Wesleyan to make more space for myself and for others, and I hope that the Class of 2019 will offer the same space to the education we have been afforded.
As much as it might try, Wesleyan is not a bubble. Our experiences here were defined by those that came before. Those experiences gathered here, danced with one another, and then transformed into what they are now. Just as when we began, these experiences will now carry us into our future moments. My question then is how to do justice to the future we are being propelled toward? How do we do justice to the immense privilege of this education? My offering to the class of 2019 and all who have touched it—Take a moment to alienate yourself. Recognize your body as it is placed in a collective of others. Recognize the stories that have been afforded space. Then move with purpose. Hold on to the many definitions of activism that we have been taught here, and mobilize them wherever you go, remembering that activism is a daily practice in the most mundane sense. We have all been given a space on this campus that many aren’t even offered the opportunity to fathom. Let the pressure of that fact and its reality weigh on you. What I am asking for is a conscious presence in interaction and interrelation that might minimize the violence which we all perpetuate in this system. In this pursuit, I see joy and I feel placed.