Jordan Christopher Foster ’20 & Evan Ray Suzuki ’20: Co-Presidents of the Senior Class

Class of 2020:

This day, of course, should first and foremost be a day filled with festivity and happiness and joy. And, in many ways, it is. There is a great deal of relief, of satisfaction, of pride and celebration that comes with completing the classes and conference projects and theses that we’ve all put so much effort into. But we also felt that it would be ingenuine to speak to you all, through a Zoom recording, and pretend like nothing has changed. For all of us watching, for people throughout the globe, so much has changed. We are living in a time of great uncertainty. Many of the events and plans and gatherings that we all expected to happen have been postponed or cancelled. Certain aspects of our future, our security, our housing, our health, our lives, have been affected. When we think about what has happened to the world… what has happened to the Class of 2020, a certain word comes to mind… disruption.

So. Now we’re going to do that thing that graduation speakers seem to be required to do, where they reference the dictionary as a form of meaningful anecdote. So, yeah, we’re about to go there…. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “disruption” as “the action of rending or bursting asunder; violent dissolution of continuity.”

And while the disruption that COVID-19 has caused is undoubtedly one that is damaging and destructive, disruption also comes to mind in a different context.

As I reflect on my four years at Sarah Lawrence College from my childhood bedroom, I think of this concept of disruption in relation to my education: My Sarah Lawrence education has given me so much. I am so grateful for the life-changing professors and their incredibly thought-provoking and dynamic courses. I am grateful for a student body that is constantly supporting one another, while still pushing each other to be their very best selves. And something else that Sarah Lawrence has given its students are the tools and the opportunities to disrupt.

To break, to interrupt, to challenge, to question, to adapt, to think critically, to advocate, to discover new pathways, to find a more creative solution to any problem. Sarah Lawrence is a college full of disrupters. And the Class of 2020, a class that has experienced a Sarah Lawrence College in many instances of change, from college president to US President to a new campus building, this class continues and will continue to find ways to disrupt … and innovate … and challenge, as we have observed time and time again.

We disrupt with our art. We’ve produced beautiful visual installations and sculptures, written and directed and edited complex and rich films, staged and designed original and exciting works of theatre and dance. Many of which are disrupting traditional notions and beliefs about what art “should be.”

We disrupt with our writing. We’ve put forth personal and truth-telling poems and short stories, plays and news articles, all disrupting through the written word.

We’ve watched the Class of 2020 question, explore, refute, and discover in the fields of mathematics, biology, chemistry, psychology, computer science, and more.

We have seen our Gryphon athletes disrupt the notion that if you play sports in college you are an athlete and only an athlete.

We’ve seen professors disrupt notions about what the syllabi in any given subject “should look like,” because we know that things like art and history and science don’t exist inside any given boundaries.

We disrupt with our beliefs and commitments to social justice and to advocacy and representation. We’ve held protests and staged demonstrations and questioned and critiqued structures and systems both outside of our school and within it. Last year, almost a hundred students came together, sat in our Westlands building, and demanded that the school address issues of housing and food insecurity, opportunities for increased diversity among our students and faculty, and much more. We hope that the College will continue with the work that they have already been doing with addressing these demands.

For many of us, our being here, our admittance to Sarah Lawrence and completion of a degree is a disruption in and of itself. This institution, like most institutions of higher education, was not founded with many of us in mind. Those of us that come from a lower income, are people of color, who were not born in the United States, are queer, are undocumented, are differently abled, are mentally ill, are neurodivergent. Any of us being here is a disruption.

This diploma is a challenge to the notion that only certain types of people deserve a college education. We did it. And we should all be so incredibly proud. And while we can’t guarantee much in this unprecedented time, what we can say is that we all have the tools and the power to question … to create … to ask why … and to fight for what we believe in.

With what Sarah Lawrence has given you, you can and you will fight this.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020.

Good luck, stay safe, stay connected (for now, virtually), and go out and disrupt.

Remarks as prepared for delivery