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>  News Releases >   2003 >   June

Dartmouth Commencement 2003

Posted 06/08/03

Valedictory to the College by valedictorian Latchezar L. Benatov '03
Latchezar L. Benatov '03

Mr. President, Members of the Board of Trustees, Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Members of the Class of 2003:

It is a great joy and honor for me to congratulate all members of the graduating class for their outstanding achievements. Completing a Dartmouth education has not been an easy task - it has involved courage, discipline, faith, and an enormous amount of effort. However, I believe the rewards of such an experience are far more significant than the costs. Being a Dartmouth student is not just about academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities. It is, most importantly, about growing up intellectually, discovering one's interests and passions, and learning to appreciate the world in all its diversity. Let us all thank Dartmouth for challenging us, for one cannot achieve personal growth and self-fulfillment without taking risks or making sacrifices.

It is impossible for me to describe all the ways in which I have benefited from my Dartmouth experience. Four years ago, I came to Hanover from Bulgaria, a small, but beautiful country in South-Eastern Europe that had only recently opened its frontiers after decades of political isolation. Having never been to the US before, I hardly knew what to expect from Dartmouth. Naturally, I had some fears: "What if I don't fit into this community, located thousands of miles away from my home town Sofia?" On the very first day I stepped into Hanover, my fears were alleviated. I found that Dartmouth was an incredibly open, tolerant and inclusive environment. Before long, I completely forgot I was a foreigner, and integrated fully into the Dartmouth community. Even more importantly, I quickly became friends with people from a wide variety of ethnic, cultural and social backgrounds, and interacting with them has been one of the most enriching aspects of my Dartmouth experience. It has allowed me to appreciate the enormous intellectual and cultural creativity of humankind.

The friendly, collaborative atmosphere that dominates the Dartmouth campus is a powerful stimulus to academic and personal achievement. Studying in a place like Dartmouth where students, professors, and administrators support one another is much more pleasant and productive than studying in an overly competitive, stressful environment. Dartmouth's unique location is another invaluable asset of the college. I never cease to be amazed by the school's proximity to its natural surroundings, which are probably the most powerful source of creative energy and inspiration for me. Every time I take a breath of fresh New Hampshire air or go down to the river for a walk, I realize how grateful I should be for these simple, but exquisite moments of happiness.

As we are about to graduate from Dartmouth, it is time to remember our professors and thank them for teaching us about their fields, about the world, and about ourselves. Dartmouth is a truly unique school because it combines excellent instruction with diverse research opportunities on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. It is hard to find another institution where the faculty are so dedicated to teaching, so supportive of their students' research endeavors, and so open to new creative ideas. The friendly, egalitarian relationships that exist between professors and students are probably the key to understanding Dartmouth 's academic excellence.

Many people refer to life after graduation as "the real world." Some even think there is no place for youthful dreaming and philosophical meditation outside academia. I disagree with this view. Even in the most pragmatic job, there is always a need for innovation, creativity, and maybe a little dreaming. I believe dreams and ideals have always propelled humanity forward, and ideas once considered crazy have often turned out to be not only very sane, but correct. Thus I wish we could retain at least a tiny bit of our academic curiosity and idealism as we step out into "the real world." I also wish we will not forget the friends we have made here as we all go on our separate ways. There is nothing sadder than a friendship that is destroyed by long distance, and nothing more beautiful than a friendship that endures through the years. And speaking of years, I would like to thank my parents, Maria and Latchezar, for the years they have so lovingly given to me. I would also like to thank all of Dartmouth, and in particular the Dartmouth administration, for doing everything possible and impossible to bring my parents from Sofia to Hanover on this very special day.

Yesterday, I opened the dictionary to see the etymology of the word "valediction." In Latin, it means "bidding farewell." I sincerely hope that this time "farewell" does not mean a permanent separation. Therefore, I will take the liberty to conclude my speech by saying: "Dovizhdane, i do novi sreshti," or in English: "Farewell, and see you all again soon!"

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