Wellesley marked its 140th Commencement exercises with the pomp and circumstance of trustees and faculty in full academic regalia—and giant screens focusing on the faces of the class of 2018 as they took their final walk as undergraduates. The students wore tams with purple tassels, some decorated with bandeaus of flowers. Their stoles declared their majors or their passions. One student marched draped in the Kenyan flag. All of them brought their dreams—and the day’s three featured speakers honed in on those aspirations in their remarks.
Commencement speaker Tracy K. Smith, Poet Laureate of the United States, told the class, “You belong to a remarkable generation. … I feel stronger for your example, and for the fact of your presence, your resonant voices, your nimble minds, and your huge hearts.” She spoke of “the underlying capacity that I believe animates all of the many strides your generation is already making.” That capacity, she said, is love.
“[T]he challenge incumbent upon your generation … the great challenge within or beneath the challenges of climate change, of school safety, of supporting and defending one another’s mental health, the challenge of a fair and humane immigration policy, and of a host of competing urgencies, is the challenge of loving in such a way that your sense of security, gratitude, honor, belief, joy, and worth affirms and amplifies those things in others.”
President Paula Johnson exhorted the class to “commit to a lifelong path of practical dreaming.” She reminded them that 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “In what remains perhaps his most famous speech, Dr. King spoke of a dream—a dream that his four children would one day live in a nation ‘where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ It’s not by chance that he used the word ‘dream.’ He knew the power of language. And he knew the power of dreams to drive change across time and space.”
Student speaker Marley Forest ’18 charged the purple class of 2018 to “recognize your ambitions and your dreams and be proud of them. … As individuals, we can each make a difference in this world, but as a community, we can and we will change it. Here’s to a lifetime of changing the world—together.”
Practical dreamers, indeed.