Congratulations, seniors, on reaching this important milestone. It was just yesterday that you were pulling up to campus as new students, with the faintest ideas about what the years ahead might hold, and with plenty of questions. What would you study? Where in the world was everything? Who were all these friendly strangers? You might have harbored even bigger questions about, say, what you might do with your lives once you got your bearings.
On top of everything, your studies were interrupted by the pandemic, making this an especially challenging time to be a college student. In the few short years that have passed, you have answered many of your early questions. But you leave here with many more, possibly larger ones.. And if you now wished that you could have just a little more time here to search for the answers, you would not be alone; generations of Yale College students, at this moment in their lives, have wished the same thing. But the time has come to say goodbye.
Looking at it another way, though, it is the time to say hello. We call this point of your education commencement because it is the beginning of new efforts, of stepping onto the open road.
And if amid this weekend’s festivities and celebrations, you are feeling an undercurrent of sadness, loss, and nostalgia, know that this is natural. You have made friends here, many for life. You have learned more than you ever dreamed you would, and not just in your classes. You have formed an attachment to this place.
But as you take your first steps, remember that none of this stays behind; you take it all with you. Your friendships, your knowledge, your sense of community – all this comes with you when you leave. This is a moment of great celebration, not only because of everything you have accomplished, but because you are beginning something new. And you are ready for it.
Pericles Lewis is the Dean of Yale College.