Senior Class Exercisesrecording...
Transcription by Lars Karlsson · Kate's speech.
Kate Stayman-London: Looking out at this beautiful *** and this wonderful place, I almost can't believe how lucky we are to be here. Of all the children in preschool right now, half will never make it to any college, let alone a college like Amherst, and we all know how tough it is to get here. We all remember the hours we spent studying for tests and belaboring our essays and praying that the admissions committee would see something special in each of us, and they did. Somehow, against all the odds, the 409 of us made it here, and now we're going to graduate. What extraordinary luck, what extraordinary opportunities.
We never could have imagined though, how much our world would change during our time here. I'm sure you all remember that September day as well as I do, that absurdly beautiful Indian summer day when we hadn't yet been here three weeks. We turned on our televisions, or we went to class, or we got phone calls from our parents and friends from home. We all heard the news that day, that our country was bleeding in the hallways of the Pentagon, and in a field in Pennsylvania, and in the streets of lower Manhattan. On that day our class came together, we cried together, and stood on this *** together, and we figured out together that it was going to be okay, that we would make it okay. On that day, as on every day since, we leaned on our friends, we learned how to depend hall-mates, and ***-mates and class-mates to help us, not just through a national crisis, but also through personal crises, from losing a family member to losing a 20 page paper the night before it was due.
Four years came and went in this place, and so have we. Now, finally, it's our time to make our way in the great world beyond Amherst. It's an exciting world, one filled with opportunity and promise, but it's also a war torn and frightening world, perhaps no less so than our first September here. In the Darfur region of Sudan, genocide continues to cut bloody paths into the landscape. Over 1,000 people are killed there every day, and experts believe that the death-tolls could surge to over one million in a single year, which would still be only half as many Africans as those already dying every year from AIDS. Here in our country, life is thwarted in a different way, as the promises of *** rights and of equal protection under the law remain unfulfilled. In our economy, women and people of color are still denied fair wages, a fact the women and people of color in this class will soon discover first-hand. In our democracy, gay and lesbian couples are still deprived of the rights that straight couples enjoy. They have no rights to adopt children or to visit each other in the hospital, or to solidify their love in the eyes of the state. In our society, colleges like Amherst are still the birthright of the wealthy, while 20% of American children still *** in appalling poverty. Their families unable to pay rent, to pay for groceries, to pay heating bills, to pay tuition bills.
With so many problems to face, countless more than I've mentioned here, it might seem easier to throw up our hands to surrender, to move on with our lives. After all, we have problems of our own, but such inaction is not worthy of us. It is not worthy of the commitment we made to each other that September day four years ago, the commitment to help our friends, our fellow human beings, through difficult times beyond our experiences and imaginations. This is an extraordinary moment in our lives, one in which we have a chance to dash madly in any direction we choose, and we must do more than maintain the savage status-quo. We need to rise up, to stand up, and never to give up the fights that lie before us, the fights that we will win, because we have the resolve, the resources, and the responsibility to do so. Of all the gifts that Amherst has given us, perhaps the greatest is the ability to see the world as we see ourselves, not merely for what we are, but for all that we can become. We now have the opportunity to set the world alight with our vision, our strength, our solidarity. This is our moment to seize, and I know that we can, and I pray that we will. We owe this much to Amherst. We owe this much to each other.