Monday, May 21, 2012


This past weekend was a whirlwind of old friends, sunny weather, and heartfelt traditions. It was Smith's 134th Commencement. 

This weekend I got to see one of my former housemates, walk in the Ivy Day parade, witness my 4th Illuminations Night, and see all my Tyler House babies cross the stage to get their well-deserved diplomas and throw their caps in the air.

This year's graduation speaker was the one and only Jane Lynch, and while I have feelings that she could have been more inclusive (I'll get to that), it was an inspiring speech and perfect for the occasion.

My biggest qualm with Ms. Lynch's speech was that she pointed out her own insecurities and how uncomfortable she was in her own body, and then proceeded to only refer to the graduates as "ladies".

If you wikipedia Smith College, you will see it is the largest women's college in the country and one of the Seven Sisters. If you read a little further you might also see that it graduates women and men from their Master's program, at the same Commencement. If you google Smith College you will see that there were many articles about recent Transphobic comments and issues on campus and off that students were faced with. No one summed up my feelings better than my friend on his FB page (not sure if the link will work).

A simple tweaking of the speech is all it needed to make it appropriate for all graduates of the college. In fact Ms. Lynch could have just said "graduates" in place of "ladies" or even added "and non-ladies" afterwards. Smith College is a special place, and it's original mission was to provide a safe place for women to better their education, when it wasn't readily available in the country. I'd like to think that Smith's mission over the year has adapted to include other people typically shunned from other institutions of higher education or who did not feel safe, or able to learn in mainstream (i.e. co-ed) spaces. Smith has a long way to go before it is truly a safe place for all students, whether straight, gay, transgender, gender queer, and anything and everything in between.

At the end of the day, it was a beautiful ceremony and Ms. Lynch taught us all a good lesson on what to do when faced with a challenge in the improv comedy tradition. And also if "Life hands you lemons- your grab that bull by the horns and drive"

Marching in Ivy Day

Ivy Day signs

Prepped for Illuminations

Tyler House flag

I'm going to end this with some of my favorite pieces of Jane Lynch's speech:

You are obviously good planners, or you wouldn’t be here. Stop it! Stop it now! Don’t deprive yourself of the exciting journey your life can be when you relinquish the need to have goals and a blueprint. 

Accept the world for what it is, and at the same time, make it your own. I especially want you to make it your own. You are a particular variety of person, Ms. Smithie. You have spent the last four years in an environment that has encouraged you to be not just yourself, but your best self, your strongest self. 

Her speech can be found in its entirety here.

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