This is my final column for the News.
Three years ago, I started writing for these pages because I felt strongly that student voices were not being heard in Woodbridge Hall. I chose the column name, “Back to Blackmon,” partially because of my love for Amy Winehouse. But more importantly, I was drawn to the idea that only when we write through the lens of our own experience are we able to effectively teach other people something worth knowing.
It’s a Herculean task to sum up four years of Yale into a single column, but if I may be so bold to try, I’d like to use my parting shot here to reflect on what Yale means in the grand scheme of things. And for me, I think our time here comes down to a single idea: Yale is a place for dreams.
This is true, of course, in the traditional sense of the American dream. Yale is a place where I, a kid who grew up in a mobile home in the rural South, can be catapulted into a world of the intellectual, financial and social elite in the course of just a few short years. We are far from perfectly accessible, and we still have a long way to go in terms of fighting for racial justice and financial equity on campus. But four years later, there are still days when I shake my head in disbelief at how lucky I’ve been to have my life so fundamentally transformed by this educational adventure.
But on a more abstract level, the Yale experience — encased in a bubble that shields us from the outside world — is itself a place for dreams, granting us the ability to think creatively about how to build a better world without the burden of having to ground every bold new idea in the pragmatism that the real world demands.
That dreamlike trance in which we find ourselves may help explain the constant disconnect between students and administrators. The voices of those who make decisions for us are tired, cracked and worn — simultaneously strengthened and burdened by experience. But in students’ voices, you can almost hear a purity that seeks to inspire. To borrow a line from playwright George Bernard Shaw, those outside this dreamland we’ve built for ourselves see things and ask “Why?” But we dream things that never were and ask “Why not?”
I do not mean to belittle older generations of thinkers and doers. The truth is we probably need both kinds of voices to come to some kind of workable solution. But there is a raw power that feeds this place where we dream. Imagine. Imagine. Imagine. This is our creed — in the laboratories where we toil away to find cures that don’t yet exist, in our social lives where we confront romantic taboo and in the 3 a.m. conversations over wine about what kind of world we want our grandchildren to inherit.
Together, Yalies share an unflinching, collective commitment to refuse to let anyone outside our walls ever tell us that we cannot when we know we can. That’s why we march. That’s why we protest. That’s why we dream.
It’s of course true that Yale, just like our dreams, can sometimes take a turn for the worse. We’ve seen our fair share of heartbreak, mental instability, social injustice and class division. But every time we get knocked down, we get right back up and fight back with a collegiate optimism that convinces us we have the power to make things right.
No one can take those dreams away from us.
For better or for worse, this dreamland we call Yale is a place where we go for some small part of our lives to cast off the shackles of pragmatism and construct our own reality in its place.
Some distant buzzing in the back of our mind begs us to recognize that, eventually, we’ll need to wake up. We’ll need to take on the challenges of the real world tomorrow after we’ve rested up. We’ll need to leave academia and all its distorted wonder behind.
But for just a moment, this place allows us to dream.
The truth is we all need these dreams to survive what’s to come. And the world as a whole cannot keep turning without this continual churn of students who are too idealistic to be bothered by reality. It needs us to tear down stale institutions and replace them with fresh ideas about what life could be if we dared to dream bigger than those who came before us.
Because ultimately that’s what Yale is: a place where we think about life not as it is but as it could be. And those are the most powerful dreams of all.
Tyler Blackmon is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. His column runs on alternate Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .