Student Commencement Speech Janet Hostetler
May 30, 1997
Good morning and thank you, Keri. Before I begin, I would like to ask for a moment of silence for Amy Spear, a member of the class of 1997 who is no longer with us, but lives on in our hearts and memories.
Thank you. I would like to welcome all of you here today, faculty, family, friends and of course the one, the only, Wellesley graduating class of 1997.
Last year as I was finishing up my semester in Argentina, I put together a little yearbook for the 20 Americans who had studied with me. I did this in my last week there, while writing final papers, saying goodbye to new, but dear, friends and places and packing everything I had brought and all that I had acquired back into my two suitcases.
The yearbook wasn't fancy; I didn't have time to even put in pictures. I just collected people's addresses, favorite quotes, their superlatives as voted by the others, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. I remember distinctly what one woman wrote as her desired occupation: happy. She wanted to be happy when she grew up.
Once again we're packing up a lot of memories along with our belongings and preparing to go far away - mentally if not physically. Many of us, here and now, are also thinking that question: "What do I want to be when I grow up?"
I guess you could say that we're along the way to being grown up, although I plan at least a few more decades of growing before I'm officially there. But now is probably a good time to think about what we want to be when we grow up. And happy doesn't sound like too bad of a goal, does it?
So let's talk about happiness, or rather how we can go toward that goal. I think we can all agree that to be happy we should live a positive life. That makes sense. So, how then, can we make sure that we live positively?
One way is to surround ourselves with positive things and positive experiences. Read good books, see good movies, have beautiful artwork hanging on our walls. We should eat delicious food, buy ourselves fresh flowers to greet us when we get home and attend all kinds of concerts frequently.
What are your happy memories from Wellesley? What will you choose to remember? Stop and think about what made your time worthwhile. Walking around Lake Waban with friends in the autumn as the leaves turned colors. Traying at midnight after the first real snowfall, Flower Sunday with little and big sisters, all night discussions about the meaning of life with friends. These are my memories of Wellesley.
It is important to remember why we are living on this earth. What are our priorities: our family and friends or getting that extra bonus by working 100 hours a week? Which really and truly makes us happier? We only have one life, so let's treat ourselves well, with massages and bubble baths. Never pass a playground without stopping to swing. Throw away our watches and maybe even try living without a planner for a day.
Find the little things, like sunrises and sunsets, or tequila shots and pet rocks, that make a day worth living. And always, always, always have a reason to get out of bed in the morning - whether it's the brownies you baked the night before or the realization that Thursday means "ER" is on at 10:00.
That way of positive living doesn't sound too bad, does it?
But I'd like to introduce another way of living positively. This previous way is inward-looking. The goal is to bring positive or happy things of the world into our lives.
A second manner of positive living is more outward-focused. The goal is to direct our own positivity (if I can take the liberty of inventing a word) on the world. To perhaps even seek out the negative things in this world and work to make them positive.
This lifestyle might not appear so much fun, at first. We no longer can claim that it is for "positive" reasons that we don't read the bad news in the newspaper. To the contrary, we must open our eyes and ears to what is happening in all corners of this world that is our global community. Sure it does no good to numb ourselves to all the horrors of the world by repeated contact. But we cannot solve problems without knowing they are there.
In this life, maybe instead of going to a concert, you will perform for others. Maybe instead of buying cut flowers, you will plant flowers in a vacant lot for others to enjoy. Maybe you will teach, heal, counsel, or write policy that changes the world.
Building a house with Habitat for Humanity may come before that weekend at the spa. But look at what you've made at the end of a day! The beautiful artwork that a schoolteacher hangs on her wall may come from a yet undiscovered talent. But when it is given to you in appreciation of your love, there is no art so beautiful in the world! The hours at the rape crisis center are not always conducive to watching sunsets. When you take responsibility for the world, bubble baths sometimes have to wait.
But once again, I ask you to think about why we are here on earth and what is really important in life. What is the most positive way you can lead your life? As I said before, the key to a positive life is to always, always, and always have a reason to get up in the morning. I know of no better reason than that you are needed and that the world will be a better place for your having lived.
I cannot tell you what to do in your life. You must find your own causes, based on your own convictions. Each of us must use our own talent and our own strengths to give what we can. But each of us must give.
We, who have had the opportunity to study at a college with such distinguished academics and endless opportunities, should not dare waste our biggest resources: ourselves. Believe it or not, the motto of Wellesley College is not "ite ad viam murum et accumulate pecuniam," or: go to Wall Street and make money. It is "Non Ministrari, Sed Ministrare" - not to be served, but to serve. If a motto is defined as "a word or saying that expresses one's aims, ideals, or guiding rule," it makes a lot of sense then, that as Wellesley graduates our aim, ideal and guiding rule should be to serve.
Hanging on my wall is an advertisement for the United Way campaign that sometimes helps me get out of bed in the morning. It reads:
how do you want to be remembered?
for the car you drove?
as the guy who slid into second with his spikes up?
the woman in the power suit who everyone feared?
the one with the most toys?
or someone who cared?
someone who did good?
someone who, on the day they're gone
people will say today there's a hole in the world
Congratulations Class of 1997. I wish you all the happiness in the world.