Kathleen Rose Flaherty '14 & Arielle Mariah Jones '14: Co-Presidents of the Senior Class

Arielle Mariah Jones ’14

Two years ago, I was sitting on my couch at home with my mom watching a television show called The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet when a woman came on the screen. Her name was Kirsten Gillibrand and she was a senator from New York speaking about being a woman in politics. Just five months later I worked for Senator Gillibrand in her New York office, but it was her words that day that inspired me.

She explained that, “Many organizations have done studies, and they've found that women need to be asked to participate—that they respond very well when they're asked to run for office. And the studies also show that when women do run, they win.” Of course, this idea struck me. It felt like she was reaching out of the screen, grabbing me by the shoulders, and asking me to participate. Asking me to run.

Now, I know her quote referred to women and political office, but I believe the sentiment rings true. People want to be asked, they often need it. This is me asking you. Not just to run for political office, but asking you to act.

I’m not going to say you should just do what you love. That implies so many privileged factors. I’m not going to say that working at what you love is such a privilege that you should work for free or work under terrible conditions. That’s not going to help anyone.

But our education has been a privilege. And we cannot waste it.

Leaving high school, I felt like I had too many passions. Like I couldn’t decide which one to follow. In the end, my decision was follow my gut. That I need to do what makes me feel like I am making the biggest difference for the world. Your decision might be different. But my belief is that you should choose what is going to make you sleep better at night. That might mean providing for your parents or your children. That might mean saving the world.

My call to action, to you, is to use your privilege to not only make a better world, but a happier one too. You know I just want you to be happy!

We’ve spent a lot of our lives making other people proud. Our parents, our teachers, our bosses. Now, on the verge of complete independence, its time to make someone else proud. Make yourself proud. Do it. Make yourself proud.

To end on a lighter note, I offer this. I recently found an old speech I wrote to give at my high school. I’d been asked to present at College Day on my experience so far after my first semester of college, and I spoke about visiting Sarah Lawrence on my college tour at the same time I was getting acceptance and rejection letters. I was rejected from my top choice school, which was not Sarah Lawrence. This is what I wrote:

"As I was telling my mom about SLC, she asked me what I had written about in my application essay. I had never shared them with her and I wasn’t even sure why. I got very defensive and accused her of trying to figure out why I had been rejected from four out of seven schools. Of course, that’s not what she was doing at all, but the argument and resulting tears allowed me to clear my system of the pent-up guilt and frustration I had been feeling. If there is anything I took away from the college admissions process it is that there are some things you just cannot control. You do your best, you do you, and that’s how you stay proud of yourself and your life."

Rereading that speech, I realized I feel the same way today as I did then.

You do your best, you do you, and that's how you stay proud of yourself.

Now, class of 2014, friends, family, please—go make yourself proud!

Kathleen Rose Flaherty ’14

Hey guys!

Well, I guess the first thing I should say is congratulations! You’re going to hear that constantly for the next few weeks, but I hope each time you take it to heart. You’ve worked your asses off for this very expensive piece of paper, and you really deserve it.

Sarah Lawrence is a unique experience. Yes from any other college, but also for each and every student here. We’ve all come from very different places and traveled very different paths, but here we are, sitting under this tent together. For a while I wasn’t sure I’d actually be under here with you. Freshman and sophomore year I considered transferring, and it was almost like pulling teeth getting myself to come back from my year abroad in Ireland. Sarah Lawrence can be hard. Academically, yes of course, but this school can be challenging in many different ways. And when the Board of Trustees asked me if I was glad I did not transfer, I paused.

Community has been one of the largest parts of my experience here at SLC. From trying to get involved in it, to wondering if it exists, to being disappointed in it, to running away from it, and finally to working to build it. I know community is something that is spoken about a lot at Sarah Lawrence. Do we have it? What is it? Where are the problems? How can we improve it? A community is a group of people who share something, and at the most basic level I think we do at least have that.

I mentioned Sarah Lawrence being a unique experience, and it is. Under this tent there are people receiving all different types of degrees who are of all ages, races, ethnicities, orientations, and gender-identities; and we’ve all gone through something different here. But whether you’ve had a great time, a rocky time, or a kind of so-so time here, you’ve experienced a type of education that is going to carry with you into the rest of your life. My time at Sarah Lawrence has certainly not been the easiest, but I have learned many lessons that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else, and I think that is something that every person under this tent shares.

We also share the terror of receiving the "100 Days Until Graduation" e-mail from Health Services and the "Work is due on the 9th" from the Registrar, the anticipation of when the Sarah Lawrence Fox is going to make an appearance, the anxiety of interviews and registration, and the sentimentality of SLC Compliments.

So, yes, I am glad I didn’t transfer. I have some of the most fantastic friends here, who have stood behind me throughout these four years. I have met many amazing acquaintances who actually meet my eyes when we pass each other on campus. I have worked with and for the funniest, craziest, nicest people in all the things I do on campus. I have connected with faculty and staff so incredible that I couldn’t ever clap hard enough to show how grateful I am for the time they’ve put into my education and experience, especially my don and pseudo-dons. I have formed my own sense of community with all these ties, and I hope that you all can think back during your own pauses and say some of the same things.

It doesn’t matter if you started SLC with the first year class of 2010, transferred in sometime between then and now, took some time off and came back, or joined us as a graduate student: you are part of this community. Keep that in mind as you go on with your lives, writing quirky poems, doing your underwater basket weaving, making a career out of being an advocate, or painting abstract portraits of cats. There is a network of people here, under this tent, who have gone through something alongside you, that you should reach out to. I don’t care how many times you’ve Sarah Lawrenced that person in your class or what you’ve said or read on SLC Anon, use the connections you’ve formed here and continue to form new ones. With friends, faculty, staff, acquaintances, classmates, the black squirrels. Don’t ignore the 350+ people you’ve shared this experience with. Reach out when you need to or want to. Sarah Lawrencing should end here.

The experience is what you make of and take from it, and I’ve made some pretty memorable moments and taken some challenging and worthwhile lessons from Sarah Lawrence. I think if you take the time to think about it, you’ll find you have, too.

I’ll see you around.