Gina Aurelia Tarullo
Class of 2006
9:30 a.m., May 21, 2006
It's an incredible honor to be asked to speak today on behalf of such an outstanding group of individuals, collectively known as the class of 2006.
In preparing for this speech, I began to think about what it means to do what we're about to do. Finals have ended, Block Party has come and gone...
After that, things get a little hazy, but I'm sure something happened.
Nevertheless, here we are. A little less than 24 hours from now, we will be seated in a ceremony-trapped, essentially, dressed in garments designed to make us look not unlike garbage ready to be dumped-while our parents look on with pride or, as I'm sure will be the case for my father, take a pleasant nap in the sun. And we will graduate.
"Graduate." Have you ever thought about the word? I find it to be really fulfilling just to pronounce it -- grrrraduaaate. Try it. It just feels like a word that represents the culmination of. . . something. Maybe even something momentous. I thought I might take this opportunity to look at the word itself.
A thesaurus I referenced provided the following synonyms: "get one's diploma, get one's degree, pass one's exams."
And I thought: huh, who knew the thesaurus could be so incredibly useless?
Rather than chancing it with another language reference book, I looked to the College's web page to see what it said about us and about what our graduating means to them. Here's what I found, at the conclusion of Grinnell's published mission statement:
"The College aims to graduate women and men who can think clearly, who can speak and write persuasively and even eloquently, who can evaluate critically both their own and others' ideas, who can acquire new knowledge, and who are prepared in life and work to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good."
Upon reading this, my reaction was: "Wow. That sounds great." But I wasn't sure how else to respond to this, mostly because I have difficulty seeing myself as any of those things. Have I failed this institution? Has this institution failed me? Have I thrown away $120,000? Am I "persuasive and even eloquent"?!?
The reaction I've described illustrates the apprehension I've been feeling at the thought of leaving Grinnell; the opportunities it has offered me; and, more than anything, the people I have been surrounded by here.
In many ways, I suppose the very idea of Grinnell must seem like some kind of sick social experiment: approximately 1400 students, most of them self-described outcasts, living and learning together in a perhaps unfathomably small space, continuously looking for ways to entertain themselves and avoid any urges to physically harm one another in what would appear to be the middle of nowhere.
But Grinnell is somewhere. For me, I imagine that it will always be in my memories of you, my classmates.
Your faces have become familiar to me. Even if I don't know you by name, I've come to recognize many of you for your characteristic ways of walking; of dressing; your specific study spaces in the library; your tendencies to take showers on Thursday evenings at 7:30 while listening to Celine Dion after returning from working out at the PEC.
I think it is the nature of this place and of Grinnellians in general to reach out and create community wherever they are. At least that has been my experience, from the moment I transferred to Grinnell in the middle of my first year.
I don't know that I've ever felt so accepted and appreciated; I don't know that I ever will be to the same extent.
And so part of me can't help but regret that within the next few days, we'll be parting ways for new and exciting things that will undoubtedly bring us nothing but success and fulfillment. At least that's what I imagine for all of you. Because, quite frankly, you deserve nothing less.
As I've been speaking with some of you over the past few days, I've come to realize even more just how fortunate I've been to know you. And I've come to realize that there is something in each of you that I hope to find in myself.
If I had it my way, I would be graduating with a triple major in Policy Studies, Studio Art, and History. I would have learned to write songs and play them on the guitar. I would climb every tree I saw and use terms like "snarfle" and "honey-dip" as my hip-length dreadlocks swayed in the breeze. My love for philosophy would only be outdone by my love for soccer.
â¦I've also come to realize that if I ever were to in fact possess all of these traits, it is likely that I would explode.
And just as I know it would not be humanly possible for me to exhibit every quality that I admire in each of you, I think I finally understand that perhaps Grinnell cannot hold us -- each and every one of you has too much to offer to be contained on this tiny campus.
The ceremony that will take place tomorrow morning, commencement, will indicate just that for each of us: the commencement, the beginning, the birth of. . . whatever is to come.
Speaking of birth, I've become acquainted this year with a true American hero. A bright light whose art will light my path as I walk away from my days as a Grinnell College student. I am speaking, of course, of The Boss, mine and yours, Bruce Springsteen, and his unforgettable song, "Born to Run."
I mention the song because I've come to see it as an anthem for us as we embark on this, the rest of our lives. And so I leave you with the final lines:
"Someday, girl, I don't know when we're gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go and we'll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us, baby, we were born to run."