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SENIOR CLASS SPEAKER ADDRESS
Distinguished faculty, parents, and students. Let me begin by addressing each of you individually. Distinguished faculty--four years is gone too soon--after hundreds of examinations, thousands of papers and countless recommendations, we've laughed, you've cried. Thank you. Parents--four years is gone too soon--after hundreds of phone calls, thousands of dollars, and countless hours of anxiety. We've laughed, you've cried. Thank you. Students--four years is gone too soon--after hundreds of parties, thousands of conversations and countless friends. We've laughed, we've laughed a little harder, and now we're getting ready to cry. To the trustees, faculty and parents--speaking on behalf of the students--we are extremely thankful to you for the knowledge and support you have given us. And on a personal note, I would especially like to thank my classmates because I would not be who I am without all of you. At one time or another I have known, seen, hugged, admired, loved and annoyed each of you. And I am humbled and honored to stand before you. I cannot express to you how blessed I feel to be our class speaker.
Graduation from college is one of few precious and important moments that deserve to be encapsulated with finally chiseled words that touch our souls and bring to the mind our very best attributes while simultaneously encouraging us to live that best in the future. That said, I suppose my classmates think I can craft such a speech because I am an English major. But though, if I may boast, I do speak English very good, I am daunted at the task of passing on to you any wisdom I have learned in my four years at Colby. At the very least, my hope is to share with you the story of a deep and complex love affair that began four years ago on this very lawn, as we listened to former President Cotter welcome us to Colby and subsequently send us on our way to our respective COOT trips.
Like many of my classmates, I entered Colby with very little idea of what college would offer. In fact, I hadn't even visited Colby before I arrived, and needless to say was not thrilled when they carted me off to a dirt path, threw something called gorp in my backpack and told me to trust and follow my twenty-one year old COOT leader. Luckily, the transition to Colby was softened by the promise of instant friends as mandated by the no shower policy. In fact, our class got to know each other better then I could ever have expected, as evidenced by a game called "Big Blue Moon," which then became personified on the COOT slide show, in full. Needless to say, Colby greeted us with open arms and at least superficially, offered us a support, which would ideally help us in the process of self-actualization.
I think for at least a few weeks in that freshman year, Colby reminded me of Eden where the wine and friendship flowed freely as the music down at the shell invited us to believe the weather in Maine would always be warm and clear. Sadly, the beast that is a Maine winter soon awoke, and subsequently ravaged my outlook on Colby as a summer camp for big kids. In fact, as our first year wore on I became overtly aware that college was a challenge to be taken seriously. No incident foreboded this reality in my mind, more urgently then the news that a fellow student had tragically fallen from her third story window. For many weeks following, I wrestled with my own responsibility as a member of the Colby community. Up to that point in my life, I had often abused the inherent trust of my parents, and college, in my use of recreational drugs. Though for the most part I felt I was in control of my behavior, for the first time, I felt distinctly implicated by the consequences of my choices. Though it seemed as if my classmates were adjusting to Colby smoothly, I often felt depressed, lonely and scared. I hated the way I acted, I hated the way I treated people, and I hated myself. And it is within this self-hatred that my love affair with Colby began. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Only in the darkest night can we see the stars." For me these stars took shape in the form of forgiveness, friendship and faith.
When I returned to my sophomore year I worried that I wouldn't have any true friends because I no longer drank or smoked, and I wore a bracelet with the embroidered letters WWJD. But rather then rejecting me for the walking contradiction that I had become--and at times still am--no one scoffed at my renewed faith as a hypocrite's religion. In fact, my classmates embraced me whole-heartedly, touching me with the most wonderful understanding and forgiveness. I even began to see myself positively as reflected in their eyes. For the first time I understood the wisdom of sending five hundred students into the wilderness to be led by twenty-one year olds.
But many things at Colby still were not well. Many classes and student forums highlighted the institutional racism inherent in white privilege. This white privilege was never more overt, then at the Colby community and town meeting forum where a local white man used the n-word repeatedly. In this moment, a room of predominantly white students caught a glimpse of the inherent discomfort that students and friends of color might feel on a daily basis existing as a minority within the majority white culture of campus-life at Colby. Yet, far from being negative reflections on Colby, such experiences served to mark the beginning of our class' identity as galvanized by a Colby community willing to rally together and combat -isms on all levels.
Junior year flew by, and we experienced our first separation from Colby. Studying abroad often divided us into two seasons, fall and spring, in which we were separated from the majority of our classmates and friends--who had by now come to personify Colby. Even those of us who did not travel abroad experienced a tangible emptiness that was--in a way--prophetic, as soon graduation would separate us from each other for many seasons at a time.
Still as this, our senior year, presented itself, we did what so many have done before us, and we rallied together as only a class of people who approach an end can. This year began with joyous reconnection, strengthened bonds of friendship, and a renewed desire to unify as seniors. When the World Trade Center towers fell in September, none of this changed. Following the attacks, I think, there was a strange feeling for all of us inside "the Colby bubble." We knew that some of the bombers had driven right by Waterville exits 33 and 34, we knew that the bombers had traveled through Portland airport, we knew that there might be more attacks. And more importantly many of us felt disconnected from the world. How could we help from so far away? How could we be sure our friends and families would be safe in the days to come? What could we do inside "the Colby bubble?" But the answers came naturally and--aided by the forums Colby organized, and Professors who took time to incorporate discussion about the events--students and especially seniors reached out to each other. We talked to each other, we shared our fears, we shared our anger, we shared our sadness, we shared our beliefs, and we shared a common sense of relief that miraculously no one from Colby had lost an immediate family member. The rest of the school year has been no different. We have talked together at the pub, stood together on the steps, taken spills together in the pond and endured together through the bumps and bruises--emotional and physical--of a truly powerful and forever memorable senior year, on top of a wonderful four years at Colby.
I realize I haven't said too much of my own, and that has been on purpose because--though at times I may be a legend in my own mind--once my ego deflates it's pretty easy to see that I'm just a twenty-two year old who has no job, and not a clue in the world what comes next--though if you need to get in contact with me, you can find my phone number in the white-pages under Bill and Nancy Hobson. What I can offer you though, is the advice and wisdom that is reflected in the mirror I have just held up to you. And though it may be a cliché, in all circumstances, whether things are good or bad, and we are near or far from each other, keep-on-loving. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. "The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may [for] God is love [and] he who loves is a participant in the being of God." So, to the class of 2002, if I can leave you with anything, it is simply my hope that you will always live your life with love for others, be they friends or foes, rich or poor, black or white, wise or twenty-two. And I know you will because over the last four years, at one time or another, I have felt a love that can only be God reflected in each of you and I am eternally thankful.
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