I actually started tearing up when the president took the stage. All the days of self-doubt and struggle slid off my shoulders like shower-water, and my only thought was of how proud I was of myself and my peers.
Barnard has hit a few roadblocks on the way to being recognized as the fantastic liberal arts school that it is, constantly overshadowed by its big brother Columbia. When the comment sections of Bwog and Spectrum bubbled over with jealousy and even hatred at Obama choosing US instead of THEM to speak, many of us at Barnard felt betrayed by the community we thought we belonged to.
But something amazing happened. We became the big kids on campus, as Columbia College students admitted that maybe they didn’t have it all together like they thought.
I’m not going to attempt to claim that Barnard students are the brightest, best, boldest, or most deserving of Obama’s presence at our graduation. I couldn’t care less as to who is be considered “number one.” But what I do know is that I am so grateful — grateful that I got to share four years with thoughtful, intelligent, brave, hilarious friends at Columbia, as well as with bright, tenacious, accomplished, brilliant, and side-splittingly hysterical women of Barnard College. So much of who I am today has been influenced by these people and this school, and I can only hope that I’ll grow and be as challenged in the next four years as I have been since 2008.
Even though I never want to elbow others out of the way to reach the front of the line, I also have no intention of neglecting the president’s advice to us. He said, “Fight for a seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table.” I don’t think our education entitles us to a seat at the table at all, and in fact, I hope that those graduates who would abuse their authority don’t even enter the dining hall. But it’s my hope that the many 2012 graduates marked by their kindness, humility, strength, and resilience will be the ones giving the commencement speeches in the years to come. It would be pretty sweet to be invited to that dinner party.