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Dartmouth Commencement 2004

Posted 06/13/04

Address to the College by Valedictorian Savina Bojidarava Rizova
Savina Rizova
Savina Bojidarava Rizova

Mr. President, Members of the Board of Trustees, Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, and, of course, Members of the Class of 2004!

It is a great honor for me to congratulate the members of the amazing Class of 2004, a class that will definitely leave an impressive trace in the history of Dartmouth College! It is also a great honor for me to be the second consecutive valedictorian from First English Language School, Sofia, Bulgaria. If you do not know where Bulgaria is, do not worry. Most people I have met in the past four years did not know either. But now they know. And they know because of Dartmouth's international orientation.

I will never forget the day I got the admissions letter from Dartmouth. I could not believe my eyes; they filled with tears of joy. An outstanding Ivy League college was offering admission and full financial aid to me, a poor high school student from a small faraway country. On that day I came to believe that no matter who you are and where you are from, if you aspire high and work hard, you could achieve your ambitions and dreams. I think that Dartmouth has given this faith to hundreds of students and today is the time to say, "Thank you, Dartmouth!" It is this faith that has inspired many students to pursue impressive academic, athletic, and social goals, to apply for challenging internships, jobs and graduate schools, and to volunteer both in the U.S. and around the world.

Another aspect of Dartmouth's international orientation that will remain in my heart forever are the foreign study programs. These programs provide Dartmouth students with an invaluable opportunity to experience the social and cultural life of another country and to see the world from another nation's perspective. In this way, studying abroad expands our minds, helps us grow intellectually and make us more mature citizens of the world. This experience is extremely important today since globalization has removed most borders separating national politics, business, social activity and, unfortunately, terrorism.

In addition to making us more aware citizens of the world, Dartmouth has broadened our intellectual horizons by promoting creativity and "thinking outside the box." I had never heard this expression - "thinking outside the box" - before I came to Dartmouth and to me it sounded like just another cliché until I took a class called "The US Foreign Relations from 1945 on." In this class we had to do research on the validity of a few claims about former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. All of us started the research by rushing to the library to find relevant and trustworthy historical sources that would help us learn more about those claims. Only one student decided to take a different approach. He called Henry Kissinger on the phone and asked him about his memories of the events that we were investigating. This amazing phone call will remain in my memory as a real-life example of "thinking outside the box" and as a brilliant manifestation of the intellectual creativity and curiosity that Dartmouth nourishes.

To promote our intellectual curiosity, Dartmouth has provided us with unique opportunities for research, such as the First-Year Summer Research Project, the Presidential Scholars Program, the senior fellowships, and the thesis projects. Thanks to these opportunities to gain first-hand experience at doing real-world research under the supervision of a faculty member many of us have discovered new intellectual passions and lifetime careers. The strong focus on student involvement in scientific research is what distinguishes Dartmouth from most other colleges, but we have to thank our amazing professors for making our involvement possible. It is their support, their guidance, their enthusiasm, and their own hard work that have inspired us to ask challenging questions and to search rigorously for their answers. Again, thank you Dartmouth!

On a more personal note, I would like to thank three members of the faculty: Professor Nina Pavcnik, Professor Eric Edmonds and Professor Kenneth French who have been more than professors and advisors to me. They have been true friends. I would also like to say "Thank you" to my parents, Galina and Bojidar, for their never failing love and support.

And I will conclude with the words of Sir Winston Churchill:

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

I hope we all continue to display this courage wherever we go and whatever we do!

Thank you.

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