Hello! Thank you for tuning in to our virtual celebration. I had the absolute honor of serving as the Senior Class President for the Class of 2020.
For many of us, the abrupt end to our Kenyon experience came as no less than a shock. Our time on campus has also coincided with some significant transformations. Not long after we matriculated in 2016, Donald Trump became president, and right as we were ready to leave, a global pandemic swept through. And if you think that’s not exciting enough, there were also some literal ground-shifting changes on campus, such as when we said bye to our concrete library building, and transitioned to a life at the Mods.
And I’m sure many of us have spent the past few months dwelling on our loss of a senior week and traditional graduation events. We have all heard the encouraging words expressing pride, strength, and perseverance from friends and families, and I don’t doubt that we, as a generation rising, will gather our tools to shape a fairer and more equitable world. I don’t think there’s a need to further repeat them here, so instead, let’s take the time to reflect on the wonderful four years (sure, 3.75, if you really wanna go there) we have spent together.
The intensity and bond we share led to our collaborative Kenyon story that combines various perspectives. It is the sugar rush that hits us from a kiddie pool full of ice cream at Midnight Breakfast, or the wait for our annual Peircegiving. It is the loving hug from Lisa that feels like home, or when the Lords and Ladies take home a win. It is when popping into Peirce to “quickly grab a bagel” turns into a full day spent on New Side; or, a rainy day spent at Wiggins. It is the weekly Friday siren, or the up-hill climb from the KAC that is sometimes more tiring than the workout itself. It is when an in-class debate becomes so intriguing that an email chain with classmates and professors continues way past midnight.
This year, we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of co-education at Kenyon and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Student Union. We celebrated those who came before us and who fostered a sense of urgency to cultivate greater diversity, inclusion, and equity on Kenyon’s campus. Without many of them, there wouldn’t be many of us.
The beauty of Kenyon not only shines through when the crocuses and daffodils break the earth, it is also the spectacular amalgam of wonderful people, quirky traditions, and of hope, excitement, and the idyllic setting that offers so much introspection. Earlier this year, when immigrant rights activist and Kenyon alumnus Marco Saavedra visited campus and was asked about his motivation in his activist life, he encouraged us to “choose the beautiful world” and find beauty amidst the chaos, uncertainty, the hazy limbo between hope, loss, memories ... and, in this world, what may be right, and what may be wrong.
On this campus, what we treasure are the times that humbled us. The exuberant “wow” we exclaimed after an invigorating discussion. The first snow, even if the last may not come until April. The life-changing seminars that made us think ... think so deeply, courageously, think beyond self-centeredness, think to challenge our default setting and to embrace having something potentially infinite.
In the fall of 2016 we began scribbling our Kenyon stories beyond what we could ever dare dream. Yours is my Kenyon story, each of which is so diverse yet particular. As we now enter a turbulent world, I invite you to never cease writing that story. It won’t always be what we imagined, and that’s okay. It will be our own beautiful spectacle.
The sense of loss we all understandably feel right now will hopefully be short-lived, for there is no doubt that we will always come back to take another stroll down Middle Path. To some, our Kenyon experience may be no more than four years spent atop the rural Ohio Hill, but to us it will always be home. Class of 2020, I hope you never cease to “choose the beautiful world,” and I cannot wait to reunite with you soon. They say, “At Kenyon, you will.” And at Kenyon, we did it. Congratulations.