Grace Park was the student speaker for the Class of 2016
Distinguished members of the Board of Trustees, President Bottomly, faculty, staff, family, friends, and the Class of 2016, welcome. This commencement is just as much a celebration of all those who helped us get here as it is of us.
But first, my fellow graduates, let's talk about us. Rewind four years to August of 2012. It's the first day of orientation. A day kind of like today. Beautiful, chaotic, and a little bit sweaty. Perhaps you remember the theme. Our orientation coordinators encouraged us to start our stories here at Wellesley. Maybe some of you came in with a five or 10 year plan. Or maybe some of you were like me and decided to wing the whole thing.
Either way, four years later, each of us has a unique story to tell. And though I wouldn't call myself a hopeless romantic, the story I'm going to share with you today is a story about love. About my love for Wellesley, the important work of love, and how love can change the world.
Perhaps it seems out of place for someone like me, and officer in the United States Army, to speak of love. But in the Army, a profession of arms, love is the thing that holds soldiers together. It's the only reason a soldier would lay down her life for another.
But I first learned the power of love here. I met Wellesley online. A solid profile picture and the enticing tagline that Boston was just 20 minutes away had me at first swipe. When I first stepped foot on this beautiful campus I knew she was the one. See, Wellesley wasn't just beautiful. Wellesley was challenging. Wellesley had a curious way of asking life's toughest questions. What kind of person do I want to be? Does political correctness infringe on freedom of speech? And of course, which dining halls have the best ice cream flavors this week?
But the reason I love this school is that Wellesley doesn't just ask us these questions, it equips us to answer them. In one of my favorite classes at Wellesley, Professor Hahrie Han of the Political Science Department encouraged a small group of students to embark on the unruly task of changing the world. She said, "Imagine the world, "imagine the world not as it is, "but as it could be." Here, more than any other place, we had the opportunity to imagine the world as it could be. A world without sexism. Here, we could be loud. We could be angry. We could be a complete mess. And we would be celebrated for it. And it was here where I learned that feminism must go beyond the work of equality between genders. It must extend to imagining the world free of racism, ableism, classism, homophobia and transphobia. And in some important spaces here we were able to start imagining that world.
While preparing this speech, I asked myself what sets our class apart from the others? Besides our ridiculous good looks, we, the members of the red class, have uniquely led the important work of love on this campus. Members of our own class have organized sit-ins, die-ins, protests and marches, to create change.
Since they have walked these halls, since we have walked these halls, trans women will now be accepted to Wellesley. House presidents and RAs will receive compensation for their work. And people of color will finally have a multi-cultural space in Acorns. We did that. And we didn't start these movements because we hated Wellesley. We started them in the hope that Wellesley would answer the promise which was made to us. That while the outside world may not be so kind, at Wellesley we would be taken seriously. That in this place we are powerful. We started these movements in an inter-generational love that extends beyond our four years here because none of us will be here to enjoy these things. Instead, we leave behind these opportunities for Wellesley students to come. A better Wellesley than the one we found.
When we leave campus today, we leave with a bit more privilege and a lot more debt than which we began the start of the story. We leave joining just 6% of people in the world with four-year college degrees. We leave entering a world mired in increasing hatred and violence, but I am not afraid, because I have all of you.
With this newfound privilege, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to love the world. And in doing so, change it. Whether you define your world as a nation, family, or even just yourself.
A fellow alumna of a women’s college, Dr. Margaret Mead, once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Sitting before me today are by far the most thoughtful, the most committed, the most compassionate people I've ever known. In this next chapter I believe that we, the small group of Wellesley alums, can change the world. Indeed, we already have. Thank you and Congratulations, Class of 2016!