2006 Commencement

By Jaime Chak-mei Tung '06
May 27, 2006

Welcome, class of 2006. It is an honor and privilege for me to speak to you today, and I thank you for allowing me this opportunity. I would also like to thank the faculty, staff, friends, and family who have made this day possible for us.

The word "commencement" literally means "the beginning" and it seems ironic to use such a word in describing a ceremony that celebrates the conclusion of our years spent at Mount Holyoke. But we are indeed, commencing. We are beginning--fresh-faced but equipped with newly acquired experience and knowledge--the next adventure of our lives. What lies beyond these gates will no longer be an enigma, but rather a world we are eager to discover with the zest and zeal typical of a Mount Holyoke woman.

Despite the advent of this commencement, I cannot help but remember the beginning of my college career as I stand before you today, and I urge you to do the same. In the beginning, my college search consisted of finding a four-year coeducational institution in a large metropolitan area. How I ended up at a small liberal arts women's college in western Massachusetts remains a mystery to me today, but I know as many of you do, that it has changed my life in a way I could never have predicted.

This journey from convocation to commencement has been a challenge. But that is how we grow. As Mount Holyoke women, we have always been told that we have the power and knowledge to change the world. And if you think about it, we do. No matter what your major or minor was, we are, in fact, all scientists, artists, writers, and critical social thinkers. Now, as a critical social thought minor, I'm not trying to plug the CST department. But it is undeniable that we have been taught during our years at Mount Holyoke how to approach situations in an intelligent, sensitive, and critical manner. And through the incredibly diverse student body, we have also been taught to live as global citizens--as uncommon women on common ground. Therefore, whether you'll spend the next few years working for the Peace Corps or Goldman Sachs, teaching first grade in South Dakota or South Korea, you'll find that a mere four years spent at a small women's college in western Massachusetts has influenced the rest of your life by challenging, affirming, and inspiring you. We will never feel powerless because we have adopted the unmatched ability to be bold. We will never be quiet, because we are simply accustomed to being heard. In other words, it is not only a diploma that will be granted to us [this weekend], but the permission to use our education to challenge, affirm, and inspire others.

Returning to the notion of beginnings, I first learned about Mount Holyoke from the flap of the script of a play. In an especially striking scene, the main character, Heidi Holland, is asked, "How will you use what you know, Heidi?" The play of course, is The Heidi Chronicles, by Wendy Wasserstein, an alumna who inspired me to attend Mount Holyoke and whose untimely passing is most unfortunate. Her character, Heidi, is definitely a Mount Holyoke woman (although in the play, she goes to Vassar): a woman who is opinionated yet observant, witty yet humble, and most of all, true to herself. I like to think that we are all Heidi Hollands--women who are headstrong yet down-to-earth, women who hold the world in their hands, partly because of their preexisting gall and determination and partly because of the knowledge that has been garnered through this unique educational experience that is Mount Holyoke. So I will pose to you the very same question, class of 2006: How will you use what you know?

Whatever it is you choose to do, I hope you will use what you know both passionately and provocatively, that you will use it in a way that is authentic to your being yet compassionate in nature and finally, that you will use it in a way that reflects what you have achieved today. Thank you and congratulations, class of 2006. Good luck with all your future "beginnings."

Jaime Chak-mei Tung '06 is from Edgewood, Washington. An English major and critical social thought minor, Jaime studied abroad during her junior year at St. Catherine's College at the University of Oxford. In 2005, she was a recipient of the WEED-Ford Summer Research Fellowship and completed a thesis on the work of Caribbean poet Derek Walcott. While at Mount Holyoke, she hosted several cultural shows, including Variasians and China Night, and served as the concertmaster of the Mount Holyoke College Symphony Orchestra. She was also an emergency medical technician, a performer in Asian American Interpretive Realities, and a tour guide and interviewing fellow for the Office of Admission. After graduation, Jaime will pursue graduate studies in English Renaissance literature.

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