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The voices of the class of 2011

Published: April 29, 2011
Section: Editorials


Commencement is approaching, and in preparation, seniors voted this week for the senior commencement speech they would most want to hear on their last day at Brandeis.

Taken together, the 10 speeches are more than options for the senior class to choose. They are a representation of where the class of 2011 has been, where they’re going and most importantly how a Brandeis education has forever changed the class 2011.

The speeches are a strong reminder of the changing times. Stephen Robinson and Julie Judson urge their classmates to keep in touch via the Internet, whether on Facebook or Twitter. Robinson goes further, stating that Brandeis has changed: “As we exit Gosman today, Brandeis enters a new era. President Fred Lawrence has taken over for President Jehuda Reinharz. The new Mandel Center is in full function and looking beautiful.”

Each speech has its own theme. Julian Olidort speaks of the values instilled in graduates by a liberal arts education. Andrew Litwin asks, “Why are we here … What are we celebrating?” and uses his speech to answer the question. Andrew Mandel likens Brandeis to a home.

Allison Simon laments, “Now, as we sit here on our graduation day, we can no longer hide in our favorite study spaces.” Nevertheless, to her, college was a time for finding strength. “Even though it may be incredibly daunting, my hope for each and every graduate is that you use this newfound strength to challenge yourself.”

“Go for it,” says Stephen Rango. “Brandeisians are not called to blend in, to conform, to keep quiet. … Just go for it. Like seriously. No really. Go for it. We not only owe that to ourselves, but we owe it to the rest of the world.”

The speeches also remind graduates about what makes Brandeis wonderfully different from other schools. Daniel Acheampong urges appreciation of the present, remembering key moments of his Brandeis experience: “We begin to appreciate the long conversations about the economics and the physics exam we had in Usdan, the all-nighters in Shapiro Campus Center writing 25-page papers as we devoured Einstein bagels, the familial Shabbat dinners at Sherman Function Hall, the Battle of the Brandeis DJs with President Lawrence as the MC and the multiple attempts to talk to the girl or guy you wanted to approach since freshman year.”

Ilana Spector remembers the places that make Brandeis different: “I know where I am going … whether it is to the top of Rabb, Usdan or Sherman, and where I have been—Massell, the Castle, the Village, the Mods … Shapiro.”

The speeches get to the heart of student culture at Brandeis, as when Stephen Rango notes, “I’ve learned that with enough Shapiros, anything is possible. And I’ve learned that the Jewish people just can’t celebrate enough, especially in September and October. And a whole week in April. Still waiting on someone to tell me what Shemini Atzeret is.”

Some choose to tell familiar stories. Abigail Katznelson describes the all too common experience of losing her computer’s hard drive and her choice to recover just three things: iTunes, a family photo and her graduation speech. “Yes,” she writes. “For the first time in my life, I am traveling light.”

If The Hoot were able to give its own graduation speech, the premise would be simple: Listen to the accomplished class of 2011. You will be surprised to find that no two graduates have the same thing to say. Like President Lawrence’s coined phrase, “They didn’t go to college, they went to Brandeis,” and it has changed them all, the way it will change all of us.