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SENIOR CLASS SPEAKER ADDRESS
Good morning fellow graduates, faculty and staff, family, friends, cousins, stepparents, half-brothers and half-sisters, godparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, boyfriends, girlfriends, neighbors, passersby, and pets.
I was told that I was going to be class speaker during March of this semester, and soon after President Adams contacted me to schedule a meeting. I was under the impression that Bro would want to limit the content of my speech and make sure I didnšt go over the top, but he said he wouldn't change any part of commencement address, so I"ll let you all decide whether that was a good decision or not.
Since March, I have received all sorts of advice as to what I should say. The most popular being "Dude, work my name into your speech, that would be awesome!" So instead of boring you with a speech about how Colby has impacted all of our lives, I've brought my yearbook with me, and I will now read off the names everyone from the graduating class of 2001. Who's with me? Huh? Huh? Well maybe that's not such a great idea...
Actually, the best advice I got, besides saying your names, was from our own Dean of Students, Janice Kassman, in an email she sent me right after I was announced as class speaker. She said the most important thing I could do, for all of you today, was to take each page of my speech and staple them to pieces of cardboard, so when the wind blows the sound of the pages wouldn't be picked up by the microphone. So you can all rest easy knowing that won't happen today.
Amidst all this great advice, in thinking about how I should relay to everyone the feelings I have about my four years at Colby, words have not come easily. I think that says a lot since I am graduating with a BA in English and a concentration in creative writing. So, instead of words, I have decided to express my thoughts through an interpretive dance, which I think you will all be able to understand as we head out into the world, which I will now perform for you...
(Dance -- Falling down before the crowd as if passing out)
Seriously though, I have found it difficult to put into words what I want to say. Each time I sat down to write the speech I could only come up with fragments that didn't really convey all the feelings I had. All the great things about Colby, like this wonderful senior week, although I'm not sure any of us remember what we actually did for the past six days. I also wanted to talk about the things that make me sad and angry about Colby, like how every Monday there is a new hole in a wall somewhere, or how I can walk across campus and find trash on the ground left there by our own students. I wanted to talk about how much I've laughed since I've been here at the silly things, like the image of Paul Dante wheeling across campus on one roller blade. I also feel as though we have grown so much since we arrived here in 97, and I want to express that, we've gotten more comfortable in our own skin, and found what we once kept from our parents doesn't need to be hidden anymore, like Steve Feldman, who finally let his parents know he owns and rides motorcycles...oh wait, Steve, did you tell them yet? Anyway, I feel as though there is so much more and there isn't enough time in my speech to talk about each moment that makes Colby what it is. So being an English major, I've decided to tell a little story I feel relates to our Colby experience.
I'm not sure if there are any policemen or firemen in the audience, but before I tell this story, I don't think anyone needs to take any legal action with what I'm about to say. I'm sure there is some statute of limitations that protects me.
When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I went through a brief, but very powerful pyromaniac phase. Everyday after school I would head out into the woods with my friends and set something on fire. I am sure that most parents here, with sons, know that this is something young boys tend to do. And I want to point out that I don't necessarily think this was such a bad stage in my life. For the most part, my friends and I would set up a little circle of rocks and make these safe little contained fire. I thought it was so cool that I could take something that was as powerful as FIRE and control it. I was like the caveman, in complete and utter awe, staring at the orange flame.
So, one day after school, my friend, Jason Howland (I'll give you his name because he is definitely not here right now)... he and I went into the woods behind my house, with our matches in hand, to light some fires. I was also carrying this little spray bottle full of water, my mother used to water the plants around the house, in case something bad happened so I could put out any uncontrollable fires. I think we spent about an hour making different little campfires, and we had a great time.
We were about to go back down to the house because it was getting late and my mother was going to get home soon, but Jason wanted to make one last fire. He thought it was a good idea to gather together a pile of pine needles and light them up. Now, I don't know if you are all familiar with the types of trees found in Massachusetts, but the trees behind my house are all pine, and all over the ground are dried out pine needles. I'm sure you can see why this might be a bad idea... setting a pile of pine needles on fire in a sea of pine needles, but I went along. Besides I had my spray bottle full of water that I could use if anything got out of hand. Well Jason got the pile together and set it on fire, and for about 30 seconds it was the coolest thing ever, but after that I found out that my little spray bottle wasn't doing diddly-squat against a four foot wall of flames. I decided to run down to the house and get a bucket of water, while Jason kicked the pile of pine needles around in an effort to put the fire out. By the time I got back up with my mom's cooking pot full of water that four-foot wall of flames that was in a 2 square foot area had spread to a 40 square foot area, and it was at that point I decided to call the fire department.
So the fire trucks came and they were able to get the fire out and no one was hurt and everything taken care of. Then the fire chief came down to the house and said it was very clear that the fire was intentionally set and he wanted to know who did it. Of course, by this time Jason, who was a great friend, had gotten on his bike and fled the scene, so I was left to explain to the fire chief, and my sister (who had since come home) that I did not set the fire BUT I had seen someone smoking a cigarette in those woods earlier and maybe they knew something about how the fire got started, but I certainly didn't do it.
Well, the fire chief eventually left, extremely disgruntled because I think he knew I did it, but he couldn't prove it. Right after that, I broke down completely and spilled my guts, that this unknown cigarette smoking man didn't really exist and how Jason and I were fully responsible for the fire. Of course, I was punished and I think since then, my entire family has been a little weary whenever I pick up a match to light a candle or put a fire in the fireplace.
Ahhh... now I'm sure you are all saying to yourselves, "Is there a point here, and how does this relate to our Colby experience?" And would argue this; Like this story the difficult and the bad times here at Colby have not always been as clear as they may seem. On the surface, I learned that I should not light fires in the woods behind my house, but I also learned something more; Like all of us here, I have the power of fire, and what I do with my life affects the world around me.
Maybe tomorrow or next year, or even 20 years from now we can look back at Colby College and find new and deeper meanings from our experience. We need to take all the information we've learned in the classroom and beyond and apply it to our lives and hopefully pass that information on to others and future generations. And we need to understand, Mom...Dad, that setting a fire in the backyard and burning the swing-set up, isn't the worst thing in the world.
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This page was last updated at: 06/12/01 01:38:34 PM