Paul Keith Tunis MFA '09:
Graduate Student Speaker

Paul Keith TunisIn kindergarten Mrs. Clark could not explain to my best friend Tyler why there weren't really Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles living in the sewers. There just aren't, she said. Under the class' inquisition she also maintained that there were no Mutant Ninja Turtles, nor Ninja Turtles in the sewers. She did, however, concede that, though unlikely, there may be plain old ordinary turtles in the sewers but they were probably not happy about it, and no, they certainly did not eat pizza.

In preparing to talk about the daunting world we are poised to enter, all I could think of was that day in kindergarten. I wanted to come up with profound ways to discuss the global economy or global warming or the global threat of pirates and pandemics, to have some snarky and dismissive solution like, maybe instead of privatized medicine we should try piratized medicine. Then I wanted to tell of my own concern that this may be the worst possible time to enter or, for some of us, reenter society. Joke that we're now all professionally unemployable or give you quirky tips on ducking your loan officer for the rest of your life, but instead all I could think of were turtles.

Yes, change is in abundance and it is terrifying, and because of it, our time in history will be different than any that came before. And besides turtles there is only one real thing I can say. As our world continues to be revolutionized by technology our job is to always reevaluate our relationships to commerce, community, science, and even morality. We can't afford to realize something is illegal after it has been done in billion dollar intervals. We can't let Twitter be how our children make friends. And just because we can mutate all the animals we eat doesn't mean we should. The assumptions of right and wrong, good and bad, safe and dangerous that we have inherited may no longer apply. Everything we once believed must constantly be challenged if we ever hope to reunite with our humanity. Otherwise we will continually try to use those old solutions, which are failing to solve our new problems.

This means we can no longer just let the loudest voice in the room—and Mrs. Clark had some serious pipes—tell us that there are no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the sewers. Now is the time that we must grab our flashlights and find out for ourselves. It will be dark down there and it will smell and Mom may not have packed enough Rice Krispies treats for the way back, and even though it is likely that we will come back empty handed, turtle-less, ninja-less, we need to know for sure if we ever hope to move forward with certainty.