Student Speech

Student Commencement Speech by Sarah R. Smith

Hello, Class of 1998.

Do you remember the Admissions video they sent us about a billion years ago? I have to admit, I loved the scenes from Commencement. Those women looked so grown-up, so beautiful and so proud as they marched along, trying not to look at the camera. The looks on their faces, I thought, how did they get those wise eyes? I wanted to be one them. I wanted to feel how it feels to have completed Wellesley - I wanted to stop feeling so small. Though today may feel as scary in some ways as the day we left home, I can see the look they had on all your faces. You somehow make these silly hats and robes look regal.

A woman I greatly admired my first year told me about the words inscribed on the College shield. Not the famous ones, but another Latin phrase, incipit vita nova. It means, Thus begins a new life. How true, I thought then. And now. When we stepped onto Wellesley's beautiful landscape for our long Orientation almost four years ago, we might not have been able to imagine the women we have now become, but we knew something big had begun. And our lives became not about reaching today, Commencement, not about completing Wellesley, as I thought when I admired the women in the Admissions video, but working through each day, with the women around us. Our new lives became about living here, and I think the wiser eyes we have today attest to the part of Wellesley we will take with us tomorrow.

What that is, is going to be different for all of us. Our experiences in and out of the classroom, our accomplishments and our frustrations have intersected countless times; we have affected each other deeply, but we each will make our own meaning of Wellesley.

We all know that there are many differences among us, and that they make our unity complex and sometimes difficult. Just as we do out best not to shy away from our differences, I think we should leave here remembering not just the joy of this wonderful place, but its hard times as well. For these are what have made our experiences here more than a vacation - a long, lazy, sunny stay that soon fades into other peaceful memories.

I hope you all have found peaceful moments here, on Lake Day or Spring Weekend or when you finished your theses. Or on any day when you found yourself enjoying life in spite of your cares. I hope we will continue to have those days.

But what about the days that came before and after them? There were struggles large and small - papers, projects, conflicts both personal and public. Those were the hard days. They've made us strong. And the beauty in them is that it's not bad to have hard things to do - in fact, it's good, it's where life happens. My mom has often reminded me that, "If it were easy, it wouldn't be worth doing." It wasn't easy here; it won't be easy when we go. But that's what makes us proud, whole, and beautiful.

We can continue to be this way in the new life that indeed begins today. I encourage you to also keep with you our official motto, not to be served but to serve. Ponder it as you make your new choices. We each can decide how this motto affects our lives. I think our time here has instilled it into each of us - we know that the smallest service can mean the world to another person, and that the most sweeping reform needs to touch the individual. We know that to serve is one of the harder things in life, but we are not only ready for the challenge, we can appreciate its beauty. It is what makes our new lives less focused on our personal successes: if we listen to it, we give our personal victories meaning in the world. It brings beautiful struggles into our lives, making the hard days the ones to live for.

I know this class is going to do wonderful things, for ourselves, for each other and for those things and people we each care deeply about. Congratulations, Class of 1998. May we have many hard, beautiful days.

Related

1998 Pinanski Prize for Excellence in Teaching

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