Friday, May 16, 2014

President Sharon HerzbergerBy Sharon Herzberger, Ph.D., President of Whittier College

Congratulations, Poets! 

The novelist Tim O’Brien, himself an honorary Whittier College Poet, writes about the power of memory, which in his words serves to join “the past to the future.”

Today is a grand day for memories.  

Graduates, your relatives and friends, sitting up in those stands, have memories of you. They remember the child you were, and they wonder how you have become the adult you now are. They are asking themselves: where did time go?

Over these last weeks, you probably did some remembering of your own – from your first days as a Poet, when you could not envision sitting here today nor predict the experiences you have had along the way. 

Those of us on this stage have memories too. We remember your presentations, your art and music.  We recall selecting you for fellowships and other honors.  We watched you mentor others, lead clubs, plant gardens, start a new Society, compete in athletics, and serve your community. And I personally remember each and every one of you who joined me on my Walk and Talks at 7:30 in the morning, and I remember each and every one of you who slept in. 

You have completed an education that is unparalleled.  You have earned your degree. You have learned much of consequence, broadened the way you think, and now you are prepared for a lifetime of seeking opportunity and grabbing it as it comes your way. 

I like to warn visiting high schoolers and their families that Whittier is not the place for those who relish anonymity or passivity. It is not the college for those who want to sit in the back of the room. There is a reason why Whittier produces a disproportionate number of alumni with titles like those described earlier by Trustee Alan Lund. Never doubt that one day a leader of our Board will be inspiring a graduation class by talking about you. 

Tennessee Williams wrote: “Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going.” In just a few moments even this ceremony will be a memory.    

So, as you leave this place, I charge you to remember the values you have assimilated at this venerable college. And I charge you to use fully all of the talents and wisdom you collected here. Remember that just as we have been privileged to know you, you were privileged to attend Whittier College. And never forget those who started you on your way. 

I congratulate you – the graduates of the Class of 2014.