Marley Forest ’18 delivered the student speech
To the members of the Board of Trustees, President Johnson, distinguished speaker Tracy K Smith, faculty, staff, family and friends, welcome. And to my fellow graduates of the Class of 2018, congratulations!
I have to say, out of all the difficult tasks Wellesley has thrown at me over the last four years (with maybe the exception of ECON 101), writing this speech has had to be one of the hardest. Because while writing this didn’t require me to draw any graphs or complete any simple math equations, it did ask me to reflect on the four most demanding, richest, and joyful years of my life. And it asked me to do so in a way that would resonate with each of you: a task in and of itself impossible, since the power of Wellesley is that there is no one way to experience it.
We have all found different communities here, different spaces that make us feel held and connected. We have found different disciplines that inspire us, professors who have given us glimpses of our capabilities, and challenged us to push our thinking beyond the borders of what we thought possible.
But amongst our individual paths, we are also bound together by what we have in common. We have shared this campus, from the mega blizzard of our first year, to the several false springs of this senior semester. And while New England weather may have bonded us together in its indecisiveness, it also did so in its beauty.
How many of us have been awed by the magic of a lamppost catching the light of snowflakes at night? Or awed in the spring when every tree at Wellesley erupts in flowers, filling grassy spaces with blankets full of our friends? How many of us have memories of walking around lake Waban, with a friend, or with a crush, or maybe just by ourselves? I bring up these moments not to be overly sentimental, but because I think there is power in us sharing this collective home for four years. We may all have had different Wellesley experiences, but they all happened here, together.
And while I would love to talk about the beauty of Wellesley all day, this speech would be dishonest and unfair to our time here to pretend that all memories of Wellesley have been so starry-eyed. It’s true that for many of us Wellesley has been a place of incomprehensible love. But it’s also true that many of us have faced difficult times here, some of us perhaps even the worst of our lives.
There have been nights in which we didn’t think we could stay here, nights when we questioned if we had been admitted by mistake or if we would be better suited somewhere else. There have been days in which we’ve felt and frustration towards this institution, which through our advocacy we have continued to demand live up to its promised values. In these past four years we have lost friendships, tragedies have struck our personal lives, and the world outside has turned darker time and time again, bringing into question our safety and our futures.
I bring up these moments not to dampen this day of celebration, but rather to acknowledge the resilience that has grown from them, for it is also part of what has brought us to be the class sitting here today. Wellesley is not perfect, and to pretend that it is would be a disservice to the complexity of this place, and the depths of these past four years of our lives. As you celebrate today, embrace this complexity as a part of your Wellesley experience, both the successes and the obstacles.
So, Wellesley sibs, how do we make sense of these four years? Now that we are sitting here together, what has been important about this place and what will we carry with us after we are kicked off campus at 8pm tonight? There are many things I could list that distinguish Wellesley. But when I think about my time here, there is one attribute that stands out from the rest: a factor which, in its essence, I believe embodies all that is most unique, encompassing, and prevailing about Wellesley- and that is community.
I acknowledge that I am only who I have become these last four years because of you all. What you all have taught me, called me out for, the ways I have been hurt, but more powerfully the ways I have been loved. The people on this campus have fundamentally shaped me to be the person standing on this stage today.
I now challenge you Sibs, sitting here on June 1st, 2018, look around you. Who in this community do you carry with you in your sense of self, and how have they shaped you to be the person you are today? THAT is Wellesley. WE are Wellesley. This community in its essence is what is powerful, and important, and critical about this experience and this place.
You do not need me to tell you that the world we are entering into is not an easy one- it’s true, and has always been true, that the different challenges and barriers we will face will not be equal to each other, that the fights we will have to fight will not be equal or fair- but as I look at you all, my family of the last four years, I see looking back at me a vision of possibility: of strength and of change.
And therefore, Purple class of 2018, this is my charge to you. You as an individual hold tremendous insight and potential, a mixture of knowledge and awareness that is unique to only you. Recognize your ambitions and your dreams and be proud of them. And then, in recognizing your influence as one person, multiply that by 35,000. That is the number of living Wellesley alums worldwide, who’s ranks we are about to join. If we choose, we have a global army of brilliant, driven, and powerful peers who hold within them this same community that we do. That is not insignificant, that is extraordinary. And So, I leave you with this thought: As individuals, we can each make a difference in this world, but as a community, we can and we will change it.
It has been the biggest honor of my life to share this community with you all. Here is to a lifetime of changing the world together. Thank you.