Convocation 2009

Student Trustee Regina Triplett '10
September 2, 2009

I would like to add my welcome to the Hobart and William Smith faculty and staff, President Gearan, Thomas Tighe, members of the Geneva community, all returning students, and the Classes of 2013. It is an honor to speak with you today, particularly to engage this topic of global citizenship.

Through the Salisbury International Internship Award, I spent this summer living and working in the other Geneva - Switzerland, that is. Originally, my French was just a little rusty. Speaking in broken half-sentences for the first week, I was able to communicate, but it was not pretty.

I'm still not sure how I did it, but somehow, even in a jetlagged daze, within the first eight hours of my arrival I managed to speak enough French to invite myself on a daytrip to France with my housemates. The group included Ryan, who spoke only English and shared my interest in basically all sweets. Naturally, we ended up in a candy store. While the two of us were browsing, I watched a saleswoman ask Ryan if he would like a free sample. He responded by scowling and walking to the opposite side of the shop. Within minutes, he found me in the cookie aisle and expressed an interest in trying the same exact kind of candy he had just been offered.

"Why didn't you take the sample the woman just offered you?" I wanted to know.

"She was offering samples?" he asked. "I just heard a whole bunch of French. I thought she was yelling at me for touching something on the shelves, so I went to the other part of the store."

To me, this story speaks of the skepticism and distrust that can arise so quickly and unconsciously in novel situations. We are often so afraid of the unknown that we do not take the time to question and explore it. We just turn away like Ryan did. And in doing so, we may fail to realize that we're being offered something sweet.

In order to be competitive in today's workforce, professionals in other countries become fluent in written and spoken English. This makes international travel and business a breeze for Anglophones like me. The prevalence of the English language and American corporations make it easy to create slogans such as, "Welcome to America ... now speak English!" And yet, when I arrived in Milan with an Italian vocabulary consisting only of buongiorno, spaghetti, gelato and cappuccino, I was greeted - in English - by staff at the train station, restaurants and museums. This experience and others like it have made me recognize the value of creating a society that is more of a mosaic and less of a melting pot. In a mosaic, each individual is surrounded by the others to create a stunning image that is much greater than any fragment within.

This idea of distinct individuals coming together for a larger but common goal represents the essence of global citizenship. It reminds us that our actions are not isolated.

The theme, Worlds of Experience, is highly appropriate for the William Smith and Hobart Classes of 2013. We are all trying to find a place in the world, and the Classes of 2013 are trying to find their place on this campus. Think about it: with unique terms like Koshare and CCESL, it is almost as if we speak our own language. Our campus offers an expansive area to discover, from Houghton House to 380 South Main. We even have our own cuisine with favorites like Saga's Mac and Cheese and Gwen's omelets. In order to become an active member of the Hobart and William Smith community, the Geneva community, the American community, and the global community, a paradoxical combination of humility and self-assurance is required. We need enough humility to see that this is much bigger than any one of us but also enough confidence in our abilities to create positive change.

I would like to share with you a quotation by Marianne Williamson. She wrote, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? ... Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine ... And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

So whether you are a student, a professor, a staff member, a member of the Geneva community, or the president of a nonprofit global humanitarian organization, you are powerful beyond measure and your light can and does shine across the globe. With that said, I would like to wish you a successful academic year. Thank you and good luck, everyone!