It’s been a little over a month! So much has happened between Commencement and transitioning into the “real world” that it’s hard to remember every detail of the past couple of weeks. However, I’ll touch on some of the most memorable parts of my Commencement experience that made it so much more than anything I could have ever imagined. Here’s Part 1: Class Day.
As a member of the Senior Class Committee (SCC), I was able to help plan many amazing events for the Class of 2013. In particular, I was in charge of organizing Class Day, the annual gathering of the graduating senior class, as well as Harvard faculty, Housemasters, and the students’ family, friends, and loved ones. The ceremony is about two hours long, and features remarks from the Dean of the College, the Harvard Alumni Association President, graduating members of the Class of 2013 (4 selected student speakers, as well as student leaders on the SCC), and a special guest speaker. Myself and two other members of the SCC, Emily and Rebecca, worked together all year long to make sure this day was as special as possible.
The guest speaker whom we invited was Soledad O’Brien ’88. An incredibly accomplished journalist (she reports for CNN and HBO to name two) and philanthropist (she has a foundation with her husband that sends promising young women to college), we invited her because she pursued her passions of storytelling and followed an untraditional path after college. Today, she’s an incredible journalist, who has traveled the world telling stories of extraordinary people and circumstances. She sounds pretty awesome, right? Just wait until you hear the speech she delivered to our class.
Every year on the day of the event, the SCC is lucky enough to have a luncheon with the speaker. However, because these people are quite busy individuals, we were told that we shouldn’t necessarily expect to spend a lot of time with Soledad. And in past years, students have only been able to take one photograph with the celebrity. I can’t say that I was surprised when Soledad didn’t conform to these expectations. She arrived to the luncheon on time, and immediately started introducing herself to students. I thought this was weird because we obviously all knew who she was, yet she clearly didn’t think she was above shaking our hands and telling us her name just like any other person. Soledad was affable and down to earth. She was incredibly patient as she took individual photos with every single Committee member, which probably took a half hour–something that many people with an accomplishment list as long as hers probably wouldn’t stand for. She was quite the class act, and we all fell in love with her as soon as we met her. However, the most magical part of the afternoon happened when she took the stage. Soledad delivered a deeply personal and touching speech. I actually just watched it again last week, and despite the cliche message that one might expect from a Commencement address, her delivery was one of the most genuine things I have ever heard. See below. It truly made our Class Day one I will never forget, and she immediately became a role model whom I’m proud to be able to call our Class Day guest speaker. I know I’ll remember her speech forever.
Soledad’s speech (Keynote Address):
As Second Marshal (the equivalent of Vice President of my class–you see, Harvard has all of these official names, but it all means the same thing. Tuh-MAY-toe, tuh-MAH-to), I had the honor of closing our Class Day exercises. Speaking in front of an audience of 10,000 was incredible, especially looking out and seeing my family and friends in the sea of faces. It is definitely a moment I will cherish because I don’t think that’ll happen ever again.
My speech (Closing Remarks):
Keep an eye out for Part 2: Commencement. It’ll feature a special woman named…Oprah!