Op-Ed | Welcome to Tufts, Class of 2017
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 1, 2013 16:09
Greetings, Class of 2017, and welcome to Tufts! My name is Joe Thibodeau and I will be serving as your student body president this year. On behalf of all the undergraduate students here at Tufts, I want to extend my warmest congratulations to each and every one of you — we are so happy and excited to welcome you to the Hill. Amidst all the pomp of Matriculation day and the ensuing craziness of orientation week (be prepared — I’m warning you now), I encourage you to step back and try to appreciate this moment for all it’s worth. At last, all of those zany essay questions and YouTube videos, miserable early morning SATs and many endless months of nervous waiting are finally over! Your years of hard work, determination and perseverance have finally paid off, and now that distant dream of life as a college student has actually become a reality. (It’s official now, I promise.) Today, you each stand in a uniquely special position — one that, in all honesty, I often wish I could return to and experience once more. As you finish hanging up your posters and unpacking that massive suitcase (or at least try to), you begin a remarkably short four-year journey of growth, frustration, joy, invention, confusion, angst, adventure, friendship, love and immense opportunity. So, as you prepare to spend this week registering for classes, getting to know your roommate and exploring virtually every nook and cranny of this beautiful campus, I ask, “How will you leave your own special mark on this incredible community?”
If you were to ask 200 seniors to name their absolute favorite thing about Tufts, I’m almost certain you would receive 200 different answers — some funny, some intellectual and some inspiring — yet each tailored to that person’s unique lived experience on this campus. The truth is, though we embrace a sense of Jumbo pride as a community, we are all very different people who view the world in distinctly different ways. We hail from all corners of the globe and bring to this hilltop a multitude of languages, histories and cultural heritages. Each of our lives is separately marked by lived experiences of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, ability, age, citizenship status and religion, and the intertwining and intersecting of each of our identities has and will continue to present complexities of privilege and oppression in our everyday lives. We pursue varied interests and passions, from the pre-med varsity swimmer, to the actor majoring in chemistry, to the professed “history nerd” who dabbles in Quidditch on the weekends. Although we are incredibly diverse in thought, identity and experience, we together take a leap of faith and enter into this great social experiment of creating a community on this small campus in Medford, Mass. As we spend the years eating together, laughing together and sharing rooms together, we begin to realize that despite the complexities of our world and the lives that we live, we are all scared, anxious and hopeful young people yearning to discover our destined paths in life.
As you launch into your years here at Tufts, you stand upon the shoulders of thousands of former students long since graduated, whose insatiable intellectual curiosities and passions for justice and equity have shaped this place into the community you see today. Just the same, your presence and actions here will pave the way for countless other generations of Jumbos to come. As you begin to settle into freshman year, challenge yourself to become vulnerable, step outside of your comfort zone and try something crazy, exciting and new. Take a class or join a club that forces you to tap into a skill set or knowledge base you never knew you possessed — how about water polo, radio DJing or juggling, for starters? Learn about the complicated history of Tufts, from our early days as the land of a slave plantation (you can still visit the slave quarters on nearby George Street in Medford) to a modern-day community of heated activism and debate, from anti-apartheid rallies in the 1990s to ongoing protests for students’ rights to nondiscrimination protections on campus. Engage your peers, listen to their stories and continuously question your own pre-conceived notions and beliefs. Challenge your own sense of self, and don’t necessarily expect to end up as the same person you’re starting as today.
Class of 2017, your entire Tufts career lies untouched before you, waiting for you to dive in headfirst. At the end of the day, there is no way of knowing what you will do, whom you will meet and where you will go over the next four years. Perhaps you shall discover some groundbreaking scientific discovery or write an award-winning thesis. Maybe you will lead one of our sports teams to victory, meet your future spouse or visit Europe for the first time. Still, your biggest impact on this community may manifest itself in the smallest yet most important of ways — reluctantly attending every one of your friends’ a cappella concerts (but secretly loving each minute of them), comforting a classmate struggling with homesickness or encouraging your roommate the night before a big exam. This is your opportunity to shine, live your life as you want and seek the truth (the whole truth and nothing but the truth) about the world around you. This is now your home, as it has been mine for the past three years, and as such, it is now your opportunity and responsibility to shape it and change it for the better. Congratulations, once again. Welcome home. Go get ‘em!
Joe Thibodeau is a senior majoring in international relations and American studies. He is the Tufts Community Union (TCU) President and can be reached at Joseph.Thibodeau@tufts.edu.