Lydia DeLauro and Hayleigh Thompson: Senior Class Co-Presidents
Graduation is a time of anticipation and nostalgia, a time to look forward, and a time to look back in astonishment at how far we have come, and where our journey began:
September 2, 2007, 9 p.m. We were gathered under this very tent for our first-year orientation. We milled around and asked each other questions: “What’s your first year studies?” “Did you enjoy The Book of Sarah’s?” We watched our classmates (and future best friends) being flung off an aggressive mechanical bull. Was it a metaphor for something?
A few days later, after tromping across campus in the sweltering heat (and maybe getting lost a couple times), we were finally done with our interviews, and ready to begin our journey together as curious students. It was around this time that Angela Moger, my First Year Studies professor, predicted our collective future: all of us would make an individual transformation.
We are not the same students who, four years ago, gathered under this tent. Something happened to us. It was happening when "heteronormative" became part of our daily vocabulary, and when we went to parties but talked about conference work the whole time. It happened when we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable in writing workshops, and when we watched films by our classmates in a Bronxville movie theater. It even happened while we drank vanilla chai at the Tea Haus, and split our nights between the hot rock and Esther.
We evolved—into producers of intensive research, outstanding publications, remarkable performances, and inspired artwork.
Now our time as Sarah Lawrence undergraduates is ending. Even in these final moments, I can’t help but want one more conference-work-induced "primal scream" outside the library, or one last buffalo burger from a PETA barbeque on the North Lawn.
This next era may seem daunting, but I have confidence that our continuing transformation as progressive thinkers, articulate speakers, and imaginative visionaries will continue to propel us forward, allowing us to navigate the path before us.
I am so proud to have begun this journey with all of you, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us.
Congratulations Class of 2011!
We are about to cross over to the other side, and whether you notice it now or in twenty years, each and every one of you has been changed. And that is what an education is supposed to do, transform an individual. Allow us to grow and explore the many facets of our personhood, and, as only a Sarah Lawrence professor like Joseph Campbell would say, to find and "follow our bliss." Each and every one of your classmates sitting beside you has helped to transform you into the person you are today—especially if you were in a New Dorms triple first year. Every caring professor, every thoughtful lecture and especially those conferences that made you realize exactly what your passion is—they have all sculpted you into an intelligent, articulate Sarah Lawrence student who I am proud to graduate alongside. Every college experience, no matter where you go, will have some kind of impact but Sarah Lawrence has a special kind of transformative property wholly unique to its student body. I say all this because I know that I have been transformed by Sarah Lawrence. Whether it was all the interesting personalities of my Modern Japanese Literature FYS, my second year living in the New Dorms, the incredible friends I made while abroad, some who are hopefully watching this in Oxford, to being a peer mentor to two wonderful first years and my time as one of your class presidents this year. Everyone sitting here today has helped me become a person I am finally proud to be—especially my family—I can’t forget them or else they might leave me here.
Last year I had the great fortune of hearing Yoko Ono speak at the Oxford Union. Her speech was dedicated to the idea of a quiet revolution. She wanted the audience to become what she termed a "small pebble person." Yoko wanted her audience to quietly effect change by being like the smallest pebble dropped in the ocean, hoping to silently inspire others to follow the example. Now, as anyone who knows me can imagine, I had some issues with this concept. It may suit some people but it is not the message I want to impart to you today. We passed out pebbles so that each of you will remember to never be swallowed up by the waves of complacency, that you will rise to any and all occasion and inspire greatness in yourself and all those around you. While it is wise to pick your battles, you need to maintain the same vim and vigor across all occasions. I believe that a combination is ideal—that you should make those quiet revolutions a part of your daily life while also dreaming big and working toward your greatest goal.
I have watched this class blossom from a swarm of lost first years frantically scurrying around campus while desperately looking for faculty offices to sign up for interviews to a group of seniors dancing until 2 a.m. in the Basement covered in glow in the dark liquid latex.
There is nothing you can’t do. You have had the privilege of a college education and it is our responsibility to do something important with the remaining time we have—to impact the world with our unique perspective. A perspective that should not be found only on a campus like Sarah Lawrence, a perspective of careful understanding and examination that everyone should embrace.
I want you to be bold. Be a force of nature. And to always dream big.