Kalli Jackson ’22, who delivered the Senior Class Welcome, made the following remarks during Wesleyan’s 190th Commencement Ceremony on May 22:
There is so much to look at at Wesleyan University. The first time I ever stepped foot on this campus, I was amazed by how much there was to see. The friends gravitating toward Foss Hill when the sun is out, the proud sidelining every sports game, the outfits roaming the halls of WestCo. The students themselves are enough to be a spectacle. Wesleyan is home to the unique. No two walls, no two classrooms, no two people are the same. When we take a step back, it is clear that the individuals who make up this class reveal a mosaic of creativity, drive, and intellectual curiosity.
The first thing I knew I loved about Wesleyan was just how much there was to look at. Our first day of classes was the rainiest day of September. I remember getting lost on the way to Fisk, which felt like a mile away for a freshman living in Bennet, and the one thing I forgot to bring to college was an umbrella. I was trudging down College Row, soaking wet, when suddenly, it felt as though the sky had dried up. A complete stranger had seen me, and without saying a word, walked up and shared her umbrella. When we reached Fisk, before I even had a chance to thank her, she told me to have a good class, and walked back out the door. It was that day, the first of many, where I learned that the best part of Wesleyan was not how much there was to look at, but the things that happen when no one is looking.
Drives to Price Chopper to pick up surprise birthday cakes, the extra Swings cookie you buy for the friend you know will want one later, the Post-it notes you leave for roommates before big tests or long breaks. When no one is looking, Wesleyan students take care of one another. If you didn’t believe it before, the pandemic became your proof.
The arrival of COVID-19 disrupted life as we knew it. Suddenly, no one was ever looking, no one could. We were sent home sanitizing groceries and lining up for COVID tests, and even still, this community took care of each other. From the Zoom birthday parties to the care packages sent to friends in quarantine, from the resources shipped across countries to the GoFundMes set up on another peer’s behalf, Wesleyan students continued to prove that this is a community of caretakers and problem-solvers. Of selflessly hard workers and devoted friends. We are optimists, even in the face of tragedy.
When I look back, I am still astonished by how much there is to look at. But there is so much more to it than that.
Becoming an adult at Wesleyan is learning that as much fun as it is to show the world what you have to offer—what you can create, what you can perform, what you can build—what really matters is what you do; for your friends, for strangers, and sometimes, even just for yourself. The only person you have to prove yourself to is you. The people we become when there are no accolades, no audience, and no recognition, are the people we are at our core, and the Class of 2022 has proven that they are the people everyone deserves to have in their corner.
Stepping out into a post-Wesleyan world means not quite knowing what to expect. But, the one thing I do know is that wherever we end up once we go, we will all be the person who shares their umbrella with a stranger. When we leave this campus as students for the very last time, there will be a person, an office, a city, that gets just a little better, right when no one’s looking.