Legacy: On the Virtues of Making Trouble”
by Rachel M. Isaacs '05
did it. My fellow members of the class of 2005, We. Have. Done.
We have all taken different paths to this common point, but
we are all here, together, to celebrate this singular achievement.
As citizens from a variety of nations, as mothers, as daughters,
as sisters, as teachers, as students, we all come here today
to commemorate the closure of our undergraduate experience at
Wellesley, and to contemplate how this day serves as a point
of departure for 553 distinct adventures. With the support of
family, of incredible friends, of faculty, of administration,
and of our wonderful class dean, Julie Donnelly, we have come
to mark the end of our tenures at this institution. To all of
those individuals who have helped us along the way, please grant
me the honor of saying on behalf of the Class of 2005: Thank
you. We did not make it here alone.
The significance of this
day will evoke a multiplicity of emotions for all of us. I am
sure that we all will feel an immense sense of pride for all
that we and our peers have accomplished. Many of us will be overcome
by recollections of intense joy, togetherness, and growth that
Wellesley has made possible through the dedication and vision
of countless people. At the same time, many of us may experience
legitimate feelings of resentment and disappointment for those
times when as a college, as a class, as individuals, we betrayed
the values and ideals of this amazing place. Nevertheless, as
we all come to sit in this place of celebration and reflection,
I hope that we all take a moment to experience one shared feeling:
We must occupy a moment of gratitude because though
we came to Wellesley with varying degrees of privilege, and will
leave with significant differences as well – we are all
graduating from a college that has provided us with advantages
that are incomprehensible to most people in this world. In every
waking moment, Wellesley has been a place of revelation. We have
revealed our constantly evolving selves to this community, and
through our classes, our commitments, and our controversies,
the complexities and richness of our common world have been revealed
to us. Most importantly, it has also been revealed to us just
how much more we all have to learn and how dire is the imperative
to fix the world we all currently inhabit.
It is typical during graduation speeches, to be charged with
the duty of “making a difference in the world” – to
be told that because much as been given to you, much will be expected.
However, as we are sitting in this moment of appreciation, I would
like to make a related, but somewhat unusual request for an audience
of Wellesley women: Please, make trouble. Make a stink, stir up
a commotion, rouse rabble. This might seem like quite the challenge
to some of us because to a certain extent -- we all got here because
we were the girls who followed the rules, who almost always colored
within the lines. Yet, as we are gathered here today to give thanks
for all that we have acquired – it is necessary to question
how much we are willing to sacrifice, how much trouble we are
willing to make, in order to create enduring difference.
As the class of 2005, we were faced with the previously unfathomable
threat of terrorism within our first two weeks at Wellesley.
The world has changed radically since that surreal day in September.
As the cloud of this national threat has come over our nation,
the dawning of a new age of political responsibility has emerged.
We are taking our places on the political stage at a time when
it is just as essential to confront terrorism as the movements
that have exploited this national tragedy for personal, commercial,
and political gain.
We are breaking out of the protective cocoon
that Wellesley has provided us, just as coalition soldiers,
hundreds of whom are younger than we are, are making the
ultimate, noble sacrifice
for the freedom of others. And all of this at a time when as
nation, we have been forced to critically examine what exactly
freedom means, and how to safeguard it within our own nation
as we are seeking to bestow it upon others. These are not pleasant
realities to confront, but they have shaped the world we are
to occupy and mold.
We must contemplate whether we will command
the courage to follow in the footsteps of Antigone, who died
for her most deeply held convictions in order to combat injustice
or whether we will fade into the background of history like
her sister Ismene who suffered and disappeared in silent
However, making trouble, good trouble, messy trouble, constructive
trouble is not about always taking your place behind the
battle lines. We often speak of our current political realities
terms of those who are progressive and those who are regressive,
from red states
and blue states, who are holy and profane, and those who
of recognition and those who are not.
But we must come to
recognize that, the old paradigms have become prisons – they
have paralyzed our imaginations and prohibited us from
thinking beyond self-serving
categories of righteousness and villainy. We must come into
our power in new and imaginative ways that recognize the
all individuals, whether they agree with us or not. As we
continue to take moral stands, we must do so by coloring
outside the lines.
For if we do not redraw the larger picture, if we merely continue
to color within the boundaries set for us by others, we may
wake up and realize that we have painted a terrible vision for
and those for whom we are responsible. Making trouble can
often seem hopeless, but the words of renowned poet, author, and
Audre Lorde, provide both guidance and strength. She states: “I
know the limits of my nation lie within myself.” Within
each of us is the power to reconstruct and sculpt a new paradigm,
challenge society by challenging and changing ourselves.
Class of 2005, wonderful and inspirational women whom I have
had the privilege
of calling my classmates and sisters, I have continually
witnessed your power and potential to engage the challenges
of our world.
May we all have the courage and compassion to fulfill our
promise. Mazel tov, congratulations, and thank you.
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