Nancy W. Hendrie '54's Commencement Address
2003 commencement remarks of Nancy W. Hendrie '54:
Forty-nine years ago
I sat where you are sitting. I was waiting to graduate with Mount
Holyoke's class of 1954, and to set off to medical school.
But my assignment here
today is not to reminisce, but to deliver a charge to those of you
about to graduate, and it is this: Make your life stand for something.
Reach out your hands and heart to some one or some group whose existence
is not being played out in the excesses of the U.S.A.. The next
forty or fifty years are a lot shorter than you now think, and when
you come to look back on them, it will not matter how big a house
you lived in, what fancy car you drove, or what expensive parties
you went to. Climb the ladder of success in your chosen profession,
and raise brilliant and charming children if you want to, but please
start right now, if you have not already, to connect with others
in the world who do not have your opportunities, your relative wealth
and the backing of friends and family. Whatever your personal situation,
you have been given much, and have much to give.
Money, though an issue,
is not THE issue: it is your time and your connection. Misunderstanding
and mistrust are rife in the world today, and most of us see the
world through the lens of great privilege, as in just being here
today to graduate from Mount Holyoke.
You can start very
modestly in the U.S. . Volunteer a few hours a week in a shelter
for battered women. Or help at an Open Pantry food center, or
at an HIV/AIDS program. Connect with an inner-city literacy program,
or volunteer to coach basketball or soccer at an underfunded,
budget-cut city school.
Soon, or later, you
could go to an underdeveloped country for even a few weeks a year
and teach art or reading or sports, or help in an orphanage. Opportunities
abound on the Web.
We live in a fabulous
land of TOO MUCH, and we nauseate the rest of the world as we
wallow in it. You, the next generation, can do better
You have more uplifting
things to think of today, but my charge to you all is to connect
with the wider world. What will be important to you as you near
the end of your lives is what you have done to enable others to
lead a life better than that of poverty, illiteracy, and hopelessness.
Next birthday, and everyone after, instead of accumulating more
trinkets for "the girl who has everything," ask for donations
of time or materials for your personal cause. A small amount of
self, or a few dollars, go a very long way in the right hands,
and at the end of your career, whatever it is, your habit of giving,
along with, of course, your immediate family, will be your most
treasured connections to this life. Thank you.