Katie Barsotti was the student speaker for the class of 2015
Members of the Board of Trustees, President Bottomly, faculty, staff, families, guests, and my fellow graduates. Hello.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Cinema and Media Studies major or maybe it’s because I watch too much Netflix, but the best way for me to think about the last four years is to think about my time at Wellesley as a long movie. And it actually kind of works. We’re all the protagonists, and we’ve all had some amazing character arcs. I, personally, didn’t even start out as a particularly likeable character. Before I came to Wellesley, I could’ve been heard saying, “I’m not like other girls,” or “Oh, I could never go to an all-girls school—too much drama.” I might even have referred to other women as catty. I said all of this to female friends, probably before arguing that women’s lacrosse is better than men’s or complaining that the dress code policy was biased against women. I even wrote my Common App essay about how Hermione is the best part of the Harry Potter series. So I wasn’t the greatest character, but at least there were a few reasons to root for me. I was ready for Wellesley and I didn’t even know it. Honestly, I came to Wellesley because a boy told me I wouldn’t and I wanted to prove him wrong. I think the best movies have a boy that needs to be proven wrong.
When I came to Wellesley, the movie of my life started consistently passing the Bechdel test. My character was growing and changing. Sure I had potential at the beginning, but at Wellesley my potential blossomed. I was having conversations about representation in the media and asking when Hillary is going to finally announce her candidacy rather than conversations about how I didn’t want to be involved in drama.
Think about where you, your character, started. Some of you were precious ignorant dummies like me. Some of you started out pretty amazing. Either way, Wellesley has changed all of us. Some of you came in pre-med and ended up a Cinema and Media Studies major (have you told your parents yet?). Some of you resentfully came to Wellesley just because your mom came here, but you ended up loving it just like she did. Some of you came here because you misspelled Wesleyan on a form and decided it was too much trouble to transfer. A few of you hated Wellesley, but that gave your character grit. A lot of you took a geoscience class first year for a distribution requirement and have literally not stopped talking about it since.
But a good movie isn’t all walks around Lake Waban. The greatest films put their leads through some tough times. You have to struggle a little bit for the audience to like you and appreciate you and for your character to truly grow. And we struggled at Wellesley. You made it through all nighters in Clapp, walking from West side to East side in the snow, all nighters in Anderson forum, taking your QR requirement senior spring, insisting at Health Services that no, you’re not pregnant, you just think you sprained your wrist, all nighters in the science center, all nighters in your secret study spot on campus that no one else knows about, finding someone in your secret study spot on campus that no one knows about, and finishing something that science majors tell me is called a “PSET”. You might have lost friends or made enemies or been rejected by a job or two or ten. You made it through all of that. And you’re so much better for it. And we love your character so much more.
Wellesley gave us a place to sort ourselves out and make that character arc. We needed Wellesley to get to act three. I have been known to say that I could’ve gone anywhere for four years, be it a nunnery or the military, I just needed time to mature. That’s not true (It’s a comedy joke). I needed Wellesley, and not just because I couldn’t find any nunneries with a computer science class. I needed Wellesley to grab me by the shoulders and tell me to appreciate the strong, beautiful women in my life. Some people needed Wellesley to tell them that Econ was not for them. Some of you needed Wellesley to tell you to speak up. Wellesley told all of us something and gave us a place where we could spend four years incubating and maturing and listening to whatever it is the Wellesley had to tell us.
Nora Ephron once said of our lovely school, “At Wellesley, we would be allowed to dream and theorize. We would be taken seriously. It would not always be so.” All deference to one of my heroes, but I don’t think her words apply to this class sitting before me. My classmates will be taken seriously. And for good reason. We all came to Wellesley ready to be changed whether we wanted to or not. Today, Wellesley is spitting us out into the world. Maybe we don’t think we’re ready, or we’re scared, or we’re nauseous and maybe a little sweaty. But today is the day and I hope the world is prepared, because Wellesley really did a number on us. Those of us who showed up as dummies? We’re a lot better now. And those of you who were pretty amazing at the beginning? More amazing. And you know how we get to drop trivia such as, “The first female Secretary of State went to Wellesley!” or “A Dead Serious alum is on Broad City!” or “Diane Sawyer was a Blue Note!” or “Dr. Miranda Bailey went to Wellesley!”? Well, soon, you’ll be the ones who Wellesley students are bragging about. You’ll be on the Wikipedia page, and not just because you updated it yourself.
So what happens after today? The reading of our names—that’s a little bit like the credits right? Sure, but there’s a sequel, and that’s the rest of our lives. Sequels aren’t always great, but I think yours are going to be even better than the first. At the very least, know that your sequel has a built in audience—all of us.
So get out there and start making that sequel. It’ll be exciting and messy, probably sad at times, and maybe even scary, but definitely funny. All I know is that I can’t wait to see it.