Ariana Boltax's undergraduate address
To President Lawrence, members of the Board of Trustees, honorary degree recipients, beloved faculty, staff, alumni, family and friends: thank you for sharing this truly momentous day with us.
Class of 2014!
Robert Penn Warren says: We will “go out of this home and into the convulsion of the world, out of history and into history and the awful responsibility of time.” We all know what awful means: the hum-drum, work-a-day, programmatic monotony of “the real world.” The gluttony, scrolling through Facebook, Reddit, taxes, traffic, the fear that you might forget to stop and think about things the fear that not thinking will engrain in your brain flawed polarizations of situations that will distort your perception of reality.
I want to return to the word awful and shed new light on its meaning, which is: to be full of awe.
Programmed cell death is the difference between fingers and flippers, and if protons were just 0.2% more massive, Atoms wouldn’t exist, and neither would life. Of the 5 to 50 billion species that have ever existed, only 5 to 50 million are alive today. In that way, we are the one percent. The world we are a part of and the phase of life we are stepping into are most certainly full of awe.
After stepping “out of this home” of acronyms like OL, CA, RF, SSIS, SSSP, and MKTYP and “INTO the convulsion” of new acronyms like AARP, MSNBC, NSA, CFO, ATM, FDC, we and all of the other graduates across the globe will all encounter this “awful responsibility of time.” For many of us, each day might really just seem like a slight variation of the last. That’s the responsibility of time that we all dread.
But Brandeis has taught us that the frame can be just as beautiful as the picture – a frame of mind, a frame of reference.
What I mean is that Brandeis has taught us all to approach life cubistically, from all possible angles, to appreciate subtleties, to overturn inequalities. And we have all learned how to do that in our own uniquely Brandeisian way. Whether you hail from Polaris or Shapiro, whether you began in Fall 2010, or Spring 2011, or even a semester after that, whether your home is 15 minutes away or 15 hours away, whether your honorific is magna cum laude or thank you laude.
Remember this: At Brandeis you were immersed in a community that edifies and inspires. Unlike any other school, Brandeis is not just a diploma on your wall or an artifact of your Facebook network. It is a life philosophy. While every other school is “the best four years of your life,” Brandeis is timeless. There is nothing more special than being immersed in the ethos of this place. Each of us is responsible for carrying our frame, our message, our mindset out of Brandeis history and into our own history.
During our first year orientation, we were reminded that we are not alone. We were told that none of us is as smart as all of us. We were told that someplace in this audience were our life-long friends, and someplace in this University was a professor who would change our lives forever. Looking back, I think we can all agree that they were right. I am the best version of myself when I am at Brandeis, and I attribute that sense of belonging to our community of inspiring teachers. Yes, I must unabashedly stress the resounding influence of teachers. Those whose words, actions, precedents, and presence have guided us, comforted us, and encouraged us. They are our professors, our mentors, our family, and our friends. It is difficult to describe exactly how much they mean to us, so imagine this: that feeling you get when you put a cup over your ear and you hear the ocean. You’re not quite sure how something so beautiful and wonderful can come from something so commonplace. That is what it’s like to have great teachers surround us every day. And may we never forget to listen to them. So, professors, family, and friends, present and absent, thank you.
And to finally commemorate the closure of our Brandeis experience, and the transition from students to proud alumni, we are all accepting diplomas today. During orientation, many of us attended an event called “This is our house.” Allow me to sum this up in the style of our own bow tie bearing baller and Dean of Students, Jamele Adams:
Brandeis is majors in economics and history with minors in chemistry and music.
Brandeis is Culture X, Trisk, Wake & Shakes, Waltham Group, WBRS, Cheese Club, The ChubbChubbs, Pachanga, Mela, Marie from the sandwich station, the Peace Room, the Justice, the Hoot, Coven’s Corner, Festival of the Arts, Gzang 123, Olin-Sang 101, Schwartz 106, Chum’s, Mickey Mouse pancakes, Billy the mailman, Liquid Latex, Munchie Mobiles, Rabb steps, Tringo, Modcat, Katy Perry instrumentals in Sherman, the 24 hour musical, Polaris, Shapiro, Liberal Arts, Social Justice,
is no longer our house.
But it will always be our home.
In the words of President Lawrence, we are undergraduates for four years, and alumni for life.
I’ve dreaded leaving Brandeis for the past four years, and recently, I found solace in a line from my favorite book, The History of Love. “For a long time, the space [Brandeis] holds in you will be hollow. Days, weeks, years, maybe. But when at last it is filled again, you’ll know that the new love you feel for that [“new thing”] would have been impossible without [Brandeis]. There never would have been an empty space, or the need to fill it.”
Now, Class of 2014, in the spirit of our Orientation motto I challenge you all to “Shift into Drive” and find that “new thing.” I can’t wait to see what we all continue to accomplish.
See you at reunion!