Remarks by College Government President Diana Lam ’20
Thank you, Provost Shennan. Hello President Johnson, fellow students, esteemed faculty, and staff. My name is Diana Lam ’20, and I am this year’s College Government president.
Wow. It is an honor to be here. And by here, I mean not up here, behind this podium, but here—at Wellesley College. Five years ago, I sat alone at my dining room table and combed through different college catalogs and websites. Terms like “liberal arts college” and “need-blind admission” were all new to me. However, like any other first-generation college student, I relied on information from the internet and my own sheer will to shepherd me through the college application process. Most importantly, I leaned on the love and support of my family, friends, and mentors. They not only guided me through the college application process, but also through the past three years at Wellesley. They were and still are my community—the first ones to fill me up with bubble tea and dim sum, brush away insecurities and imposter syndrome, and give me a hand when change and failure inevitably occur. They’re also the ones that let me laugh my big laugh, that look for discounts to the Belkin Family Lookout Farm, and that help me lug my four storage bins around at the start of every school year. My community, whether it is off campus or on campus, in state or out of state, alumnae or peer, truly demonstrates that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and it is because of them that I feel incredibly honored to be here now.
At the same time, I am also cognizant that people find community in different ways. However, as we start a new year, I hope that we can both take ownership of the Wellesley College community together. Oftentimes, we engage in conversations that reference the Wellesley College community, without stopping to acknowledge that we are indeed members of Wellesley. This is a feat that only a few have the privilege to live, and the opportunity to be in community with each other on this beautiful campus is something that we should relish. So, let’s take a second to acknowledge that and work together to build the community that we want to see and engage in. After all, it’s impossible to have community change without first a sense of community.
Today, I would like to share a habit that I have always leaned on to build community: the practice of saying thank you.
- Thank you to my friends for tolerating my love for California and my zest for good avocados. Thank you for showing me how to buy a true New England coat, and how to lace up my snow boots. I would not have survived three winters, if not for you.
- Thank you to my peers for inspiring me with your insight during classroom discussions. You’ve really opened my eyes to nuances in the world that I would not have been able to see, if not for your courage to share your own experiences or personal hopes and dreams. Thanks for trusting me with your vulnerability.
- Thank you to the younger siblings, too, who still glisten in their eyes when they look at Lake Waban or the numerous tubs of ice cream in our dining halls—thank you for reminding me to be my age and to live like I am a 20-year-old, rather than a 25-year-old.
- Thank you to my teachers—especially the ones who grade very quickly—for sending me news articles and for sharing stories that have shaped me in ways that I’m not even sure that they understand.
- Thank you to my mentors in Civic Engagement and Career Education for giving me hope and belief in myself. You’ve given me the courage to dream of not just seeing into conference rooms where change occurs, but of being a part of those conference room discussions and hopefully leading them one day.
- Thank you to College Government, Dean Bate, and Dean Horton for helping me shoulder some very large responsibilities, and for giving me the space to make mistakes. I hope I can lead our team well this year.
- Thank you also to Kenny, who is the College Government “godfather,” and other staff members for making the spaces where I find community not only safe, but also very comfortable.
- Finally, thank you to my family. To Freda, Frank, and Nancy: Thank you for fielding my numerous and inevitable calls home, and for always being open to my questions and doubt. To my grandparents and relatives: Thank you for pushing me to dream big and dream wide.
- And the biggest thank you of all goes to my mom and dad, for having the courage to endure immigration and the Vietnam War, all in the hopes of the American dream—a dream that has oftentimes given our family more pain than hope but has nonetheless inspired me to be better and to do better every day. And because my mother is in the audience today, and my father is watching online, I’ll say this directly to them:
媽,爸: cảm ơn, 㩼谢, 謝謝. 我爱你不得了.
I started this habit of saying thank you when I found myself being lost in the grand word of “Wellesley student.” Reminding myself of what I have and what I have done has reminded me that there is value in all experiences—no matter if they are good or bad. While “success gives you pleasure, failure helps you learn and grow. Gratitude finds meaning in both.” Therefore, after convocation, I encourage you to take a few minutes to think about who or what communities have helped get you here today—to the start of a new school year at Wellesley College. Furthermore, after today is over, I encourage you to continue to rely on gratitude practices to help build community, because gratitude helps us see that our Wellesley community could be strengthened, rather than fixed.
As we conclude the first day of class, let’s not forget the freshness and the privilege of being students at Wellesley College. Let’s never forget that we are here not only because of our own efforts, but also because of those of our communities. Let’s not forget what it means to be a community member as well, and start this school year with something as simple as a “thank you.”