In the fall of '99, each one of us packed our bags to come take part in this learning adventure. We arrived from communities from New York to California, and from Minnesota to Texas, and even farther, from England to Tanzania, Pakistan to Korea, and Mexico to Brazil. It seemed as if by simply standing at this one point on the globe we were seeing this world three-dimensionally - much more interesting than the vicarious Discovery Channel.
The uniqueness of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, as its name states, is recognized by the complement of two gender-specific institutions. This distinction is highly promoted by the colleges both in time, as in history and place, as in dormitory setting; yet, there is an established mingling of sexes in academics and student organizations. In order to enhance our learning experiences, Hobart and William Smith has put much effort into defining and confronting barriers that exist between the groups and individuals who join this community.
We gathered here, not knowing what to expect, and clueless of what would be expected of us. Although we were bombarded with endless headlines, unbreakable hopes, world tragedies, and real life drama, we were still protected by the HWS shield. While the world never stopped spinning, we moved from Coxe to Gulick, and from Scandling to Bristol. Our beliefs were challenged, skills tested, knowledge acquired, and strength toughened. We found our interests, our personalities, our forms of expression, and we found ourselves.
Now we have the skills, the legs to carry us; we have the knowledge, the mind to guide us; we have the diploma, the skin to clothe us; we have the confidence, the expertise to protect us. Each and every one of us is capable of being a crouching tiger, hidden dragon: don't be afraid, don't sell yourself short, don't shy away from the opportunities and obligations that are out there, and last but not least, don't be afraid to take this next step.
Whether you are going home, aiming for higher education, traveling the world, or joining the workforce, continue learning, by questioning what you see and picturing what you hear, because it is not possible to see the world in its entirety when you are standing at one single point on the globe, and hearing information through one language. It is time to put theory into practice, to show what we have learned over these four years, and to put our survival skills to use. It is time to take this next step down the road of our destiny, into a world different from what our parents told us about, and into an economy our professors warned us about.
There is no need to fear, because the uniqueness of this liberal arts institution has allowed us to learn that achievements come in many forms and shapes. We now know that through understanding our weaknesses, we are able to aim higher; and that achievement does not equate to leadership; and nor are achievement and leadership opposites, but rather they complement one another. Let's also not forget the friendships we have built, connections stronger than those provided by phone companies and more reliable than the Internet - connections hopefully that will stretch across lands, time, relationships, careers, positions, and situations. And because we are now aware of some of our own abilities, and know what roads are open to us, we can step out from behind this protective shield called HWS. Now with our bags packed, we stand here at this one point of the globe, once again looking at the three-dimensional world.
While admiring a ship on the sea, an emperor once said to his son: "You will one day take this nation in your hands, so remember, the great ship only travels far because of the sea that supports it." Upon finishing his sentence, the great emperor bowed to his son:
The Chinese gesture, the bow, symbolizes respect, acknowledgement, gratitude, and appreciation: to the professional staff, and many others who support this institution to provide a safe and comforting community, I bow to you; to the Hobart students who have dedicated their time and effort to improving this institution, I bow to you; to the William Smith students who have protested against the oppressions created by the powers of a greater community, I bow to you; and to those faculty members who have challenged our minds, and given us the confidence to take this next step, I bow to you. We could not have made it without you. To all the graduating Hobart and William Smith students who supported one another, to make this road easier to walk; to all of you who put effort into your academics, who did the best you could, and who will carry this diploma with pride; to all of you who have trusted in yourselves and will continue trusting your abilities to succeed and to input your best to live happy lives; to you who make up the sea that supports the great ship, I bow to you.
"One bow before the next step," Hsin-Wei Liu, Hobart senior speaker
May 11, 2003