June 10, 2012
Mr. President, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, honored guests, families and friends:
To the Class of 2012, I cannot start but with my honor and gratitude—not only to be here before you, but also to share my joy and excitement. Your curiosity and courage, Your versatile talents and commitments to intellectual thinking, have gilded the walls of Baker-Berry with pride and are sure to shine in the way ahead of us.
We have been waiting for this day for a long time. When we were freshmen, not many of us could have foreseen how the four-years would be: we met different people here; people come into our lives to teach a lesson, to help figure out who we are or who we want to become. We overcame a lot of adversity and moments of crestfallen and then became stronger. This is youth, in the middle of nowhere, or in the center of everywhere.
It's probably the privilege of young people to embrace the following without being criticized: a dream of wonderland; the sweet amazement at the stars and constellations and their tales; and the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what comes next, and the joy in the game of life.
Youth is the most beautiful stage in life. It is not a matter of beers, graffiti, red lips, or parties. It is a nature of exploration; an eagerness of imagination; a vigor of emotion; it's a freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a growing predominance of courage over timidity, an appetite for adventure over a life of ease, an unlimited desire to conquer the unknown world yet remaining humble. No one grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old by deserting their ideals.
So years may wrinkle the skin, but giving up enthusiasm will wrinkle the soul. Confusion, doubt, hesitation, self-distrust, self-denial—these are the long, long years that bow our head down and turn the growing spirit back to dust. Failing, injury, lost moments of faith, and sheer stupidity all occur to test the limits of our soul. In reflection today, without overcoming these obstacles, we would have never realized our potential, strength, willpower, or heart. Life would be like a smoothly paved road—flat, straight. It would be safe, comfortable, and easy, but dull and utterly pointless. We are young as long as we have faith, but old as long as we distrust. We are young as long as we believe in ourselves, but old as long as we fear like a coward.
We are young as long as we are long-term determined, but old as long as long as we are short-sighted. And we are young as long as we dream and hope, but old as long as we lament and succumb to despair.*
Today we may leave Hanover, but we now possess a spirit of Dartmouth in each of us—a spirit that will keep us inviolable from the erosion of pessimism, a spirit that will carry the voice crying in the wilderness to the world, fight discrimination and injustice, and make small but significant changes to our civilization, a spirit that so long as we possess it, we are young forever.
And last, to my family and to you – thank you for being with me when I need you. I hope today is somewhat a small part of the testament to your love and devotion, and to a love which I can never completely repay.
You all know the three words that I always wanted to tell you: thank you and congratulations!
* Quoted and modified from Samuel Ullman's poem "Youth"
Last Updated: 8/17/12