First Collection 2013: Liliana Rodriguez
Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Development Liliana Rodriguez joined Naudia Williams '14, President Rebecca Chopp, and Associate Professor of Political Science Keith Reeves '88 in welcoming the Class of 2017 to Swarthmore. Evoking the College's Quaker roots, this student-designed tradition is held during each new student orientation in the Scott Outdoor Amphitheater.
You've heard time and again this week very important advice on appreciating the diversity and differences you all bring. And I want to emphasize: you all bring a wealth of diversity here.
And despite the fact that I am the Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, I want to focus on the latter piece of my title tonight. I want to give you advice around community development. I don't want to focus on your differences in these few minutes, I want to focus on your commonalities. And I think what I'm about to say will actually surprise you.
I'm going to talk about three characteristics that define all humans; universal characteristics of which there are very few. Since we are all very unique products of our biology and inherited personality traits, and their interaction with the contexts in which we were raised: nations, neighborhoods, families, religions, and the ideas and values they explicitly and implicitly taught us. We are both nature and nurture. Our potential is influenced by our context. So yes, we are all very unique, but we do have some very important commonalities, and I'm afraid they are not particularly good qualities. But if we accept them about ourselves and others, we stand a better chance of building the kind of community that allows us all to live, learn, and thrive here; to reach our full potential.
So, three characteristics I want you to accept about yourself and everyone else on this campus: staff, students, faculty, everyone. You ready?
1. We are all ignorant.
I learned this lesson when I was a sophomore in high school. My physics teacher always had us start our lesson by chanting "We are all ignorant." We are all ignorant, we are all ignorant, we are all ignorant.
At first we thought this was just weird, but by the end of the year we understood what he was trying to teach us: that nothing, not even science, is objective nor infallible. Theories are debunked all the time. What you once believed to be true, factual, objective, can change overnight and your universe can suddenly be incredibly different. Perfect example: Pluto.
2. We are all biased.
3. We are all insecure.