Barnard College Commencement 2019

Barnard College Commencement 2019


As you know I am Cheryl Milstein chair of the board and a proud Barnard parent Toby but first and foremost and forever a proud Barnard alumna from the class of 1982. My extraordinary life long relationship with Barnard started on something of a whim. I had never heard of Barnard can you imagine that now everyone and their sister knows about Barnard I was visiting a boyfriend who was a freshman at Columbia and myself wondering about that place you know the one behind the gates across the street if you would have told me then that Barnard would become and remain the center of my universe I would never have believed you today the college has a powerful hold on my life and my heart alongside my family and closest friends for decades after that initial meeting Barnard and I are still very much in love I wish this for all of you as you stand stand here proudly at the threshold of your graduation I imagine that for years might seem like a bit of a blur from this perspective think of all the things you have learned attempted and accomplished all of the changes you have witnessed from the campus construction to the opening of a new building yeah the arrival of Seon by Locke and her amazing first years as president and the wonderful opportunities available through new college initiatives such as beyond Barnard and perhaps beyond Barnard has helped you to find your path but at this point now that you are graduating it is much more than an office an internship and an advisor beyond Barnard is now and it is your reality you are ready to take all that you have learned and put it into action and even though you may feel like you are out there on your own we are still here for you I promise I also want to add that in addition to being a physical home Barnard has been a spiritual home for many of you as well I hope that you will hold this special emotion and feeling for the College in your hearts and beyond the gates of Barnard today you relieve but you don’t really leave it is true for me that you will always be tethered to the college because of the strong ties you have made during your years here the connections with faculty from whom you have gained so much the individual growth and change that inevitably happened you get to keep all that and cherish it all and don’t forget there are ties that you haven’t yet discovered ties that you will make with the network of outstanding Barnard women all over the world doing all sorts of amazing things who will join you as alum they are there for you we are here for you ready to go above and beyond so go out there and have a great time we can’t wait to see how your life’s works unfold and we can’t wait to continue to be proud of you congratulations class of 2019 Good afternoon I’m Linda Bell provost and Dean of the faculty I’m honored to be here on behalf of Barnard’s exceptional faculty to offer warm congratulations to the class of 2019 and to your family and friends who have gathered here to celebrate your achievement commencement marks both the end of your college days and the beginning of your future and naturally there are mixed emotions sadness about leaving relief at having crossed the finish line excitement about what lies ahead along with nervousness and anxiety whatever you’re feeling now take time to breathe deeply and revit revel in this incredible moment in this beautiful and iconic space you have earned it I know from personal experience University of Pennsylvania class of 1981 that you will return many times to memories of your life at Barnard you will notice how young you look in the photos some more personal experience but more significantly you’ll reflect on the friends and the fun the courses that shaped you and set the direction that became your life and the enormous influence of faculty on those very important choices so with that in mind I ask that you demonstrate your appreciation for our remarkable faculty of scholar teachers for their invaluable contribution to your academic lives and I ask that the Faculty of Barnard College please rise so that the class of 2019 can show just what you mean to them please now I don’t need to tell you that today perhaps more so than ever you graduate into a complex and imperfect world a world where truths scientific fact and even moral reason once thought inherent to advanced democratic societies have become principles on which to activate resist and seek reform a world desperately in need of compassionate and thoughtful leadership so no pressure ok tiny bit of pressure but the future of our world relies in no small measure on each of you and the lives that you choose to lead you have been taught to question an authority to insist on truth and to respect the purity of fact you have been given the tools to excel in your chosen fields the training to speak and write with clarity and force and the proper instruction to use and manipulate complex data in search of answer clearly you have succeeded and that’s why you get to walk across this beautiful stage today but I know that each of you has experienced no small measure of disappointment along the way in the words of Irish novelist playwright and poet Samuel Beckett and I quote ever tried ever failed no matter try again fail again fail better or in my own words strive to succeed while learning to fear fail you are brilliant and strong and as you head to the next adventures and through the paths that will outline your lives I know that you will make bold choices because I’ve witnessed you every step of this way just remember that progress is incremental and nonlinear that we leap forward often after falling and that as a society we need to keep it together to ignore the roadblocks and to insist on change when you succeed we will applaud your successes and even take some credit for them may they be many and when you fail and you will we will be here to support and remind you that failure is a paragraph in a much longer and larger tale may they be few and may you learn through time and experience to fail better congratulations class of 2019 I wish you much much happiness and truly great things ahead good afternoon president bylaw trustees special guests Dean’s faculty and administrators family and friends and the bold and brilliant class of 2019 my name is Samanta Dalchand and and I am a computer science major I’m here to reflect on my academic experience but I would first like to acknowledge the young woman who entered Barnard four years ago she is not the same person that is standing on stage speaking to you today I entered Barnard as a first-generation minority student with aspirations to break barriers in computer science a male-dominated field I was terrified and my dreams seemed nearly impossible but as you can see my choice to matriculate at Barnard stayed put I knew how transformative Barnard would be before I even stepped through the gates I am the proud sister to to Barnard stem graduates Elizabeth class of 2015 and former chemistry major now emergency m.d. and Naomi class of 2016 and former biochemistry major future PhD in chemistry I know our parents raised us right I have seen just how much they’ve grown from the moment they entered barner to the moment they walked across this very stage and I wouldn’t be here today if I wasn’t confident that Barnard can inspire me to take on new challenges as both a student and as a young woman I remember entering barn are ready to major in unafraid and to challenge myself with the rigor and intensity of the education here I remember stepping into my first computer science class as a first-year student the class was about 70% male and 30% female and when Professor cannon who taught introduction to job acts how many students here have prior programming experience a majority of the class’s hands particularly male shot up I immediately felt defeated and ready to drop the course but I decided to consult my advisor professor Marisa Buzzeo and she told me that and she told me that she had complete confidence that I could handle the workload and class intensity she told me about the support provided by Barnard if I ever felt that I was really struggling but acts that I stick with the class until the drop deadline there was a sincerity in her voice that made me realize I could not give up and I took this confidence with me to class every Monday and Wednesday exuded it when I got my first programming project to work and carried it throughout the rest of my semesters at Barnard the essence of the Barnard academic experience is instilling confidence in the woman were surrounded by uplifting our peers who are hesitant to speak in class and succeeding in fields that we once felt unworthy of entering in addition I would also like to acknowledge Barnard’s efforts into courting women and technology through initiatives such as the technology career fair and one of its greatest achievements as of yet the establishment of our very own computer science department it has been more than a privilege to attend a college that is always looking for ways to create opportunities for women there is a little bit of Barnard in every single one of us and I am confident that you are the women that will continue to break barriers in every field and change the world someday may we continue to major and unafraid for the rest of our lives congratulations class of 2019 in 1931 Barnard established the Frank Gilbert Bryson prize to recognize the senior who receives the most votes of her classmates for her contribution to Barnard during her college years in keeping with tradition no one in the class including the recipient knows the outcome of the balloting until it is announced at the ceremony right now I am pleased that this year’s Bryson prize is being awarded to I just found out ten minutes ago – Alicia Simba. Congratulations Alicia this is a great honor and well-deserved and I wanted to whisper it in Viola’s ear but I didn’t want her to tell you so I decided to keep it to myself. good afternoon trustees president Beilock
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Dean’s faculty families special guests and the class of 2019 yeah my name is Charlotte Voelkel and I am a member and totally in awe admirer of the class of 2019 when I first announced that Barnard a women’s college was my top choice my extended family was decidedly confused despite having attended a co-ed public high school I was now opting into a convent at the time I couldn’t quite articulate for them what it was that made it made me so sure that Barnard was where I needed to be I knew there was something different about how it felt that on my tour when I’d seen the groups of women scattered across the lawns I’d been magnetically drawn to join them over the past four years I have reflected on what makes this College so unique attempting to put my finger on the magic element standing here today it’s quite clear to me that at the risk of sounding cheesy it’s been you all along seated beside you in the classroom I have witnessed your academic fervor and excellence on our side of the street there’s no need to push back on that or just play devil’s advocate but rather you question each other yourselves and Aristotle in the same breath our years here have taken place during a particularly tumultuous political moment it seems like every week there have been headlines that left off the page and weighed heavy on our minds these stories have reached through the gates to break different hearts in different ways and could make getting through the mundane motions of a regular day feel impossible as a class I’ve seen your resilience holding each other up through today and fighting to change tomorrow life at Barnard is not a monolithic experience and you have pushed to bring every facet both good and bad to light because you questioned organized petitioned and pushed this is not the same campus it was four years ago there is proof in the presence of more voices across course syllabi the revision of administrative policies the creation of new programs and the instigation of bigger and harder conversations across this College as leaders of campus communities you have fostered places for younger students to be supported and made space for them to feel whole and seen you the class of 2019 through your plethora of interests abilities and actions shatter any conception of what a student at a women’s college should be you are politicians and physicists poets and painters you are kind and strong and all seem to have some amazing hobby you somehow find time for you disregard established notions of feminine and masculine and assert yourselves as people in short you’re badasses I am inspired to know that you’re all about to go off into the world and be a generation that cannot be defined under any one label I am more excited to know that future generations are going to have the chance to look up to you and your lives and know that any limit that remains is right for challenging this diploma unites each of us in the capacity to completely change what tomorrow looks like and turn dreams into actions membership in this class requires that we hold ourselves and the world to a higher standard and that as we move into new communities next year that we are each aware of the dollars that we spend in a space we take up this diploma represents a responsibility to enter the world with eyes wide open knowing that the rest of us will always be just a tweet away congratulations hello graduates friends family faculty and staff congratulations class of 2019 we did it my name is Demme Durrett and my name is Surbhi Lohia we are so grateful to have served the class of 2019 as your senior fund co-chairs this year our work would not have been possible without the help of our dedicated and fearless senior fund committee they have devoted their time and talent to raising money to ensuring the success of the next generation of Barnard students and for that you should be so proud now I’m sure we can all agree that being at Barnard has given us some of the most unforgettable experiences of our lives at the class of 2019 we agreed that it’s in our hands to continue to make these opportunities accessible for the Barnard communities that follow us that’s why our class has chosen our legacy by way of the senior fund to directly support future Barnard students who identify as first-generation low-income and refugee students so so how can we ensure this firstly 25% of the money raised is going to the bare essentials fund which provides for items like coats and bedding and other items not typically covered by traditional financial aid packages another 25% will go towards the bridge fund which supports students whose financial situation has changed after their first year at Barnard the third quarter will go towards supporting the flip lending library this much-needed resources textbooks and other course materials to low income or first-generation students the final 25% of our gift will go towards supporting the Tisch scholarship for refugee women an endowed scholarship fund established to fully support a student from a displaced area of conflict we are pleased to announce that as of today we have raised over $20,000 and unlocked several matching prizes at ten fifty and sixty five percent we have our generous classmates alumni and Barnard faculty and staff to thank for this incredible achievement so as we celebrate our success today let us remember that this achievement is one that we have accomplished together I am so proud to be a member of the class of 2019 and to say that we stood up for the people and for the causes that we believe in in doing so we are leaving an important legacy here at Barnard through the senior fund and the support we have given directly to future Barnard so here’s to going out into the world as the bold brilliant principled Barnard students that we’ve shown ourselves to be thank you and congratulations class of 2019 good afternoon to the bold and beautiful class of 2019 my name is Rhea Nagpal and I am the senior class president it is an honor to address you all today on behalf of the senior class Council and as a proud member of the largest graduating class in Barnard history I’m gonna be real with you guys as students in college and as seniors at Barnard especially I feel as though there isn’t a day we don’t get asked what I like to call the million dollar question it goes something like this what do you really want to do in life where do you see yourself in five years what’s your ten-year plan I’ll be honest I am guilty of asking this question to many of my peers as well but as we venture into the unknown I sense an urgency and many of us to find the answer to this question a pressure to figure things out right away and to know exactly where we’re going my fellow classmates I first urge you all to take a deep breath and take a look at the people seated behind me I suspect that many of them being honored here today didn’t have everything figured out when they were 21 or 22 either and it’s safe to say they did all right when we arrived on campus most of us undecided and unsure of what the future held little did we know that the education we would receive in these four years would be as much outside of the classroom as inside our liberal arts curriculum has shown us that the answer to the question of what do you want to do with your life can be ever-evolving or may never even exist and beyond our lectures and seminars we all pursued our passions in a variety of forms some of us got involved in school publications or conducted scientific research in a lab others volunteered in Harlem on Fridays or even D dared their own radio show over the years these engagements with our classmates interacting with communities outside the gates and the relationships we built in the process have shown us a valuable lesson that having a larger purpose in life need not conflict with a pursuit of personal ambition and goals in fact they thrive together when we needed guidance and support and leaned on our mentors they eagerly took the time to share their experiences showing us that personal success is indeed found in our collective achievements and of course the friendships we built during our time here binge watching Netflix until 3:00 in the morning sharing our innermost fears and aspirations over endless cups of coffee saving that precious seat in the library during Reading Week pushing each other to retire and dream bigger our friends truly have been our cheerleaders and inspirations and they will continue to be our lifelines even after we leave the gates and another kind of learning was provided to us by the challenging and unprecedented events of our country in the last four years all of which permeated the walls of our campus and left a lasting impression on all of us we saw women lead movements stand for office and record numbers and speak their truths courageously like never before they exemplified for us what we have learned are the hallmarks of a Barnard woman so instead of seeking to answer the question what do you want to do with your life maybe we should really be asking ourselves what lessons do you carry with you as you venture into the unknown as diverse as our individual journeys might have been each and every one of us is leaving the gates with a relentless spirit and a mind that is trained to excel a heart that knows how to give and a voice that is unique and unafraid class of 2019 I say to you embrace the unknown the possibilities are limitless and you are a hundred percent ready remember the lessons that you’ve learned Tyr write your own story speak your truth build your own wings and teach yourself to fly and remember to lift up those around you what lies on the other side of this unknown is spectacular and most importantly it is yours class of 2019 from the bottom of my heart thank you good luck and congratulations we turn now to one of the most important moments of commencement the presentation of the Barnard medals of distinction to individuals who represent the college’s ideals of excellence innovation intellectual curiosity and service I am Alicia Simba A Barnard senior in political science and education studies I am honored to present the citation to Sana Amanat Sana Amanat writer creator trailblazer feminist you are a Barnard marvel and the fearless voice of a new and bold generation we see where you are today and wonder how did the daughter of Pakistani immigrants find her way growing up in suburban mostly white Montville New Jersey societal ideas spun around in your head and he struggled to fit in but at Barnard where you studied political science you found a wide net of support in a community made up of radically different views and experiences your eyes were open to the issues of a much broader universe storytelling became new thing with first jobs in magazine publishing another indie comic book company then came Marvel Comics just five years after your Barnard graduation in you Marvel executives recognized a unique and fresh perspective one that would soon reshape the industry and today as vice president of content and character development you have honed your focus on women and girls and your commitment to inclusion here is your secret when you can’t identify yourself in the existing narrative just go out and write your own in 2014 you co-created Miss Marvel the first series to feature a muslim-american superhero Kamala Khan a young teenage girl who broke ground bridge cultures and became a worldwide sensation a girl you seem to know well and you continue to push the bounds you are an executive producer on marvel rising featuring the next generation of superhuman characters and you have further expanded Marvel’s range by launching the women of marvel platform for a new wave of fans when Kamala Khan said “good is not a thing you are it’s a thing you do” you must have known something about the class of 2019 Sana Amanat we will not soon forget your example that the misfit often prevails that finding yourself reflected on the page or on the screen is a powerful thing and that there is a superhero inside us all on behalf of my classmates I am honored to award you the 2019 Barnard Medal of distinction with fierce pride in our College and hope for more colorful more animated and more enlightened world Hi everybody I am Nancy Worman and Whitney Olin professor of classics and comparative literature also Barnard alumna very very proud Barnard alumna and I am very honored to present the citation to Cherrie Moraga Cherrie Moraga playwright and poet esteemed professor literary icon and fierce feminist you tell a personal story a universal story by writing without secrets by rethinking old myths we have so much to learn from you especially in these times when division is more prevalent than inclusion and boundaries can feel impossible to cross when our differences define us in spite of best efforts to stay open and free and because of this we read you with all the more necessity and fervor and we teach your work with pride beginning in 1981 with the groundbreaking anthology you co-edited “This Bridge Called My Back” writings by radical women of color you have given us something essential you dedicate it to and I’m quoting all the women in it and all those all whose lives our lives will touch unquote with loving in the war years you examine coming-of-age as a Xicana and a lesbian as you opted for a life of activism with waiting in the wings you create a unique and intimate portrait of motherhood and family your 2017 play the mathematics of love is a provocative and haunting exploration of colonialism and diaspora and the dilemmas faced by all who struggle to connect and your most recent memoir native country of the heart is as startling as it is profound the story of your journey woven against the background of your mother’s magnificent life this is my part it is a privilege to teach your feminist anthem the hungry woman a Mexican Medea the Mexican Madea which opens with this beautifully cosmic passage quote this is how stories begin and end the innocence of an eagle feather stuffed inside a mother’s apron unquote the place poetry and power never dissipate and to observe our students as they grapple with its meanings is reason enough to do this job you live your own words the revolution begins at home you say the passage is through not over not by not around but through you say and you bridge the intersection of Xicana feminist and queer communities not by blurring lines but by engaging fully with the roots of your heritage Barnard and writing have long been synonymous with the legacy that makes us proud and by virtue of this honor we include you Professor Moraga on behalf of my colleagues the exceptional and inspiring class of 2019 and anyone who has ever fought to find their place in the world it is my great pleasure to award you the Barnard Medal of distinction you have our word and it is my great honor I am Virginia Ryan associate general counsel and proud Barnard alumna and I am honored to present the citation to Miss Adelson Siegel. Shirley Adelson Siegel public servant brilliant attorney pioneer in the fight for the rights of others in your century of life you have never failed to pursue what is fair to demand what is just born July 1918 the Bronx New York the daughter of Russian immigrants the youngest of three girls you were talking to from the start and in kindergarten you announced that you were going to be a lawyer at age 14 you were valedictorian of your high school class and then earned a full scholarship to Barnard starting college at just 15 you graduated from Barnard in 1937 when you could ride the subway for a nickel and the average New York City rent was less than $50 a month you knew what you wanted and you went for it so it is no surprise that you were the only woman in your Yale law school class of 1941 you were editor of the Law Review and among the very top students but once you graduated you were turned down for job after job after job 40 times the answer was no but you persisted navigating the prevailing biases of the time against women and against Jews and in 1941 you became the first woman attorney at Proskauer Rose Goetz and Mendelsohn you worked on all matter of cases but were especially drawn to civil rights and housing law so much so that you would have over to the ACLU during lunch to see what was going on you wrote legal briefs for the ACLU challenging the internment of japanese-americans during World War two you argued pivotal anti-discrimination cases before the United States Supreme Court you served as general counsel of New York’s Housing and Development Administration as the first head of the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office and as New York state’s Solicitor General you wrote the law of open space for the New York Regional Plan Association and were executive director of the citizens Housing Council of New York and you crafted the legal strategy that would enable the state to rescue New York City when it was on the verge of bankruptcy in the 1970s all the while you raised a family you adore there is no way to sum up such a vast and brilliant career but to say that you were the brightest star always focused always undeterred and almost always the only woman in the room you fought hard for causes that matter many of which we take for granted so many decades later you took care of this city and its residents as if each one you were your own even working pro bono into your 90s Ms Adelson Siegel we owe you a debt of gratitude 100 years long on behalf of my colleagues and our seniors poised for greatness we promise you this the next time someone tells us no we will remember your lead and we will follow your example it is my honor to present you with the 2019 Barnard Medal of distinction we hope that it means as much to you as you mean to us and now I have the great honor of presenting the citation for Viola Davis. Viola Davis you are an actor a producer a winner of awards a humanitarian leading the way we marvel at your talent how you definitely embody rule after role while holding true to your authentic self it wasn’t exactly an easy debut South Carolina in the mid 1960s you were born on your grandmother’s farm a former slave plantation the second youngest of six there was a move to Rhode Island when you were an infant where your father trained horses and your mother cleaned houses hunger was a reliable companion and putting on plays was a way to escape you continued to perform in high school at Rhode Island College and then Julliard learning to make each character your own and slowly carving out space in yet another harsh realm the stage in the screen for women and especially women of color we think about your 2008 breakout role in Doubt in a film in which a single scene earned you an Oscar nomination one eight-minute scene shared with Meryl Streep in which to create an entire life the result of this portrait is so measured and so intimate that it’s impossible to forget when your character Mrs. Miller says this about her son you accept what you got to accept and you work with it we profoundly understand her dilemma we think about Rose Maxson in Fences the deeply vulnerable wife of Denzel Washington’s Troy Maxson she was tested in every aspect of a difficult life in both the film and on Broadway you delivered August Wilson’s testimony to betrayal and forgiveness with shattering honesty courage and love we think about the enigmatic defense attorney and law professor Annalise Keating over five seasons of how to get away with murder from the start you have delivered a female character who is unapologetically and seriously flawed but one whose story is still very much worth telling for this and so much more for Amanda and Abileen, Ruby and Tonya, Veronica and Eva, you have garnered loyal audiences critical praise and countless awards including being the first black actress to win the Triple Crown of acting a Tony Oscar and Emmy and with JuVee Productions you and your husband Julius Tennon have furthered your commitment to telling never before told stories of those fighting to be seen we look to you to hear the voices of women like your mother for our students to see a star with their skin and their hair to know that more stories of women of color are being realized by you and because of you to witness your compassion for others and your deep pride in being an artist Viola Davis if you can find a small space on your shelf of awards it is my great honor to present you with the 2019 Barnard Medal of distinction you enrich the human experience for us all I love you too and I’m gonna show you how much I love you this speech these pages have all of my breakfast items on it avocado toast jelly everything president by lock distinguished faculty alumni family friends the six hundred and fifty seven or so sisters in the audience graduating class I’m gonna make it plain history is not of the past it is the present we carry history with us we are our history in other words you’re a product of your environment now that term is usually relegated to people from low-income crime-infested areas but why we are all a product of our environment your existence is an amalgamation of every triumph every hard-won battle every woman who had an idea and massaged it and had the courage to use it to change the world every person who survived slavery Jim Crow and the Black Codes to the Trail of Tears Wars and past their dreams unto you of love of hate yeah you’re also the product of the other of silence of apathy a school built on stolen ground of women a parent grandparent ancestor who suppressed dreams and ideas who died with lost potential and horrific memories of sexual assault mental illness who didn’t feel good enough or pretty enough or enough even your anxiety is part of your history and yet here you are privileged blessed to do what there are two roads that I see that people usually take the choice to think that your path is all about you and your success how high you can climb in your career in your status or the soul calls save the world approach but you have a vision for the world and by God you will change it because you’re different the first road requires you to mistake your presence for the event to be in complete denial and the second requires you only to deny the really bad stuff it requires you to forget racism Nazi colour intersectionality poverty but maybe I’ll take the sexism because it pertains to me forget any evidence in my family of mental illness violence forget anything in me that will get in the way forget my fear my pain both dead-end both result in well-intentioned very bright enthusiastic people doing nothing how about this is a novel idea how about owning it owning all of it the good and the bad on the fact that the 39 delegates who wrote the greatest document with the greatest mission statement wrote it when slavery was an institution Native Americans were being slaughtered and women were fighting for their lives on the 100 years of Jim Crow that were implemented after the 13th amendment restricting the rights of people who were 1/4 black and 8th black black black Native Americans Malays Hispanics Jews owned every gun-toting violent hate shooter and on the fact that that is America on every heroic deed great idea on the mission statement of this school own all of your memories and experiences even if they were traumatic own it own it the world is broken because we’re broken there are too many of us who want to forget who said that all of who you are has to be good all of who you are is who you are it hurts you wage battle it out ask why then you forgive reconcile and use your heart your courage and vision to fix to heal and then ultimately to connect to empathize and that empathy creates a passion for people and it all is the fuel of the warrior a brave experienced soldier or fighter it’s like Thomas Merton said if you want to study the social and political history of modern times study hell power concedes nothing without a demand know what that means women are under siege suicide rates have skyrocketed our reproductive rights are seriously in jeopardy as is art pay our health care our safety our worth sex trafficking has risen by eight hundred and forty six percent in the last five years and three-quarters of the victims are women of color and in the greatest country in the world we’ve seen a twenty six point six percent increase in women dying during childbirth and a 243 percent increase amongst black women you are graduating from a school whose mission it is to not just hand you a diploma but a sword you either you either start wielding it or you put it away as a conversation piece because there is a cap to success now everybody tells you that’s what you got a hit that’s the best of the best that you can have in life and then you hit it and then comes disillusionment exhaustion isolation the impostor syndrome and a loss of passion because no one talks about the real final cat the real ceiling and that significance the living life for something bigger than yourself is a hero’s journey that answer to your call to adventure and journeying forth with mentors and allies and facing your greatest fears where you either die or your life as you know it will never be the same and then you you seize the sword the insight the treasure the hero at that stage you must put all celebrations aside to prepare for the final battle the road back the road back is the moment where the hero goes back to the ordinary world where she must choose between her own personal objective and that of a higher cause the reward your gift to the ordinary world that is the Holy Grail the elixir what’s your elixir you know my testimony is one of poverty you know you heard I grew up in Central Falls Rhode Island and let me tell you something about poverty you’re invisible nobody sees the poor you have access to nothing you’re no one’s demographic you know what my aha moment was I had a memory when I was nine years old and I remember my parents fighting in the middle of the night it was so bad that I started screaming at the top of my lungs and I couldn’t stop my older sister Diane told me to go in the house of people would hear me so I ran in the house I ran to the bathroom screaming still just couldn’t stop and got down on my knees and closed my eyes I put my hands together and said God if you exist if you love me you’ll take me away from this life now I’m gonna count to ten and I opened my eyes I want to be gone you hear me and I put my hands together and I was really believing it one and then I got to eight nine ten and I opened my eyes and I was still there but he did take my life she left me right there so when I gained vision and strength and forgiveness I can remember what it means to be a child who was hungry I could remember what it means to be in trauma I could remember poverty alcoholism I could remember what it means to be a child who dreams and sees no physical manifestation of it I could remember because I lived it I was there and that has been my biggest gift and serving you can only understand people if you feel them in yourself you know what the words of Joseph Campbell you have not even to risk the adventure alone because the heroes of all time have gone before you the labyrinth is fully known you have only to follow the thread of the hero path and where you had thought to find an abomination you shall find a God and where you had thought to slay another you shall slay yourself and where you had thought the journey outward you shall come to the center of your own existence and where you had thought to be alone you shall come to be with all the world now you know I jumped out of a plane recently lost my mind for half an hour but you know when you’re flying up in the plane you’re anticipating the jump your heart is beating you’re praying you’re doing everything possible and then your instructor says it’s time and this is usually my Wakanda salute to my sisters okay so this is how I’m going to end it when you put your legs outside of that plane he tells you to put your hands up put your head back and then you fall so with my hands up what I’m saying is that on this day of your Genesis your leap your commencement your mark in your history perhaps your elixir is simply this but you can either leave something for people or you can leave something in people Viola thank you so much for that beautiful speech we are truly honored that you are here I have to admit that it’s a little more than intimidating to follow you but I’m gonna try because today is all about the class of 2019 you are the stars of this show you are brilliant and inspiring and it has been a true pleasure watching you grow and evolve over the past few years so congratulations you make us all really proud many here today of sat right where you’re sitting maybe not in the velvety seats in Radio City Music Hall but in some auditorium or gym or on a lawn somewhere and they have waited for that moment when their name is called and they shake a president’s hand and graduate from college perhaps Shirley remembers her Barnard graduation 82 years ago on June 1st 1937 the very same day that aviator Amelia Earhart took off from Miami to attempt her around the world flight 210 Barnard seniors attended class day services in the gym and then paraded in the academic procession to the Columbia commencement exercises across the street and I imagine sauna recalls May 18th 2004 when her commencement was held on the Barnard lawn there was a war going on in Iraq serious unrest throughout the world and the speaker writer and activist Barbara Ehrenreich didn’t mince words what we need she implored is a tough new kind of feminism with no illusions we need a kind of woman who isn’t trying to assimilate but to infiltrate and subvert you can be those women clearly these were vastly different graduations in response to vastly different times but our graduates Shirley and Sana have more in common than not in spite of multiple decades of age and experience gaps both are Trailblazers fighters and defiers of odds they are as Ehrenreich noted the kind of woman who infiltrates and subverts it took guts and perhaps a bit of madness to be an aviation pioneer like Amelia Earhart it took real confidence and a superb sense of self for Shirley to take her place in the Yale Law School class the only woman in the room for Cherrie to risk so much by telling the tales that matter most the truths of her life and for Sana to step out of the comic book shadows to create something we all needed to see and of course there’s Viola Davis who upended the challenges of her childhood to make her own rules for success as an actor a producer a humanitarian and in the process to inspire us all it is startling and humbling to think about the collective power in this magnificent Hall brain power combined with power of life experience of course the medalists on the stage are the most remarkable group of women you can gather together in one place then think about our distinguished Barnard faculty who are here to honor you and your achievements they have taught you how to think not what to think but how to think by helping you conduct research challenging you and working with you so deeply to understand the subjects they have mastered and care about and in return you have taught them as well and let’s not forget about your families who laid the earliest foundation supported you loved you and cherished you for each of you individually your environment and your surroundings have given you shape to your lives and finally consider yourselves and your classmates look around you the class of 2019 represents cities and towns across America and countries around the world you’ve achieved the heights of academic excellence in over 60 areas of study often two or three majors at a time and you have been leaders club members team players performers volunteers activists and mentors that is a wide net of intelligence and a broad range of different lived experiences to draw upon and yet I imagine that it is easy at this moment of huge change to forget how well equipped you all are to go out and meet the world in my research is a cognitive scientist I’ve spent a great deal of time studying self-doubt and the things that happen when we question what we’re capable of and what I have learned is that almost everyone has a moment sometimes many moments when you doubt whether you’re as talented as others seem to think you are when you wonder if you’ve managed to fool the masses I do some research in a different in addition to research and researchers like myself call these feelings of self-doubt imposter syndrome when people experience it they worry that their success has come down entirely to chance and that one day the truth will come out and everyone will realize that they are something less than they originally thought the other thing that research has shown is that this phenomenon of questioning your rightful place in the universe tends to happen more often to women in 2018 a record number of women were elected to the US Congress more women more women were elected to company boards than ever before and a woman won the Nobel Prize in Physics for the first time in 55 years but progress is one thing and parity is another even with this upward trajectory women are far more likely to question their abilities especially in environments where they’ve been extorted take Hollywood for example and Yale Law School in the 1940s and the male-dominated word world of comics and our nation as a whole and yet if their medalists let their fears about not fitting in dictate their next moves they wouldn’t be where they are today so what can you do to manage that self-doubt whether you are bound for graduate school starting a job spending time traveling or still unsure of what is next there are ways that you can find to reassure yourselves that you authentically deserve to be where you are there are practical things you can do my research has shown that actually writing down your fears it’s true sometimes simply just acknowledging them on paper can help them be gone from your mind it’s like they’re less likely to just pop up and distract you in the moment it’s also the case that just remembering and reminding yourself of what you accomplished can be helpful and of course we should always be thinking about our setbacks and reframing them it’s okay to fail what are we gonna change for the next time all of these exercises can help tamp down those neural alarm signals that tend to creep up and push us to question our abilities but of course you should also remember that you are now Barnard graduates and you have another outstanding resource you can tap into your network of tens of thousands of stellar alumni and you can find support through beyond Barnard it’s called that for a reason because knowing you’re not alone is a big part of the equation some months ago I asked you to describe your class in five words because you’re such overachievers you gave me eight here’s what you said about yourselves we are diverse persistent articulate resilient worldly considerate creative and passionate we are all about being activists and all about community so please remember that impressive list today you are nerves and excitement worry and enthusiasm all rolled into one but I am here to tell you we are here to tell you that Barnard has given you what it takes you have the tools and the knowledge the mentors and the advisors along with each other the entire Barnard community just do your thing whatever that might be look to your classmates for inspiration channel the boldness you see in them in Viola and Shirley in Cherrie and Sana and step out as your truest selves you are certainly capable of greatness greatness that is in no way determined by one’s measure other than your own you decide be great teachers great volunteers great writers and scientists great activists great parents and partners and great friends I am delighted to know you and have taken at least part of this journey with you please have fun out there and please bring your stories your experiences and your diverse perspectives on life back to campus often we wish you well in every way congratulations I will now be joined at the podium by Dean of Studies and Co-interim dean of the college Natalie Friedman who will present the candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Arts hello everyone hello everyone I am honored to be here today to join the administration and the staff and the Faculty of the College in expressing our great pride in your achievements on behalf of all of us I offer a hearty congratulations and I’m going to ask president by Locke for permission to graduate you president by Locke it is my privilege and great pleasure to present to you now the outstanding accomplished community-minded spirited and creative class of 2019 we include some members of the class on whom the degree was conferred last February those who have completed in this term the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts and some who expect indeed have solemnly pledged to complete work during the summer the order of presentation will be by major fields and the candidates will process to the stage as their names are read I’m going to ask that you hold your applause as best you can but I know some of you out there if you see your student you’re gonna want a hoot and holler so go ahead okay the first bunch of students are you ready And that concludes the names of the graduates it is my privilege acting on the authority delegated to me by the Board of Trustees and on behalf of the Faculty of Barnard College to present these students who will be named at the Columbia University commencement ceremony on Wednesday morning for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with all of the rights privileges and responsibilities pertaining thereto I would now like to invite the senior class to rise and join in the singing of the alma mater I declare this 127th ceremony of the presentation of Barnard candidates for The Bachelor of Arts degrees adjourned so that the academic recession may be concluded in an orderly fashion I ask all guests to remain in place until the last graduate has exited the seating area at that point I encourage you all to continue to celebrate this fabulous day congratulations graduates

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