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2011 Class President Athena Gee
As we each walk across this stage, focusing on each step to make sure we do not fall, I am reminded of Newton’s third law; every action has an equal and opposite reaction. With each step we take there is an equal and opposite force that keeps us from... falling through this stage, for example. Such is similar to our time here at Wellesley. Wellesley pushed us and, well, we pushed back. Wellesley motivated us to try our hardest and reach beyond limits... as if we didn’t already. In the same manner, each and every one of us has motivated our peers and members of the Wellesley administration to think critically about the community and world we live in. We are each an action with an equal and opposite reaction. Each and every one of us is an inspiration.
With that said, I am pleased to introduce a classmate who has inspired us all. Amidst the academically stressful environment of Wellesley, Claire Ayoub has been bold enough to not only be an optimist but be a source of joy with her characteristically bubbly, happy personality. Claire is a Middle Eastern Studies major and has been a member of Dead Serious all four years, and “finds the balance of studying crisis with comedy to be quite wonderful.” In her sophomore year, she started her own tea appreciation group, In Too Steep.
While spreading her passion for tea, she helped members of our community slow down and take time to drink some tea, color, and reconnect with classmates. In her junior year, Claire studied abroad in London at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Upon her return from England, Claire took on an entrepreneurial role as she discovered that there was demand for her In Too Steep tea society to become a catering company. Claire also found herself even more in love with Wellesley in her role as an FYM First Year Mentor. She also was a member of the judging panel at this year’s Lip Sync and the MC for Spring Open Campus. Having worked at two startup companies created by Wellesley alums, Claire can personally attest to the incredible character and accomplishments of our alumnae… such a strong alumnae network that only gets more fabulous as people like Claire Ayoub join their ranks. I am honored and proud to introduce our 2011 commencement speaker Claire Ayoub.
Claire Ayoub Student Commencement Speech 2011
My name is Claire Ayoub and I have a confession to make. About this time four years ago, as I held my letter of admission in my hands and my father openly wept with joy at the prospect of paying a third private college tuition, I came to a terrifying conclusion: Wellesley College had totally admitted me by accident. I wanted to believe that I was Wellesley material but, after reading that letter for the umpteenth time, I had to face reality: Somewhere, far away, in some really interesting part of the world, a high-school senior by the name of Blaire Mayoub had received my rejection letter by mistake. You see Blaire Mayoub was the perfect Wellesley woman. She had a 5.3 GPA (unweighted, of course), perfect SAT scores, a slew of awards for her humanitarian efforts, and really great hair. After reading that letter, I knew Blaire would fit right in with that yellow class of 2011. They were amazing. They were from all over the world. They were beekeepers and geneticists, athletes and scholars. They had achieved things I never thought possible by the age of 18. And me? I was a spastic theatre nerd from Connecticut. I didn’t keep bees; I ran away from them. My multicultural experience maxed out at playing the role of Yente in my high school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof.
Who was I kidding? The jig was up. Somewhere across the world, Blaire Mayoub took a moment from her year off dedicated to saving the whales (all of them), and felt a smile on her face. Blaire knew Karma would swing back, and it would only be a matter of time before Jennifer Desjarlais and the rest of Wellesley’s Black Ops Admissions team came for me during the night.
Did I mention that I have an overactive imagination? Can you blame me? As soon as we were admitted to this school, we all came face to face with the legacy: “Women who will make a difference in the world.” Women who will go places and be someone and form a better future for all humankind. Walking through Alumnae Hall, past the pictures of those pioneering alumnae before us, it is easy to feel small. As an 18-year-old, I found it easy to recognize their greatness, but not so easy to envision myself in that same frame. It is easy to see where our predecessors are now, but not as easy to comprehend the thousands of steps, missteps, successes, failures, and crises of confidence it took to get there. As I now tell my first-years, nobody walks out of here as a 22-year-old, fully formed Hillary Clinton. It is all about the process. The Wellesley women before us did leave us a sizeable legacy, but it is not a burden. It is a gift. The generations before us gave us the power to redefine what greatness is.
So ask yourself: How do you define greatness?
While our first instinct may be to look at those pioneers on the wall, it is important to remember to look at ourselves: I see greatness in every face I pass by here each day. I have seen friends get published for their beat poetry, friends who produced breathtaking works of art, friends who spent months in a lab researching better treatment for diabetes, and remarkable women who run a network to give better opportunities to blind youth in Lebanon. That is greatness. I have seen awe in the eyes of first-years as they hang onto their house presidents’ every word, silently vowing to be just like them someday. That is greatness. I see women who will protest, women who will yell, women who will laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. We are women who will make to-do lists, women who will tell other people about our to-do lists, and women who will get angry when other people tell us about their to-do lists because don’t they know how much work we have to do? I suppose accepting our quirks is greatness in itself. But most importantly, I see an army: Everyone has a place, everyone plays a part, everyone has a skill and together, we’re unstoppable.
But there’s something else. To me, greatness is synonymous with happiness. It is about looking back and seeing a life well spent. It is about embracing who you are, not who you think you should be. Sure, Blaire Mayoub may have the body of a goddess and the ability to speak fluent whale, but I have something different. I have a laugh that shakes mountains. I have a drive to do everything I can to make people smile, and a love of storytelling that knows no bounds.
But most importantly, I have you. After four years at Wellesley College, I finally have my definition for our legacy: you. You are all my greatness. You are all my happiness. You are all my time well spent. Not just in the past four years, but for all the decades to come. This is the key to our legacy, and it goes without saying that our greatness is simply too epic for a picture frame in Alumnae Hall.
Four years ago, I came to this campus without any idea of who I was or where I belonged. Today, I stand before you as a writer, performer, entrepreneur, mentor, sister, and friend. Today, I see the faces of mentors and friends, some of whom feel more like family, and wonder how I can ever leave. Sure, I wish that John O’Keefe could follow me around and give me life advice like my own personal Mr. Feeny, but that’s not going to happen. I do know one thing for certain, though: If I get hit by the Peter Pan bus today, as I always suspected I might, I can honestly say that I would die happy because I got to know all of you. I got to see the beginning of our legacy, and I cannot wait to see where we will go. So, thank you, my golden class of 2011, congratulations and enjoy the journey.