Baccalaureate Address Sarah Ng '09
Sarah Ng '09
May 23, 2009
We step onto the podium tomorrow to receive the diploma that is the culmination of four years of mind-twisting, backbreaking intellectual stimulation. And while we are finally achieving our goal of coming to Mount Holyoke, we also bid farewell to a world of certainties; of four classes a semester, two semesters a year, and lengthy holidays in between. We can no longer fool ourselves into thinking that there is such as thing as a free lunch, dinner, or breakfast swipe. Or that the be-all and end-all of our existence is merely the next essay, presentation, or exam. That there will always be a Mountain Day each fall, a Las Vegas Night to look forward to and recover from, and Milk and Cookies readily available without so much as leaving the building. Our friends will no longer be down the hall and readily available, without fail, for leisurely Sunday brunches or long, involved chats into the night about the political situation in the Middle East or the latest episode of Gossip Girl, all the while avoiding work on that essay due tomorrow. We will never be in the company of such a large group of bright, beautiful, bold women from all walks of life, all countries in the world, all with interesting, and varied, viewpoints.
We probably all have immediate plans to abandon all thoughts of grades and essays and catch up on much needed sleep. Most of us will also have future plans, be it a grown-up, full-time job or graduate school. But, perhaps more than any other class in recent years, we will be stepping out into world of uncertainties, with a financial crisis; growing unemployment; and a messy, unfinished war.
However, I feel that more than anything, our Mount Holyoke education has prepared us to face any of the trials and tribulations of the Brave New postcollegiate World. I am proud to say that Mount Holyoke women are never comfortable with certainties. We are not so easily accepting of conventional wisdom or popular opinion. Even if we were graduating in a booming economy and a peaceful world, we would never be satisfied with the trappings of a nine-to-five job, a 401(k), and benefits. Because Mount Holyoke women never stop asking questions, never stop trying to right wrongs, and tackle the thorny and messy issues of the day. As one my professors said on the first day of his class, “Facts, you can learn from a book or even Wikipedia. But the ability to handle the facts, to ask the right questions is why you're paying $50,000 a year, and why I'm standing here in front of you.” From our very first day at Mount Holyoke, we have been taught to keep an open, inquisitive mind, and here I insert the obligatory Emily Dickinson quote, to ensure that our “brain is wider than the sky.”
We often joke about the Mount Holyoke Bubble, this cocoon of inclusiveness, where no opinion or viewpoint is taboo (yes, even Republicans are welcome here) and no one is an outsider because no one is the same. Some may argue that with this bubble, the non-Mount Holyoke darkness that is out there will be too much for us to handle. But I believe that it is precisely the bubble effect that makes us so well-prepared for anything this uncertain world has to throw at us. For our openness, to new people, new situations, and even new problems, is something that will serve us well in the years to come. So I end with the by now well-worn words that Mary Lyon uttered more than 170 years ago, in an America wracked by a war and recession much more serious than ours. "Go where no one else will go. Do what no one else will do.”