May 12, 2012
Hi. Thank you. It’s such an honor to speak to you and I’m gonna try to keep it together
Good evening everyone, thank you so much for being here. I’d like to begin by expressing my sincerest gratitude not only to those supportive family members, peers, partners, friends, and faculty who have undoubtedly aided us so greatly in our journey to this day but to the Scripps service staff, who have been supporting us in ways we are barely even aware of throughout our time here, and who played a really great role in making this event possible.
Scripps looks as truly stunning as it does not by any accident or coincidence, but because of the staff members who work tirelessly to make it so. The immaculately trimmed hedges lining the lawns, that’s the work of groundskeepers Bill Gonzales and Ramon Estrada. The sparkling Seal Court bathrooms, the labor of my friends and custodians Rosie Diaz and Lety Martinez. We owe innumerable thanks to these people: Maria Copeland, Michael, Tom, Joe, Rosie, Ruben, Niel, Rosa, Judy, Victor, Mathilda, Mitch, Anferia, Nancy, Judy, Peggy, Santos, Lupita, Juan, Brandon, George, Fred, Juan, Eduardo, Lety, Kevin, Maria, Alex, Myrna, Selida, Melinda Jo, Ramon, and Bill. Can we please give them a round of applause?
If you pay attention you’ll start to notice the stories surrounding us, an entire network of narratives and so much meaning in all that we see, say, wear, touch, and do here. Yes even here, right in this moment, in these elm trees, in the odd collection of books and knickknacks left behind in the browsing rooms, in the clandestine murals on basement laundry room walls, in the bubbly mouths of the koi swimming in Seal Pond. Stories in progress. More versions, variations, and interpretations than you could possibly have considered. Do not be fooled by the relative quiet of this place, by the peaceful campus of pristine lawns. There is a rumbling behind the scenes, an electricity, which once you have noted you will be hard pressed to forget.
As much as we may commend her and quote her visions, in truth Ellen Browning Scripps probably didn’t have the slightest clue what she was getting herself into. I mean, she probably couldn’t even have begun to conceive of the stories waiting to unfold here, the identities, and the relationships that would develop here, or the people who would come to occupy the space. She probably wouldn’t have been crazy about the Motley, or ever dreamed up the anti-racist mission of SCORE or the notion of gender neutral written policies to accommodate the full range of students who call themselves Scrippsies. And you know, I think that’s okay. I think we can appreciate her start but not let it weigh us down too much in our endeavor to make this school better reflect us – we, who breathe life into it.
Because although it is important to honor your history, when we have begun to revere it so highly that we no longer question it, we are in danger of losing ourselves somewhere along the way. There comes a point sometimes when tradition can no longer accommodate us. When we discover in the mirror one morning how it sags or pinches at our frames. We are, all of us, wrapped up in our own stories right now. Threading them together from the scraps of color, quirks, and character that make us who we are. Many of us are considering our next chapter, where it will take place, how it will contribute to the larger plot, who besides ourselves might play a starring role.
And if it’s true that we write these stories of ours with every sip, every conversations, every slight gesture, I hope we will not be afraid to edit, to pick up a dark pen and revise what we are given. Or if need be crumple it up and toss it out altogether. We must try not to have too much respect for the boundaries of what has already been written or decided for us. But rather, be bold enough to create, be determined to chisel out the shape of a story that suits us.
During my time at Scripps I have grown tremendously and I have seen my fellow members of this graduating class do the same. But I’d be kidding myself if I tried to give an account of this undertaking in any kind of linear, simple fashion. If I try to pretend that everything somehow fell into place, bit by bit, and that I was always the picture of grace throughout the process – because I wasn’t. I have been a woman, a person constantly under revision since I stepped onto this campus fresh from sleepy western Massachusetts. No clear cut beginnings and end points which demonstrate my tidy progress from the Denison entrance at Matriculation to this spot on Elm Tree Lawn. The extraordinary editing process I have taken on over the last few years has been my biggest and most rewarding battle.
I have learned how to peacefully coexist with a roommate, to do my best not to shy away from the discomfort of being forced to question what I thought I knew. I have mastered the art of caffeinated multitasking. I have found community in ways I never imagined I could. I have turned up the volume on my voice, finding my way somehow from a peep to a howl, and I have no immediate plans to shut up.
But I am not finished figuring myself out yet. Just when I think I’ve got things figured out, I am challenged and shook up by my ankles, emptying my pockets of all my accumulated ammunition. I have made enormous strides in some ways and I still lag behind in others. I waver sometimes. Don’t we all? I have this hunch it’s a good thing though. It will keep us on our toes. And maybe we’d feel more at peace with it if we stopped expecting that what we have to work with now is our finished product, that somehow as college graduates our lives should be neatly tied up in bows.
What if we weren’t finished products at all? Just think how radical that would be. What if Scripps with its historic architecture and its rich traditions wasn’t a finished product either? What if it offered itself up to be molded by those who would learn from here, who develop, who instruct, who guide, who support, who grow, who clean, who water, who plant, who take care here? So that no one story is trampled over in favor of another. And I must admit that I am sometimes guilty of being afraid to speak or to create even though my professors and peers are very good at inspiring and encouraging me. I sometimes let a lot of worry weigh on me. I get into my head. I grow nervous that my creation will be imperfect, flawed, or misunderstood.
But Audre Lorde reminds me that my silence will not protect me, that fear aside I have got to give it a shot. How will we make meaningful change if we can’t keep it utterly clear in our minds that nothing is ever set in stone? That we may question, alter, critique, revise constantly and it doesn’t make us any less invested or any less pleased?
Never let anyone tell you that wanting more or wanting to have a say, wanting to have a chance at editing or creating something new negates your love for a place or makes you ungrateful.
I love Scripps in a multidimensional way: never simple, rarely neat. Just as when I look at my fellow classmates I do not see one singular experience of the world that is easy to pin down. But I do see a group of distinct and extraordinarily bright and capable people who I have a great deal of respect for. My love for Scripps motivates me to demand more. To strive for a community in which everyone who takes up space here is recognized, celebrated, and accommodated as they ought to be. It compels me to envision a constant negotiation of the old that makes Scripps what it is and the new that will make it better. To picture a display of more creative energy, some student art above the mantle for awhile perhaps. Not because this place was built for us in mind – it most certainly wasn’t – but because it has the potential to be more.
I’d like so very much to send us off that way, knowing that we will not be afraid to challenge what we are given. That we will keep digging deep, deep, deep until we find those juicy roots, that we will plant our uncompromising seedlings and water them fiercely, to make our deliberate and daring mark on the world.
Congratulates, Class of 2012 – our stories are just getting started.
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