2016 Senior Class President Christine Lung’s Speech to Graduates
Four years ago, we awkwardly walked into the Athletic Complex for Freshman Convocation. We faced a sea of new classmates with new friends on our floor, friends whose names we had only just learned. We stood facing each other and screamed strange ResCollege chants we had just crammed into our heads earlier that morning. Looking back, it’s funny how WashU had us cramming before classes even started.
I remember trying to decipher which colored T-shirts belonged to which ResCollege, yelling “Lien with it, rock with it” with my floormates from Lien 2, confused as to why everyone was shouting so loudly. Despite not knowing why we were screaming exactly, we continued, because we were hoping to be a part of a community, and hoping to take ownership of a new home.
Since then, we have brought that same earnestness to create a community on this campus. The set of people I have met on this campus have been the kindest people I have ever met in my life, people who made me realize the people you are with will always be more important than where you are — whether it be in Whispers until 6 a.m. when the sun is rising; at WILD, semester after semester often so confused as to who the band actually is; walking together for Relay For Life and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research; or continuing our efforts for causes we care about at Dance Marathon; fundraising at cultural shows; and of course, while finding out that misery loves company after Thursday nights out.
This home we have created here has provided each of us an identity, given us the confidence to be successful while we were here, and provided us the support we needed when we were buckled down in B stacks, the Arc lab, working on problem sets or Excel spreadsheets, or just otherwise at our worst. Home is where WashU has been for the past four years.
But very soon, we are leaving and we are going to have to introduce ourselves as someone completely different than who we have been. For the past four years, we introduced ourselves to our classmates with what academic school we took classes in, what activities or clubs we were involved in, or what fraternity or sorority we affiliated ourselves with.
As we graduate, how will you introduce yourself? More importantly, I think, is: How would you want to be introduced? For the first time in our lives, we will be able to entirely choose our path in life. Instead of a straight path of elementary to middle to high school to college, we now see many paths that we could take in front of us. Think about how you want people to introduce you in five years. Is it a particular position, is it that you are intelligent or capable? Who do you want to be?
After four years of interacting with our class, I know that you are a group of exceptionally talented individuals that will no doubt become award-winning researchers and doctors, CEOs of large corporations, and leave a great impact on this world. But in all of this, I urge you to remember your roots. Your kind WashU roots, and put the kindness that you have brought to our home here at our WashU community foremost.
I remember walking on campus as a prospective student, needing desperately to print something for a meeting I had with a faculty member of the art school. I passed a student running on campus, she was taking laps around the Swamp and then heading toward the AC. I asked her if she could help me find a printer, and she stopped running, started walking with me, brought me to her dorm computer lab to print from her student account for me and let me take as much time as I needed, all the while asking me how my visit was going. This sort of kindness is what is unique about the community at WashU, and this sort of kindness is what I hope we will all continue to exude.
Life has its obstacles and challenges, it’s fragile. You might not get into the graduate school you desire, businesses fail, romances end, and medical school is grueling. But I hope that as a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, you will be introduced as a kind individual five years, 10 years after college. There is so much uncertainty in front of us, so many roads to take, but WashU has taught us to go forth and be bold, be kind, from that very first confusing moment we shouted with our freshman floors in the Athletics Complex.
It’s been an honor to serve as your president the past three years. Thank you, and congratulations, Class of 2016.