Remarks to the Class of 2022
by Senior Class Speaker Emma Gould '22
May 22, 2022
Class of 2022, esteemed faculty, dedicated staff, loving parents and families, friends, it is a great honor to be here before you today and to welcome you to Connecticut College’s 104th Commencement!
This day means something different to all of us. Recently, I spoke to a friend in the graduating class who told me she was not sure if she would attend Commencement. When I asked why, she told me that she expected today to be too sad–—that she would be overwhelmed by how this ceremony would force her to acknowledge our departure from this beautiful community that we have had the privilege of being part of for the past four years. As I see her sitting here today, I want to offer you the same words I offered her. I encouraged her to look at this day as a beginning rather than an ending. As an English major and a writer, I often examine the language we use to describe our experiences. So class of 2022, I want to remind you that the word Commencement itself denotes a beginning——a beginning, act or fact of coming into existence. Beginnings are forward-looking, and are, of themselves, a direction.
“What direction do you think you’ll be taking, honey?”
My father is on the phone, wishing me a happy twenty-first birthday. I answer with silence while he contemplates aloud the advantages of training programs over graduate school. My father thinks the question is his and wants an answer for his asking. These days I no longer ask these questions aloud, but hear them in my sleep and in my waking, and answer them second by second.
I think about what it will be like to leave this place. Who will I be in the “real world?” What will my friends be doing? When will I return to the places that I leave behind? Then I remember that we’ve done it before. When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I drove to Conn to collect my belongings and didn’t set foot on campus for a year. There was none of the teary-eyed sentimentality and weeks of ceremonious goodbyes that had accompanied freshman year move-out. I thought we would all be back on campus by April or May at the latest, with the pandemic fading in the rear view, just as the last streaks of snow were melting off of Tempel Green. We would stretch out on the bright grass and sink back into the feeling of normalcy. But that didn’t happen. Scattered like stars, we waited to find out when we would return to college. Spread out across the world, many of my peers dealt with the challenge of logging on to remote classes whose meeting times were based on eastern standard time. Rubbing sleep from my eyes in my morning zoom class, I would see the sky darken behind a classmate who was at home in Berlin, Germany.
Early on we all had questions. Will we ever go back to school? Will we ever have another Floralia? Will we ever have a ‘normal’ semester? Will we ever all be together again? Over time, these looming questions began to be filled in by something other than answers. Replaced instead by our ability to adapt, this culture of creativity and care that swells from our community began to offer us guidance. Rather than compressing my world to fit the frame of a computer screen, this distance offered perspective and the significance of our ties to this community grew. The faithfulness to exploration and connection that this College fosters gave us direction to navigate through this challenge.
One November morning, I stared at my classmates' faces lined up and stacked on top of each other, each one in a little box on my glowing computer screen. I remembered chilly walks to Harris in the winter months, when I would look up and see the glowing rows of windows illuminated against the dark blue dusk. Eventually, the time came when I would once again see dorm rooms lit up against the dark evening.
We came back together this past fall, all of us in one place again. Things had changed.
Now, we were the oldest on campus, but my friends and I joked that re-adjusting to being back on campus sometimes felt like we were starting freshman year over again. As I got my bearings, I noticed that our time spent apart hadn’t made us strangers. Back on campus, among all of the new students, the familiar faces of the Class of 2022 stood out like old friends. We were the only remaining class that had known a “normal year.” We were linked by our shared history, set apart by our knowledge of how things had once been. As “turn of the century babies,” our resting state has never been “normal.” A certain kinetic motion has enveloped us as we’ve grown. Over these past four years, Connecticut College served as a lens through which our kaleidoscope of experiences can filter through and reflect back to us. We keep each other charted on a course that our parents can’t see. My direction is calculated in relation to my friends and peers, and theirs, in relation to mine.
Once I read a famous poem that I remember saying, the heart is like a compass that; it swings in all directions and always returns to true north. It’s like so many phrases, passages, old remembered lines, that I’ve scribbled down on stationary, gum-wrappers and open notebooks. Like a small town that finally makes the maps and can then be located in distance and direction from other towns and roads, our relationships to each other and to this place gives us true north. Our connectedness gives us roads, fences and windows to which our own ideas and experiences bear some relation. After we leave this place, the needles on our compasses will swing back here and we’ll see how far we’ve gone.
To answer my father’s question: in dance class sixty bare feet point towards the mirror at once. Twenty-nine left legs sweep forward on the floor. I stand in fourth position, two feet going in opposite directions, my gaze in a third direction, straight ahead. I didn’t tell my father that it's when I am going three directions at once that I know exactly where I am.
Congratulations, Class of 2022, we have so many good things ahead of us.
After delivering her speech and pausing for applause, Emma says:
And now, please welcome Dean of the Faculty Jeffrey Cole.
Emma Gould ’22 has been selected as the student speaker for this year’s Commencement ceremony.
Gould, who hails from Williamsburg, Massachusetts, is completing her major in English and is a member of the Creativity Integrative Pathway. As an artist and writer at Connecticut College, she has enjoyed working with analog photography, playwriting and creating digital art. At the All-College Symposium in November, Gould presented on the ways in which these artistic mediums interact with temporal planes and the physical world.
During her four years at Conn, Gould received several honors and awards: the Academy of American Poets Prize in 2021, the Benjamin T. Marshall Prize for Excellence in Poetry in 2020 and 2022, and The Abrahms '75 Prize for Fiction Writing in 2022. While studying remotely during the spring of 2021, she independently pursued studies in Madrid, Spain. Most recently, she participated in the People of Color Alliance fashion show, Beauty in Culture, culminating in a show on campus in April 2022. After graduation, she plans to live abroad and continue her work as an artist.