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Josh Kornberg, Valedictorian

Josh KornbergJune 9, 2013

President Folt, members of the board of trustees, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, anonymous people watching this on YouTube:

Like all of us graduating today, I'm still working hard to understand myself, the world, and to put that understanding in practice. I imagine it'll always be this way. So what I want to do here is share one thing I think I have figured out thus far. I want to talk about living consciously—which apparently is the slogan for Panera Bread—but which I use to mean awareness of reality, responsibility and taking an active role in our own self-discovery and self-creation.

At Dartmouth, I've learned that when we see someone who is fundamentally happy, successful, and fulfilled a good deal of the time, we should recognize this as a profound conscious achievement—one that requires sustained concentration and deliberate effort and is worthy of emulation.

It's easiest to talk about how I learned this lesson in the context of my first serious break-up. "Time heals all wounds," people told me, but as time passed, I felt no closer to getting off my couch, turning off Seinfeld, and putting down the ice cream.

After some period, I realized that if I didn't deliberately choose to feel better, if I didn't choose to develop greater autonomy and self-esteem and make happiness a goal, if I didn't take responsibility for changing my immature thoughts about myself and the world, my situation would never change—because it's not time, but rather what we do with time, that makes us grow. Consciousness is both an expression of our maturity and a means of attaining it.

As I stand here in this gown, which my mom ironed for me yesterday, I don't claim to be an expert—or even especially good—at living consciously. This speech is what I've learned and what I need to hear at this moment, standing here, thinking about what this college means to me—my best friends, fabulous classes, bike rides to Gile, finishing a Vermonster, dinner together, feeling loved and in love and young and safe here. Standing here, deeply grateful, humbled, and moved—and mindful of how open, exhilarating, terrifying, and distant life after Dartmouth feels—I want to remind myself, right now, here, that by choosing to live consciously, we can best enjoy the opportunities and best respond to the pitfalls that are headed our way.

Whether it's choosing to get over a break-up, or it's relating differently to serious illness or to aging, or it's deciding to embark upon a particular career, life after we graduate will require consciousness, committed action, deliberate choosing - choosing who we want to be, what we want to do, and where we want to go. It's tempting to turn away from this moment, and simply hope for the best, but Dartmouth has taught me that when we're confronted with situations that demand our attention, by expanding consciousness, we can engage reality and take the first step toward greater control over how we experience our lives.

What we do everyday shapes who we become. My hope is that we live consciously with love onto ourselves and others, so that we end up discovering, creating, and becoming the people we want to be, more fully ourselves.

Thank you professors, friends, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Papa, Nana, Grandpa, and Honey, and congratulations Class of 2013. Thank you so much for being a part of my life.

Last Updated: 6/12/13