Commencement 2006

OluwayemisiAbogan Oluwayemisi '06, William Smith senior speech

May 14, 2006

President Gearan, Members of the Board of Trustees,  faculty, staff, students, alumni and alumnae, friends, families, mothers because today is another Mother’s Day, and most importantly, classes of 2006.

“So what are your plans for next year, or is that a bad subject?” It seems that this question has replaced “so, how’s your senior thesis coming along?” as the most dreaded question for many seniors. There seems to be an expectation that we graduate from college knowing what we will be doing for the next several years. People have told me time and again that my college years will prove to have been the most amazing four years of my life and that nothing will ever compare. Understandably these college years are unique, and we will probably not experience the same type of wild and crazy living or academic situation. Despite this fact, I believe that life after Hobart and William Smith Colleges has much to offer us.

Like many of you, when I came here I was unsure.  Particularly as an international student at a very young age, I was unsure of what I wanted out of my college experience. Well here it is, four years later, and I am in a very similar position.  My junior year, I thought I had my life figured out, but as the days to graduation grew shorter I grew ever more confused. Who knew?  Now I am unsure, as many of you are, of what I want to do with the next two years, let alone with the rest of my life. However, the difference now is that we are all equipped to enter the “real” world with the experiences we have gained here at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. While many of us may have jobs lined up for the near future, or are enrolled in graduate programs, we are all in a period of transition. Having a plan set out for the next few years does not mean that we should stop experimenting and exploring our options, whether they are career options or personal life choices.

College was a time for us to break personal barriers and to question many ideas we held to be true—this to me was the valuable lesson I learned in college. I have met many exceptional men and women here—and it has been you, my classmates, who have helped me to learn many things about myself and others. My experiences with you have made me realize that I must always try to reason with others and to see different points of view in all aspects of life. By questioning ourselves, we work on making ourselves better and more complete people, something we need to continue after we leave these Colleges.

Just a month ago at the Famous Women’s Dinner, I heard President Gearan talk about William Smith women going out and changing the world. We are told that we, too, can change the world with our education and the leadership experience we have gained here. We need to remember, however, that the most effective change comes when we look into ourselves. This is part of being educated, a process in which we have all taken part while here. Our education at Hobart and William Smith Colleges is not composed merely of our academic work or leadership experiences but from every interaction we have had with our peers, faculty and administration. Our education comes not only from what we have learned in classes, but also from what we have learned from others and ourselves. Now, upon this entrance into the professional world, we need to continue questioning and learning about ourselves in relation to the people we encounter throughout our lives. In this way, we can carry forward the reminders of our experiences and what we have learned here at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

So back to that distressing question of what our plans are for next year—I guess my answer is to try and avoid falling into a boring routine of life. Definitely, we should continue to question the many ideas we hold true in order to improve the conditions around us. Most importantly, we must break the personal barriers that prevent us from exploring all the variables that the future has to offer. I hope you will all join me; do not work so hard without stepping away, at least metaphorically. Good luck in the future and keep it real, classes of ‘06!