Jacklyn Lacey and Thomas Hathaway: Senior Class Co-Presidents
As I look around me this morning at everyone gathered here, I am awed by what I know this collective body has achieved and humbled by the task of speaking to you this morning. I have kept my eyes and ears open this year, wanting so much to be able to reflect back to you all the wonderful and mysterious ways in which this world of Sarah Lawrence has grown this year, and over all the years that, we, the Class of 2010, have been roaming around these hills and streets without sidewalks. It is, simply, impossible. To crystallize this experience is impossible. One of the most remarkable things I have learned about this school and all the people in it is that every time you open your heart to know and learn someone new here, you meet a whole new and sacred version of Sarah Lawrence.
Anytime I’ve ever been asked about this place, be it a query of academics or a question about gender diversity, my reply has always been “It is what you make of it.” And I mean that in the very best possible way. I have looked around this tent in my mind’s eye all year, knowing I would be standing here, and I have thought so many times about what each of us had made of this place. I lose my breath in amazement at the individual and collective acts of alchemy that have occurred on this campus, when people create works of art, science, performance, and sometimes forms of magic I’ve never even imagined until I read the paper or seen the stage production. Whether it has been watching Theo, navigating his own body while playing a piano in yet another brilliant and terrifying performance or Noam locking himself in his dorm room for eight months writing a thesis I still don’t quite understand, we have all been able to get up close to each others work, to share in this process of spontaneous and creative and intellectual generation. This is why I came here. To be a part of something that doesn’t exist, that can’t quite exist anywhere else. What a privilege it has been to be a part of this weird, fantastic web of students, faculty, staff, and friends.
Being one half of your class president this year, I have had the opportunity to hear so many of the things you love and don’t love about this school. I don’t see any point in lauding an imagined concept of perfection when I have come to understand that it is the quirks and growing pains of the campus that define her in the best of times and challenge growth in the worst of times. Today, in part, we pass the torch to those who have come after us to lead the charge and keep the school and all her people committed to the mission. But we don’t leave the conversation. It is a responsibility that belongs to each of us to keep our presence known here. To make sure that the best of what you’ve experienced here is available to future generations, and the worst of what you’ve experienced is fixed so that no one experiences it again. To make sure that no one forgets what happened when the lights went off our first year. That no one forgets what Bates used to look like. That no one forgets Ray Seidelman, Dean Hubbard, or Ernesto.
We people of Sarah Lawrence form an organism—a gryphon, or a black squirrel, if you prefer. And, just like a two person gryphone costume at Hallowe’en (someone really needs to invent that, by the way), we need a lot of communication to figure out where we are going. I don’t want anyone who leaves here today to make the mistake of thinking we’re really leaving. Maybe we just move from the front of the gryphon to the back, letting the next group navigate and talk to the cute people at the party. Now we guide. We remain vigilant. We go out and continue building the lives we started to create here. We demonstrate to this world that Sarah Lawrence students are capable of remarkable acts of alchemy. That we can transform a classroom or a dorm into a family. That we can start with a conference project and end up with the knowledge of what we are meant to do with our precious, short, and wonderful time on this earth. That we can take the knowledge of how this world works and transform it into brave and powerful projects which point out injustice and insist upon justice.
If I have learned anything from the frequent debates which rage through this campus, it is that our education has given us an unparalleled ability to recognize cycles of oppression and to find ways, real ways, brilliant ways of unwinding them and replacing them with things that are true, useful, and often beautiful. When you are on your last dime, when you’re aching, when you’re frustrated, remember the ability Sarah Lawrence has imbued each of us with—to know, with understanding. To act, with wisdom. To never, never remain silent when we have had such privilege and opportunity to cultivate our voices with some of the most remarkable faculty on earth. Suzanne Gardinier asked us once four years ago and again last night to love one another.
It has been my experience that profoundly, exquisitely, we have. And that we will continue to do so. Every time we end up crashing on each others’ couches, at each others’ weddings, or finding ourselves working with a fellow alum, remember that it is the alchemy of Sarah Lawrence still at work. She took us, eager, confused, and in the dark, and transformed us into the infinitely talented, strong, and enlightened family I see in front of me today. We’ll continue to hold each other up, through highs and lows, as the rest of this twenty first century unfolds and brings us to places we could only dream of with the edges of our imagination. I am so proud of this class and I love you all so much, and I know it will be the honor of my lifetime to see where we go and what we will do as we each bring our own, sacred versions of Sarah Lawrence into the world and watch them connect and grow.
First and foremost, it is truly an honor to address the class of 2010. Never before have I been so fortunate to be surrounded by such gifted, passionate people. I can say this honestly because I’ve experienced learning with all of you, be it through your participation in seminars, your artwork in Heimbold, your performances in the PAC, or your overheard conversations in the teahaus that ran the gamut from sociological dissections of the Jersey Shore to critical analysis of Werner Hertzog, often in the same conversation.
What has impressed me most in my time at Sarah Lawrence is why students do their work. We are not motivated by grades, or class rank. Instead, we are motivated by a sincere desire to learn. We are driven by curiosity instead of requirement. This is a rare quality in the world. Value it.
For Sarah Lawrence students, learning is more than the acquisition of knowledge to be remembered for a test, then forgotten for eternity. Our conference work stays with us for life. Be it a third-wave feminist analysis of Lacan’s theory of desire, groundbreaking research in the field of cognitive neuroscience, or an examination of the semiotic meaning of soap in Joyce’s Ulysses, the work stays with us forever because it is our own.
What will become of us as we embark towards this new phase in our lives? We have to deal with a criticism that the Sarah Lawrence education is intensive yet impractical because we are structured differently than most colleges. However, as I look out to see the class of 2010, I can say with complete confidence there is nothing graduates of this school cannot accomplish. What makes you all so special is your adaptability. Whatever situation life throws at you, whatever crisis the world presents, you have the knowledge and the wherewithal to handle whatever it may be.
With so much knowledge, it’s very easy to become cynical. Do not fall into this trap. To become cynical is to deeve yourself the agency to change the world around you. By attending Sarah Lawrence, you made the decision to forge your own path in this life. May you continue discovering new things every day. In whatever you do, do it because you love it. You owe it to yourself.
Thank You, and Congratulations to the Class of 2010!!!!!