Tag Archives: commencement

Commencement Speakers Kick Ass

Update: Jonathan Safran Foer published an adapted version of his Middlebury commencement address in the Sunday New York Times’ opinion pages (Midd gets cred at the bottom). It will be out in print tomorrow.

When we heard Jonathan Safran Foer was going to be the commencement speaker for the class of 2013 we rejoiced, predicting a great address. And, in our opinion, high expectations were met. He  made fun of Ron Liebowitz (the first four minutes are priceless–be sure to check out Liebowitz’s facial expressions), eloquently tackled perhaps the issue of our generation–technology and social networking–and how it affects experience and memory, confronted human mortality, and highlighted what is most important and meaningful about being human. It’s a speech that stands on its own, whose wisdom hopefully will be spread beyond Middlebury’s campus. Here is the end of his speech, our favorite part:

Most of the time most people aren’t crying in public but everyone is always in need of something another person can give, be it undivided attention, a kind word, or deep empathy. There is no better use of one’s life than to respond to those needs. There are as many ways to this as there are kinds of loneliness but all of them require presence. All of them require the will to do the necessary hard work of human computing, of making the choice to engage, of struggling with language, of risking getting it wrong, of discarding shell and making the empathic leap. This is the work of being human. It can be messy and painful and almost impossibly difficult, but it is not something that we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. And it is beautiful.


Preceding him was Bronwyn Oatley ’13 who did a beautiful job riffing on George Bernard Shaw’s quote, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” She highlighted ‘unreasonable’ achievements of Midd students like the Solar Decathlon house and  ‘unreasonable’ struggles overcome during the past four years like dealing with a mental illness while at Middlebury. She also praised the Middlebury community as a space for personal exploration and growth, using her own story of coming out as an example. Finally, she worked in some jokes about neti pots at Parton and the Campus being the only source for compelling news on campus (HAHAHA). Here it is in case you missed it:

We’ve heard that a certain film and media prof thought Safron Foer’s speech was “shallow technophobia” so clearly not everyone was as pumped about it as we were. Comment with your thoughts, agree with us, bring us down to earth, let us know your favorite quote from either speech.

(UPDATED) Commencement Moved Inside to Nelson Arena–People Are Pissed

We are guessing they are trying to avoid something like this.

We are guessing they are trying to avoid something like this.

UPDATE: It was announced at the Senior Class Photo earlier this afternoon that commencement would be limited seating because of capacity constraints. We now know from President Liebowitz’s all-school email (click below for the full email) that it will be in Nelson (not Kenyon as we previously reported) and limited to three ticked per person. It will also be simulcasted in Mead Chapel, McCullough Social Space, Dana Auditorium, and McCardell Bicentennial Hall. He cites safety as the main reason:

“…the weather forecast for Sunday morning is calling for 42-45 degrees, winds from the northwest at 20 mph, a wind chill of 39 degrees, and an 80% chance of rain.  In addition, the quad will be saturated following three days of significant rain and therefore dangerous for the 5,000 anticipated participants and guests. The size and scope of this event required us to make this decision this morning with the best information available.  Our primary concern is the safety of all our guests.”

People are pissed. Facebook Newsfeeds have blown up with variations of “WTF, MIDDLEBURY” and “this is UNJUST!!! #gradoutdoors” and pleas for everyone to send emails to Ron and Dean Collado begging them to keep graduation outside. A “We the Middkids” petition already has almost 300 votes, prompting Charlie to make this impassioned video:

It’s not surprising that people are angry and emotional about this, but we doubt any of the backlash from the graduates will amount to much. The institution can’t really budge when it comes to safety, and with 5,000 expected guests in attendance, the lawn would become a dangerous mud pit real quick. College kids can dance in the rain, but not the same can be said for grandmas in wheelchairs and uncles with walkers. Safety is the admin’s primary concern, but money is certainly of concern as well — it would cost thousands of dollars to replace the lawn after a muddy grad stampede. That said…we will let you if we hear more updates. Continue reading

Why Jonathan Safran Foer is Going to Give an Awesome Commencement Address

Jonathan Safran Foer will give the commencement address for the Class of 2013

Jonathan Safran Foer will give the commencement address for the class of 2013

If you haven’t heard yet, the Campus released who will give the commencement address for the Class of 2013 earlier this afternoon: author Jonathan Safran Foer, probably best known for his book Everything is Illuminated. This a really exciting choice for a number of reasons:

First of all, his books are really good so he’s probably really cool.

Second, the class of 2013 read Everything is Illuminated  for their first year orientation and there is nothing like coming full circle to make an experience significant–returning home on the hero’s journey if you will.

The third, and most exciting, reason is writers always make for WAY more interesting speeches then politicians, entrepreneurs and the like (only maybe actors come close). And Midd hasn’t had an interesting commencement address in a LONG time.

To prove our point and to get you excited for commencement, we made a list of our favorite commencement addresses by writers. They do everything they should do: inspire, entertain, challenge, and move:

1. David Foster Wallace “This is Water” (duh)–Kenyon College, 2005

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