by Ramzi Kaiss

…As we will come to find out, everyday for the rest of our lives, and not just today, will be that real celebration of the lessons we’ve learned, the relationships we’ve built, and the love that we’ve had and shared on this beautiful New London hilltop. You see our experiences cannot be objectified and contained within a piece of paper, they are bigger than that. For they shall pervade the way we got about our lives forever, and I mean it.

Look around you for a moment. Take it all in: Look at the beautiful campus you are surrounded by, but more importantly look the beautiful people you are amongst, Inside and outside these buildings that are surrounding us, and through the people we are surrounded by, we have discovered the meaning of our time at this institution and of our role in the world beyond its walls.

Here we discovered that as we face the world tomorrow, what is more worthy than merely finding a job is finding a good cause to live and work tirelessly for. Through the people we are surrounded by, we discovered that what is more essential than merely making money is making this world a better place for all of its inhabitants, regardless of their sex, race, gender, ethnicity, orientation or religion.

Because yes, there is no doubt that you will become successful. There is no doubt that you can become future peacemakers and noble CEO’s, instrumental social activists and leaders of NGO’s; future dancers and award winning musicians, inspiring academics and pious politicians; future radical educators and mind-blowing performers, and yes, oh yes, righteous revolutionaries and renowned reformers.

Nevertheless, as this place has taught us, life is not so much about how far we go, but what about we do with that distance. It is about how we utilize our positions of power to empower the people around us.

And not only did we learn these lessons with one another, but through and because of one another- whether in the classroom or at a ridge party, during office hours or campus-wide discussions, or even right here on Temple Green, as part of the many late-night conversations that I’m sure most of us have had. Because in the end, it is in the people that we have become and in the future work that we will accomplish as a result of this becoming, that the true celebration of our time at Connecticut College will be actualized. And that will take place day after day after day.

We must admit that with a Connecticut College education we are more than ready to take on some of the most important challenges that the human population faces today. At a time in our world where poisonous hatred has already ripped apart communities and destroyed lives, our education and our experiences are the much-needed antidote that can heal and rebuild.

As French philosopher Albert Camus puts it, “there is no sun without shadows, and it is essential to know the night.” Now, more than ever, not only do we know why systems of inequality continue to exist, but we know how to dismantle them in order to create a more equitable society.

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Ramzi Kaiss ’17 was the 2017 Commencement Senior Class Speaker at Connecticut College in New London. Ramzi, from Beirut, Lebanon, was a philosophy and international relations double major and Mellon Fellow. He served as President of the Student Government Association, as well as co-president of the Amnesty International club. In 2016, he received a research grant from Connecticut College and spent his summer conducting research for the Boston-based global nonprofit, Facing History And Ourselves. In February 2017, he traveled to Bogotá, Colombia for the 16th World Summit for Nobel Peace Laureates.

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