Adam Dalva '08
Well, this is terrifying. I'd like to thank Al Bloom for the wonderful introduction, and also the 13 or so students who voted for me to speak — there will be little new material — and of course the hundreds of others who are now realizing with stomach-clenching terror that they could have stopped this.
You know, as we stand here today in this idyllic place surrounded by so many people who have shaped our youngish lives — by parents who are either sadly watching us fly away from the final nest they made or depressingly contemplating our return to nests that they had hoped to convert to home-offices, by the lovely professors, who've for so long understood that a due date is more of a feeling than a rule, by the deans, the administration, by our families, and by our friends — I'm reminded of an old axiom. Graduation is least of all about those of us in the audience who are sweating ink through black robes, unsure of how to deal with everyone we know at once and wondering if we can do a fifth year here if we pretend to forget how to swim, and instead is a celebration of all the people who've helped shape us. Actually, that's not really an old axiom at all, I just didn't want to come off as sappy this early in the speech, but I know beyond a doubt that we absolutely thank you all for helping us to realize who we are today.
Now then, while we're on the subject, enough about them, let's talk about us. Looking around at this motley group of individuals that make up the Class of 2008, I see a pack of hipsters, slackers, activists, ne-er do wells, engineers, and stress-wrinkled workers who bear little similarity to the fresh-faced hard-bodied idealists who first arrived on this campus almost four years ago. We have come a long way my friends... and I've checked and it's surprisingly difficult to go back. But enough preamble, because a story springs to mind.
Behind me is the Crum, and if I told you that I once stumbled through it blindfolded, linked inexorably to complete strangers with no indication of how the night would end, you would probably think that I had received a proper liberal arts education. In this case, however, I am talking about the trust walk. Remember that? Your whole CA group, with whom you were of course friends forever, descending through darkness, tripping over sticks, joking merrily to cover abject terror, before our vision was restored to see a bonfire in what I think it is safe to say was one of the last times almost all of us have been in the same place until, well, today. And yesterday, but I forgot that while I was writing the speech.
We even all sat on each other's laps for goodness sake, a fiendish game of Russian roulette that did not go well for me. On the way back from this halcyonic event, socializing madly, still terrified by the specter of a friendless college experience, not understanding that eventually at Swarthmore you're confused when you don't know who someone is, I put my hand in my pocket and was even more surprised than usual. My key was gone.
Now, in June of 2008, we probably would not be bothered by such a thing, but way back when John Kerry was somehow a decent plan I was terrified; I was always going to be the kid who lost his key on the trust walk, the complete opposite of the "mysterious rebel with a secret heart of gold" image that I had so hoped to embody. I wanted nothing more than to cower shamefully in my room in a pile of my roommate Dom Lowell's autumn sweaters, but of course I couldn't, because my key was gone, and it never was found, it lies behind me somewhere, tarnished and buried, waiting to be found in 8,000 years by the lizard overlords.
Now, while my key was ruined, my reputation wasn't — and to my considerable surprise people continued to get to know me beyond this tragic first impression, and I began to understood the generous spirit of a place that lets you be yourself. This is all a metaphor. I mean, of course it is, since otherwise this would have been a complete waste of time, but I couldn't think of a better segue.
Some of you may recognize the previous vignette, which I once gave with the intention of pointing out how far we had progressed, how we were no longer keyless, how we have obtained ownership of our spatial identity or something jargony like that. Well, bad news people, I've changed my mind. Ok, so five days ago, 200 of us clambered onto SEPTA for a senior week event, and even while we jostled to sit next to our favorites as passengers heading home from work wondered if they could survive jumping out the windows to escape, I began to feel a strange Madeline-like return.
We made our way to the bowling alley, blindly following leaders who did not seem quite aware of where we were going, and as we stumbled over derelict yards and squeezed our collective self through a filthy alley-way, I realized that we were just doing another trust walk. Just as we had once been led through our future Swarthmore lives, terrified, with no sense of the future and vague confusion about what surrounded us, now, just as we are set to begin anew again, we were similarly ushered together in a preview of the next step, and if we handle that one as well as we handled this place, I think we'll be alright.
I don't want to go on for 20 minutes, but before leaving the stage, I just wanted to acknowledge what an incredible place this has been, and how much I've learned from the people I've shared it with. What is is about to be what was, and we'll always have that, but I know with the love between us, we'll also have what's going to be.