Finally, a Time for Celebration

A photo of Massachusetts State Rep. Liz Miranda ’02 delivering her commencement address

Massachusetts State Rep. Liz Miranda ’02 delivers her commencement address.

It had been a long, hard year, and the forecast called for thunderstorms. But on Friday, June 4, the skies cleared long enough for the 570 members of the class of 2021 to celebrate the College’s 143rd commencement. President Paula Johnson welcomed the seniors gathered on Severance Green and over 100 scholars from around the United States and from China, India, Morocco, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Zimbabwe.

For the first time, an acknowledgment that Wellesley is built on the ancestral and unceded lands of Indigenous people was offered, partly in Wampanoag, by Kimimilasha “Kisha” James ’21, an enrolled member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and Oglala Lakota.

Class speaker Lia James ’21 recalled the challenges and gifts of the last four years, offering a Haitian proverb, “Remember the rain that made your corn grow,” to evoke the transformation difficult times can bring. “I am still blown away by the radical acts of courage and advocacy I see spearheaded by members of our class,” she said, urging them to continue to “say what needs to be said. … Be an ally, be an advocate, be a co-conspirator for change.”

Echoing Lia James’s theme of challenge and change, commencement speaker Massachusetts State Rep. Liz Miranda ’02 said, “You will create beautiful new spaces that bring healing to our society, innovation to our doorsteps, and transformational love to countless communities. … Speak truths and use them as a catalyst for changing the world. … Be brave, sibs. Be brave. The world needs you. Continue to demand more.”

President Paula Johnson told the class, “You have challenged us—and you have changed us,” reminding them of the differences they made. “Thanks to you, we are doing far more to address climate change. Your leadership and willingness to approve a carbon-reducing student ballot initiative was instrumental in our board of trustees’ decision to prohibit new endowment investments in fossil fuels.”

There may not have been a brass ensemble or any cheering families on hand to mark the moment, but the carillon rang jubilant changes as the seniors threw their tams in the air, heading into the world with Lia James’s exhortation sounding in their ears: “Stay loud.”

To see more photos from commencement, visit our online gallery.

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