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Upcoming Commencement Dates

  • June 10, 2018
  • June 9, 2019
  • June 14, 2020
  • June 13, 2021
  • June 12, 2022

Commencement Speeches & Citations

Valedictory to the College

By Adrian Wood-Smith '10

Mr. President, members of the Board of Trustees, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, families, and friends.

I stand here today humbled by the contribution people like you have made to my life.

One Saturday last summer, I decided for the first time not to do my homework. I had a five-page paper due in two days for my Arab film class at George Washington University, but I told myself I would rather enjoy the weekend in Washington, DC, than spend it all in my room researching something that didn't interest me. And so I wrote an email to my notoriously unforgiving professor, explaining all the commitments I had and how writing a paper for her class was not one of them. My message ended: "I have done and will continue to do all the readings so that I can learn and contribute to class discussions, but I have decided to accept failing your class. Thank you for understanding. –Adrian." I waited tensely for an hour before receiving a reply. It read: "What is this? I was not able to open it. Please advise." Like a splash of water in the face, the technical difficulties of syncing BlitzMail with GMail brought me back to reality, and reminded me of my duty to do that in which I excel. My destiny has and always will consist of me spending sunny Saturday afternoons inside, writing papers.

Fellow members of the class of 2010, I stand before you today as one of our valedictorians not because I deserve to be, but because somehow I was chosen for it. Success for me has meant receiving As in classes, and though some graduate schools and employers may consider this a supreme achievement, I look into the crowd today, and I see colleagues whose successes not just as students, but as friends, as mentors, and as activists humble and inspire me. It is an honor to share with you all the academic success of obtaining a degree from Dartmouth College.

As we walk across this stage today, we leave this particular success complete. It is one of a series of successes in our lives, but it is unique. We don't usually get plaques or certificates for what we accomplish as family members or as role models. Today we will take home a tangible diploma as proof of what we have achieved. And so let us use this to our advantage. Let us promise ourselves today that every time we handle our diploma, every time we see it hanging on the wall, we remember that the words were printed on that paper with the hard work of our professors, the encouragement of our family and friends, and the support of the staff who keep this college running. And we remember that it was signed with the diligence, the passion, and the courage it took us to get to this point. Those who supported us throughout our Dartmouth career did not do so just to see us make money, but to lead us to our true potential in this world. The effort we have expended must not simply allow us to live comfortable lives, but to enable us to continue challenging ourselves and working for excellence in everything we do.

Over half of our education was financed through the contribution of others who will not ask for the money back. What they can ask is for us to encourage others to reach their potential, and inspire them through our own example. For someone else, the equivalent of an A in one of our courses is a month of providing for a child's needs. Obtaining a reasonable wage and benefits after years of campaigning is a fellow human's equivalent to our walking across this stage. To fail to realize this and support such accomplishments would be to forget what everyone else did to make sure we could be here today. Let our printed diploma always remind us of our duty to ensure others achieve the success they are destined to achieve. Thank you.

Last Updated: 3/7/16