Alice M. Greenwald ’73, director of the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum, spoke to the College’s 290 undergraduate and 120 graduate students receiving their diplomas at Commencement today. Under a large tent keeping out the spring rain, she exhorted the students to help frame the views of their generation. “Take what you’ve learned at Sarah Lawrence and allow it to polish the lens on the world you are about to engage….Dig as deep as you have to, and rise as high as you can. Keep your passion. Make mistakes and learn from them. Honor curiosity and follow it. And, in everything you do, recognize the individuals in the ‘other.’”
Greenwald emphasized that she was directing her comments to parents as well as students and cast her remarks in the context of the world today’s students are inheriting. Referring to her own generation, she said: “We seem to have forgotten the important lessons – lessons that are very much at the heart of a Sarah Lawrence education: that individual dignity must be acknowledged for community to thrive; and, that our sense of belonging must extend beyond the limits of our immediate self-interests to take in a larger landscape of possibility, one that can best be encountered through rigorous, intellectual inquiry; curiosity about the unfamiliar, and non-judgmental openness to the ‘other.’
In her first months as head of the memorial dedicated to telling the story of those who died in the events of September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993, Greenwald has been recognized for her sensitivity to the highly emotional nature of the project and her keen understanding of its symbolic importance. Prior to this position, she was associate director for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where she had served since 1986. In one of the many interviews Greenwald has given since her appointment to direct the World Trade Center Museum, she revealed her hopeful perspective: “In the midst of the worst of humanity, you always get the best of humanity.”
The College’s 78th Commencement was the last during Michele Tolela Myers’ tenure as ninth president of Sarah Lawrence College. She will retire at the end of July. In her remarks, she encouraged the new graduates to “take courage, imagination, compassion, and a passionate conviction that you will make a difference….and important today more than ever, take with you a commitment to justice.”
Students speaking included the co-presidents of the senior class, Davin Searls and Thomas Hoang, and Annie Levy representing the graduate students.