Thank you President Wippman, and thank you again Mr. President for letting us walk around your house during the senior barbeque dinners a few weeks ago. I have the wonderful opportunity to congratulate the class of 2019 from the comfort of my very own podium. Now, for those of you who don’t know me, you may recognize me as one of the two brave souls who wore a beautiful pink prom dress to the Deutsche Bank networking event about a month and a half ago. And as you can probably guess from the specificity of that image, yes, this speech is about that. 

However, my decision to share with you my prom dress adventures did not come to mind at first. Instead, when I sat down to write this speech, I found myself stuck. Even with a liberal arts degree, with which I can legally do anything, my critical thinking and writing skills shied away as I desperately searched for ideas as life-changing as the new automatic card swipers in the dining halls or the advent of the Roomba.

But then I realized: I was making an assumption that I couldn’t be that person. 

The prom dress comes soon, trust me, but let’s lean in for a moment. 

I spent the past summer, along with my friend Erica, at the Second City in Chicago completing a program recommended to us by a few recent Hamilton alums. The words of Liz Joynt Sanburg, our amazing professor, have surely helped me to find my way up here in front of all my peers and their weird relatives – you know who you are. Two questions: 1)What assumptions are you making? And 2) Do those assumptions serve you?

Consider this event. Among many things, we probably all assumed that we couldn’t sneak snacks into the building under our graduation robes for this marathon of a ceremony. We adhere to assumptions that keep us from deviating from the normal, and strapping a pretzel to your body is pretty irregular by most accounts, but if you are hungry right now, craving the sweet release of a Euphoria pretzel, then the notion that you couldn’t sneak one into this event has failed you beyond my words could hope to comprehend.

Returning to this speech, we can agree then that, the assumption I had previously been sitting with, that is, “Surely, I’m not someone with something of worth to say,” did not serve me. In fact, it was hindering me, begging me to be small and quiet. For many of us, assumptions like these are a regular occurrence. 

Which brings me to the prom dress. 

If any of you know me, you know that I admire the career center, so this story comes from a place of love. About a month and a half ago while preparing for our upcoming sketch show, Erica and I noticed a group of students gathering in KJ, where an investment banking firm had representatives there to network, connect, give advice, you name it. Everyone looked professional and prepared as they discussed resumes, inflation, pie graphs, the gold standard, and whatever else one talks about at an investment banking event. 

But also, everyone looked stiff. A little nervous. Hyper-serious. There were suits, pant suits, cufflinks, button downs…ties. Likewise, students in the atrium next to the event looked excruciatingly serious, glued to their laptops or reading three books at the same time. 

Myself included, we were all adhering to an assumption that we must be serious, and we must be extra no-nonsense when in the presence of the Deutche Bank. 

Among many things, we all assume that in KJ, during an investment banking networking event, one does not wear a prom dress.

The second question, does this assumption serve me, was curious. Bear in mind, this is my senior spring, I only have so much time left with my friends at this school and I was assuming I had to spend it quietly typing away at my thesis. I relish in the fun, the laughter, the infectious quality of benevolent chaos, yet I was letting that assumption hold me back from not only doing something that would make me happy, but hopefully something that would bring a necessary levity to a serious air in the building. So, the question became, why can’t we have some fun and make some people laugh?

We ran to Babbit, grabbed our prom dresses we had purchased for our show, ran back to KJ, and benevolently joined in the career center festivities. Just for a few minutes. Against all expectation, the world didn’t end when two people in lavish prom dresses approached one of the tables and stood by, waiting for someone to offer us a job. We weren’t offered any position at the Deutche Bank, but, people laughed, people smiled awkwardly, unaware how to appropriately respond, and maybe, I hope, the serious tension holding us all hostage was a little less taught by the time I asked my friend to unzip me in the bathroom stall.

So, this leaves us with three questions in total: 1) What assumptions are you making? 2) Do those assumptions serve you? And finally, 3) If they don’t, what is stopping you from breaking them? 

I want to remind you all, that as a class we have collectively shattered assumptions that have boxed us in. The assumption that Tarana Burke, the founder of the Me-Too movement, was too big of a name to ever bring to campus did not serve us, and the Voices of Color Lecture Series team broke that assumption through their incredible work and dedication. The assumption that Hamilton didn’t want or need an all-women band was an assumption that never served this community, and I’m grateful to the talented members of Yonic Youth who shattered that assumption. 

The most exciting moments and the most meaningful changes have come when we broke notions that boxed us in. When we have the courage to disrupt assumptions that don’t serve us, we find ourselves eating pretzels at graduation ceremonies or in the company of transformative and inspirational role models, or dancing with our friends to live music at Babbit Pavillion. 

And I know for some of us, breaking assumptions that box us in is a question of personal safety. But I hope that we, as a class of intelligent, caring, and creative individuals can continue to collaborate together in order to break the boxes that make us and those around us feel invisible. 

I’m proud of what this class has disrupted and I’m excited to see what you all shake up next, be it in your career, a movement, or even just a prom dress with your friend. Thank you and good luck class of 2019.  

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