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~Author Toni Morrison Tells Wellesley College Graduates
Achieving Adulthood Is a 'Difficult Beauty'~

For immediate release:
May 28, 2004

Arlie Corday,

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Rain and thunder couldn't dampen the spirits of the 579 members of the Wellesley College Class of 2004 as they received their bachelor of arts degrees at the 126th Commencement Exercises on Friday, May 28 on the Wellesley, Mass., campus.

The Commencement speaker, award-winning author Toni Morrison, told the graduates that while the future of the world is not totally in the control of "finite humans," they should do their best to protect it. "Now that’s a heavy burden to be placed on one generation by a member of another generation because it's a responsibility we ought to share," she said. "Not save the world, but simply to love it, meaning don’t hurt it, it’s already beaten and scoured and gasping for breath."

For those who feel their college years are the best times of their lives, Morrison said, "If these are indeed the best years of your life, you do have my condolences because there is nothing, believe me, more satisfying, more gratifying than true adulthood. The adulthood that is the span of life before you. The process of becoming one is not inevitable. Its achievement is a difficult beauty, an intensely hard won glory, which commercial forces and cultural vapidity should not be permitted to deprive you of. "

Maggie O'Grady, a senior from Yonkers, N.Y., served as the 2004 student Commencement speaker, a position of honor since alumna Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the first such speech in 1969. O'Grady told her classmates to use "one thing" they most cherish as they venture into the world: "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." Among other accomplishments, O'Grady organized a Shakespeare-reading marathon this year. She will be a teacher through Teach for America in New Mexico next year.

President Diana Chapman Walsh, in her traditional "Charge to the Class," advised graduates to pursue happiness as a most important goal. "As the world’s great philosophical systems and religions attest – and as we know from our own experience – reaching out to others in kindness and empathy enhances inner peace," she said. "In fact, Aristotle defined happiness as 'an activity of the soul that expresses virtue.' Far from being a transitory feeling or emotional state, happiness was, he believed, the culmination of a life well lived, one guided by our reason, the one quality that makes us human, that defines our shared human history and can shape our shared human project. What could be more important, especially now?"

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal-arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries. For more on Wellesley's 2004 Commencement, go to


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  • Date Modified: May 28, 2004
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