During my the final spring semester of my MFA I, along with all the graduate students, received an email requesting individuals “to submit an outline of remarks to the Graduate Studies Office.” On a whim I wrote out an outline and a draft. Of course, like most students, I waiting until the last minute. As it happened to be I was also wrapping up the year in my full time position and final performances. I was surrounded by a number of things to do.
The Graduate Studies Office planned to “know the decision about commencement speaker by May 7th.” On May 12th I received an email notifying me of the decision that I had “been selected to be the graduate commencement speaker.” I was confused, surprised, and excited. I knew the fear would settle in later. And it did.
I hardly recall any of speeches before approaching the podium I was so nervous. My role as a speaker was different from any other student speaker because I would return to the school the following Monday. A myriad of worries ran through my mind.
The night before the speech I figured out a way to have my gram hear the speech. She had planned to attend commencement but had a surgery a few weeks before so she was forced to pass. We discussed the use of my cell phone and making sure she was at the ready to answer her phone. In the video I posted an annotation indicating when I placed my cell phone on the podium. Nobody knew save a few friends and family.
Afterward I told other grads and their families. Everyone responded with joy and awe that she was there. They asked why I didn’t tell everyone. The answer, of course, is that I’d be back to work on Monday. I am seen as a (tech) pusher by some. That I didn’t tell those in attendance is my only regret.
The beauty of not telling everyone… Gram knew. =D
The text of my speech is posted below and in the ‘More info’ section on the corresponding YouTube page here.
President Lawrence, trustees, faculty, staff, esteemed guests, parents, family, friends, and of course the class of 2008. I am deeply honored to speak before you all today.
What a trip it has been, down a long and winding road.
A question I’m sure we’ve all been asked and have asked ourselves is “What’s next?” I know there are answers among us and I know there are more questions too. What future decisions we make and what their will be on our Sarah Lawrence experience, is up to us.
It is through our choices: to pick up the garbage on the ground and put it into the trash or recycling bin, to give someone in need a buck or two, to blow bubbles in chocolate milk – when everyone is looking.
To get involved. This will reveal who we are to the world and to ourselves. Our choices have made the past few years unique. With that in mind, remember this, we have every chance to change the way people see us, Sarah Lawrence, and the world.
Things are different here. We’ve been inspired to try new things by phenomenal peers, faculty, and staff. We’ve had the opportunity to play. With words, with images, with sights and sounds. With ideas, concepts, perceptions, numbers, colors, and every other thing an SLC student can conceive.
Without planning, the campus became our sandbox. What will you do in your next sandbox? I’ll bet it’s not what I would do. Or the person next to you. There is something we all will do—Whatever we can imagine. Imaginations at SLC are… Well. Phew… They run gamut.
Now, is play time really over?
Hamlet tells a group of players, about the act of acting playing, that the “…purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”
Play time is not over. Not by a long shot.
Sandbox. Playing. Two words, with very little effort, that kindle images of our childhood. As Hamlet, or rather Shakespeare, says, playing isn’t a game of volleyball on the beach or a food fight with grapes. No. It is our chance to show the world as we see it. In this way, we can change the world. And we can… If we choose to.
There is a key difference between our childhood play time and adult play time—the ability to reflect and assess. We’ve all made mistakes along the way. “Thank you mistakes. Thank you so much. You are as much a part of our triumphs as you are our failures.”
And so we choose to play. We reflect and assess. Then comes our most challenging hurdle… Repeating the process. Again and again and again. Because this need, it’s inside us, and we have the ability to express it. Because we can! Because if we don’t… Who will?
The world awaits us. And it is our creativity and drive that will reflect the truth of the world in our own unique ways. Our passions have molded each other. Now… It’s time to spread the wealth. Heads up world… Here comes the Sarah Lawrence College Class of 2008!