Yesterday Jessica, our oldest daughter, graduated from college. It is a milestone that any graduate can be proud of. The entire college experience is a mixture of hard work, hard play and a unique time of of ones life to just feed oneself intellectually. I remember how much I loved the brain power feed of college. It is an experience that is hard to replicate elsewhere.
There were a few speeches yesterday from Michael Roth, the President of Wesleyan including the people that were given honorary degrees that included James Van Benschoten Dresser, Majora Carter and Joss Hill Whedon. They each had something to say that was a great takeaway for each of yesterdays graduates.
Dressers great-grandfather taught classics at Wesleyan in the 19th Century and each generation has had at least one person graduate from Wesleyan since then. He spoke about how you create the relationship with Wesleyan and how much he got out of it. It is up to the graduates to return and embrace the institution that sent them on their way into the world.
Majora was fantastic. She was so eloquently moved to return and receive an honorary degree of humane letters. This is a woman from the South Bronx who never could quite believe that she got to Wesleyan. Majora embraced that experience and took her energy into revitalizing urban communities. What she said stuck with all of us the most. Be comfortable in being uncomfortable. In essence the best way to truly challenge yourself is to push yourself to be and think and be outside of the box. Being uncomfortable is good.
Whedon spoke of the same thing but in different words. He said "You have, which is a rare thing, that ability and the responsibility to listen to the dissent in yourself, to at least give it the floor, because it is the key not only to consciousness but to real growth. To accept duality is to earn identity. And identity is something that you are constantly earning. I talk about this contradiction, and this tension, there's two things I want to say about it. One, t never goes away. And if you think a career or a relationship will quite that voice, it will not. If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy. Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better. Don't just be yourself. Be all yourselves. Live all of your life. Understand it, see it, appreciate it. And have fun."
Roth left the graduates with these words. "Three ideals to make practical in your lives going forward; non-violence, diversity; and equality. To create non-violence communities and promote creative experimentation, to reject cultural tendencies that subordinate patient inequity to macho projections of force. The value of diversity is non-conformity. We have a better chance of developing powerful ideas and practices if we work through a multiplicity of perspectives. We know that homogeneity kills creativity and that diversity is a powerful hedge against the "rationalized conformity" of group-think. Equality. The privileged have become more and more powerful across this land. And this may well continue as entrenched elites forge better and better tools to protect their advantages. Access to a real education is the best antidote to the unnatural aristocracy of wealth. Access to education has never been more important. Resist the trends of inequality that are tearing at the fabric of our country."We discussed the speeches, the graduates, the whole weekend when we got home last night. We also reflected on our own graduations and the paths each of us went down. I am so incredibly proud of Jessica and what she has accomplished at Wesleyan these past four years. She has made some wonderful friends who are as unique, driven and interesting as she is. She has fed her brain with tremendous amounts of knowledge. She has worked hard, played hard and I am excited to watch her undertake her next journey down the road of life.