Speech: Valedictorian Jeremy Adelman '13

The Ten Life Lessons I Learned at Hamilton College

Duration: 5 min. 28 sec

Class of 2013, what a four years it has been! We have had to work hard (or at least had to lie about working hard when our parents called), but we have persevered; most of us still even have fully functioning livers. And we have learned quite a bit about life in the process. When I started writing this speech, I wanted to list for you all the life lessons I learned at Hamilton College. But then I realized that, just like the third verse of Carissima, this would only be wasting your time. So instead, I’ll just give you the top ten, starting with…

Number 10: When I entered college, I thought the worst artist in the western world was Andy Warhol. Then I took the pro-seminar in art history, and boy did that change my perspective; now I know there are a whole bunch of artists a hell of a lot worse than Andy Warhol.

Number 9: If someone is talking loudly on their cell phone in the library, there are many polite and tactful ways to get them to shut their festering gob. Throwing a wallet at them… that’s not one of them.

Number 8: Despite their names, Hamilton’s equations from classical mechanics and the Hamiltonians from both graph theory and quantum physics are not actually named after Hamilton College. That being said, someone in the math department really needs to carve the quaternions into the bridge on Martin’s Way. And speaking of mathematics…

Number 7: Thinking about Évariste Galois, the precocious child-genius who revolutionized mathematics before dying in a duel over an “infamous coquette” at age twenty, can make anyone feel like a miserable, stupid failure in comparison. But that’s the wrong way of looking at it; everyone alive today should feel smart for the fact that they didn’t fight a duel over an infamous coquette. And if they did, at least they won.

Speaking of infamous coquettes… Actually, I’ve learned that it’s never a good idea to speak about infamous coquettes. And that’s life lesson Number 6.

Number 5: According to the cosmological principle, you –every single one of you - are the center of the universe. Makes you feel kind of big, like some sort of celebrity, doesn’t it?

Which brings me to lesson Number 4; someone from the Hamilton Class of 2013 needs to get famous. And I’m talking really, really famous, like Kim Kardashian famous, not Elihu Root famous. Seriously, Ezra Pound is Hamilton’s most famous alumnus, and that’s kind of an embarrassment; even the Linz Realshule has Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Speaking of Ludwig Wittgenstein (now that’s a phrase that needs to come up a lot more in everyday conversation), the most important quotation I came across during my college career, the words that conclude my physics thesis on quantum gravity, and the Number 3 life lesson I learned from Hamilton College is his immortal quip: If you don’t what the hell you are talking about, shut up.

Number 2: Don’t double at IMPs. (It’s a bridge joke. Ask your grandmother).

And finally… Number 1: Because all of you in the graduating class of 2013 are standing today on top of College Hill, you all have lots of potential.