WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Maggie O'Grady, a senior from Yonkers, N.Y.,
has been chosen as the 2004 student Commencement speaker, a position
of honor since alumna
and New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the first such
speech in 1969. Among other accomplishments, O'Grady organized a Shakespeare-reading
marathon this year.
Here is the speech she delivered at Wellesley College on May 28:
"If any of you are wondering how you ended up here – either
under the graduation tent or in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in the first
place, you are not alone. I don’t think that any of us really
had any idea what we were getting ourselves into when, four years ago,
we arrived here and waited for divine intervention to turn us into
happy, confident, pearl-wearing Wellesley Women. My first night on
campus, the first years in my dorm were led to Lake Waban and told
to make a wish and jump in. A few of us completely submerged ourselves,
and when we got back to the dorm, soaking wet and covered in goose
dung, one of those budding Wellesley women who had jumped in the lake
fetched her set of bagpipes and sat in the McAfee living room and gave
us all a bagpipe recital wearing nothing but leopard print underwear.
I remember thinking it was going to be a strange four years. I was
"We're not just graduating from college today. We’re graduating
from Wellesley. And yes, that comes with it the concrete benefits of
having received as stellar an education as educations go, a worldwide
network of graduates and having gone to the same school as the 45th
president of the United States (yes, it took a minute but you got it)
but it also means that we all endured four very bizarre years on this
very beautiful campus. When we got here, a Democrat was in office.
We didn’t know what "firstclass" was. Many of us had
never left home before. We had never been surrounded by so many girls.
And now, we are sisters of a sort, because we’ve all spent the
last four years as part of this community of women.
"Wellesley isn’t easy. And I don’t just mean academically.
We’ve been through a lot. We’ve had to do bells. We’ve
gotten lost looking for the science center shower. Ridden on the senate
bus. We’ve had our parties busted. Once, a friend and I were
laughing loudly in my room in the middle of the afternoon and someone
knocked on our door and told us to please quiet down because she was
trying to study. Spending four years here is a special kind of challenge.
We are smart and driven and talented and INTENSE and we’re surrounded
by so many TREES and life at Wellesley can be gorgeous and alienating
and womb-like and stressful and fun and hard to understand all at the
same time – and we have all lived it.
"But in all its absurdity, Wellesley is an attempted utopia.
I know you're laughing. I'm sure that many of you are probably thinking
that if Wellesley is any kind of utopia, the world is in terrible shape.
But I challenge you all to think of one thing - just one thing - that
Wellesley has perfected. One thing about Wellesley that is the BEST.
We can start small. Maybe you think Severance is the best sledding
hill in the Northeast. Lake Waban is the greatest lake for crew-practice – or
for skinny-dipping. The lampposts – they are perfectly curved.
The Davis Museum has your favorite painting. Munger has the best dining
hall. You went to a Yanvalou concert and came away with a feeling of
elation! You learned to like a capella. Your room had the best window-seat,
even if it did look over a construction site. You had the best schedule
of classes one semester that took you through geologic time and through
art history and back again and you felt so intellectually stimulated
you could not breathe! You found a great teacher. You found a great
mentor. You made a best friend. Or a few. You fell in love. You found
"Focus on one thing you want to take with you – one thing
that Wellesley does better than anyplace else, or one thing that you
did particularly well while you were here - one thing you learned or
were exposed to or had fun with that you can carry with you and use
when you are building your own utopia and your life – when you
are out there trying to make this world of ours just a little bit better – because
right now it needs a lot of help – and that’s enough. We
don’t need to look back. We don’t need to wonder if we
made all the right decisions in the past four years. Even if you claim
to have hated your time here, I know you can think of something that
Wellesley gave you – or that you took – that you can use!
Use it! Use it to be happy! Use it in your next adventure! Take your
education and run! You can! And we all will.
"At the end of Shakespeare’s Tempest, Prospero strips himself
of his magic and stands before the audience without his book or his
staff – and although we’re all wearing robes of a sort
right now, maybe that’s how some of us feel – stripped
of our magic. But part of what Prospero says at the end of the play
is, “Now my charms are all oe’rthrown, and what strength
I have’s mine own.” We all have plenty of our own strength,
and a lot of it is what Wellesley challenged us to find. And now it
is all ours and it is more than enough and we can take our pieces of
Wellesley and try to make a utopia of what’s out THERE rather
than what’s here. Class of 2004, it is time to reek havoc off
this campus rather than on it. Go forth, be happy, be proud of yourselves,
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