|June 17, 2007|
Student address from Karyn A. Amira '07
Student speaker Karyn A. Amira '07 delivers the student address at Commencement.
Today I’m going to share with you a piece of advice I learned at a young age.
Every day, before I sprinted out the door to catch the school bus, my father would say to me, “Have fun and learn a lot.” I heard this phrase each day from day care through high school. “Have fun; learn a lot.”
Sometimes, it’s the simplest advice that is the most important.
In the past four years, the class of 2007 has learned a great deal simply from living on this college campus. We’ve also had our share of fun on the side. Here are just a few examples of events from the past four years at Union that you all may remember.
Freshman year, first month of school. We all recall when Fox Hall caught on fire. Everyone ran out of their dorms to watch as one room in the back of Fox spilled smoke out the window and burned up, an accident apparently caused by Christmas lights. After this, we all had second thoughts about hanging them in our rooms. And, the thing is, we thought those fire safety warnings were just to annoy us! We were wrong. I hope we all learned something that day.
Freshman year, May. We certainly recall the day when it started raining on Springfest and Wyclef Jean’s act was cut short. He took it upon himself to jump off the stage, grab a random tricycle and peddle through the mass of Union students before jumping atop the stone wall to continue singing. We cheered him on and sang along despite the rain and threat of lightning. This was surely a memory that would be recalled many times over the next three years. I know we all had fun that day.
Sophomore year, fall term. The Red Sox won the World Series, a day many of us never thought we’d see. Regardless of who you were rooting for, you probably saw the mass exodus from the dorms as students gathered in front of Fox waiting for something insane to happen, like at the big universities. And, since we aren’t a large enough school to hold a victory riot, what we got instead was a Union College classic: A Naked Nott Run from about 15 guys in 30-degree weather, while others carried brooms to symbolize the “sweep.” I hope you all had fun that day.
And on the topic of mass exoduses, how about the infamous Mulberry’s exodus during the spring that year? We ALL learned something that day.
Fast forward to senior year, fall term. The class of 2007, along with the rest of the Union community, rallied outside the Nott Memorial to take a stance against hatred and bigotry. We made posters, signs and T-shirts and wore pins to demonstrate that intolerance has no place in our community. We listened to speeches, cheered for our classmates, and some of us cried. There IS ugliness in the world, but we as a campus have the ability to fight it. I REALLY hope we learned something on that day.
Senior year, winter term. Our class had the pleasure of experiencing one of the greatest snowstorms in years. Like elementary schoolers who watch the TV at 7 a.m. for a school cancellation, we waited by our computers to get that golden e-mail notifying us that our professor couldn’t make the dangerous drive. Many of us spent the day sledding on dining hall trays, skiing around campus and wandering through whiteout conditions as our cars disappeared beneath mounds of snow. I know we all had fun on that day.
Oh! And one more event that sticks out in my mind, slightly out of sequence.
Orientation week freshman year. Everyone is having the same conversation: What dorm are you in? Where are you from? So we get sent to an awkward “get to know you” session in the field house. When it was over, it was time for our class pictures in the Nott. But there were torrential downpours that day, and we had to sprint from Memorial Fieldhouse to the Nott. Once we got there, 600 students wearing completely see-through clothing were shoved into a 16-sided building next to each other. It is, needless to say, one of the worst group pictures ever taken. And, what did they do with that photo? They blew it up and hung it in West Dining Hall. Now, when we wait for omelets, we can all reminisce about how wet, weary and uncomfortable we were on that day. I’m not sure if we learned anything OR if we had fun, but it’s definitely a 2007 Union moment.
Those were memorable times. But it’s when you combine the elements of fun and learning that you truly take advantage of the college atmosphere. This is usually done through voluntary action, and our class has done just that. The class of 2007 has made several major contributions that combined fun and learning that cannot go unmentioned here today.
It was students from our class who raised $27,000 in just two weeks for cancer research for the incredible “Tie the Nott” project.
It was students from our class who started the Rolling for Autism non-profit to raise money for scholarships and autism research.
It was our class that kicked off the environmental campaign at Union with recycling advocacy, organic cafés every Friday and organic dinners in winter.
It was students from the class of 2007 who started the Dutch Oven, perhaps the funniest publication at any college or university.
We have a student in this class who composed a symphony.
We have students who won 2 swimming and diving state championships and students who went 10-0 in football.
We have students who played in the longest collegiate hockey game in history.
It was also the class of 2007 that started the Arts House and the Cooking House.
We have a student that did incredible stand-up comedy in Chet’s. We saved Chet’s.
We’ve done some amazing things in just four years here. We’ve made many positive contributions.
I called up my dad a few months ago and told him I was writing a speech about his favorite expression, to which he replied, “Oh, the old Yiddish saying: Am yemens tuchus ist goot tzu shmysen!?”
I said, “No dad, your other expression, the one you told me every day growing up.”
“Ohhhh” he said, “Have fun and learn a lot!” He continued, “Well, if I could amend that expression it would actually be, ‘Have fun, learn a lot, and while you’re at it, do something positive for society and for others. Because that’s really what’s important.”
Well, Class of 2007, that is what’s important. So, to use my own words, “Have fun. Learn a lot. Be excellent to one another. We’ll see you on alumni weekend. Happy Father’s Day and thanks mom and dad.”