To the Members of the Class of 2012,

Congratulations on beginning your freshman year! On behalf of all members of our esteemed, tight-knit community, I would like to extend a warm, grass-fed welcome to you and your parents during your first week as an Eli! This moment is undoubtedly proud for you and, as such, I’d like you to take a small step back and appreciate the amount of dedication and perseverance you have exhibited in order to not get in to Harvard! It was sufficient, but not great. We are all immensely satisfied with your presence here, but then again, we’re not Harvard, and our standards are a bit lower. They clearly were not impressed.

Nonetheless, the beginning of this year is a culmination of your hard work, and you should feel confident in the current trajectory of your life! You will soon realize that Yale will provide you with opportunities that know no bounds. Should your studies lead you to China, to bank in one of the world’s most lucrative bond markets, or to China, to partake in extraction of lucrative Chinese coal, Yale will offer you its unwavering support and a comprehensive listing of courses in the East Asian Studies Department that will prepare you for any career. Rest assured, as a member of the Yale community, we will make sure you are uncannily prepared to go wherever your life may take you in China.

For those anomalies not interested in China, we trust that will change. If it doesn’t, then still have faith that Yale will back you in all of your academic endeavors, and your professors, deans and peers will urge you to follow your irrationality to places other than China. Of course, as a mere formality, I should mention that your Yale career will not in any way lead you to Harvard. But then again, you probably knew that; you didn’t get 4’s on your AP exams for nothing!

Despite the colossal, grass-fed contentment you should rightly feel as you enter our fine college, though, you ought to know that the Yale experience is a peculiar beast, rife with nuances and subtle impediments with the potential to occasionally disrupt our patented New Haven joie de vivre. Not everything at our fine institution is smooth sailing, and you should be prepared for certain discomforts and the prospect at slight disenchantment. For example, if your freshman experience is anything like mine, you may be coping with the fact that your roommate from the greater Boston area is, in fact, a virgin.

If this is the case, please don’t worry! It turns out he’s kind of okay, especially if you need to borrow batteries or staples. To be fair, it’ll be weird that he listens to Dispatch so much, and you probably won’t like the way your cramped double smells after he takes a nap, but just be happy he doesn’t get very mad when you accidentally vomit on his bed!

But even beyond petty worries about your virgin roommate, you may also confront hostility from your peers when you engage them in conversations, be they academic, intellectual or school-related. Tensions can mount over disagreements, and bitter dichotomies may be exposed for the entire world to see. But there is a simple solution to this: Just remember that, in everything that you do at Yale, humanitarianism comes first.

For example, if your Yale experience is anything like mine, you may frequently find yourself in conversations about what you did over the summer. One person will say something like, “I spent two months deep into the jungles of Sierra Leone distributing emergency packets of Kibbles ‘n Bits, because I have a passion for combating canine anorexia in sub-Saharan Africa.”

“That’s so Obama,” another peer will say as he tapers his jeans and drinks an Odwalla, “but check out how Pelosi this is: I went to China and taught rural peasants how to use raw sewage to construct realistic props for use in the first-ever Chinese production of Tom Stoppard’s ‘Arcadia,’ which I directed. And Yale paid for it, too.”

“That’s so grass-fed,” the first peer will say as he drinks warm sake that he was carrying with him the whole time. “Hey, member of the class of 2012, what did you do?”

At this point, it is crucial to remember that empathy is the essence of the Yale experience. Yalies will always have your back, so long as you agree with them.

“Oh,” you’ll probably respond if your Yale experience is anything like mine, “I worked for an oil and gas company in Texas. And I bought a shotgun at the Houston High Caliber Gun Show. So yeah, pretty much the same thing as you guys.”

And it’s as simple as that: Exude humanitarianism to your altruistic peers, and be rewarded by uncomfortably long stares of amazement and envy. Do not hesitate to embrace your philanthropic side because, as a Yale student, you will have the sort of limitless, thought-provoking humanitarian experiences that only accompany immense wealth and ample free time. Of course, I should probably mention that “immense wealth” is very relative, particularly when we’re talking about Harvard’s endowment, but you probably already inferred that!

The point, beloved newbie, is that we actually want you to be comfortable as your year commences. Know that Yale has put you on an undeniably well-lit path to success, yuan-denominated or otherwise, and while the hardest part may not yet be over, no one ever accused Yale students of not welcoming challenges. You have earned your chance to partake in Yale’s illustrious, frequently absurd traditions and culture, and for all its shortcomings, you would be foolish not to make the most of the resources and curiosity that surround you.

Recently graduated friends frequently remind us seniors that, for better or for worse, nothing in the real world quite compares to college, and they’re right; you have the next four years to do whatever you want, regardless of its eccentricity, and Yale will, in fact, likely support it. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to partake in the gleeful self-deprecation that makes Yale beautiful, and do your damndest to enjoy these next four years.

Actually, lest you take yourself too seriously, make it five years. But not six, because they don’t allow that.

Harvard does, though.


A member of the class of 2009