Matilda Rose Cantwell, M.S.W. ’96
College Chaplain, Director of Religious and Spiritual Life
Smith College acknowledges that its campus is built within the ancestral homelands of the Nonotuck peoples. We also recognize our present-day neighboring indigenous nations: The Nipmuc and the Wampanoag to the East, the Mohegan and Pequot to the South, the Mohican to the West and the Abenaki to the North. We acknowledge, too, the presence of Native people among us.
Welcome, staff and faculty, honored guests and the beloved class of 2020.
As we welcome you today—in your living rooms, at your dining room tables, across time zones, we long to see your faces and hear your voices, to be with you and your loved ones and those who, like us, celebrate you.
But today’s ceremony takes place in the midst of a pandemic. May our ceremony today be an honor to those who are sick, and their caregivers, to those whose lives have been cut short, even here in our community.
However, the word krisis—what this time has come to be called—in Greek signifies not only a time of distress and danger, but also a moment of urgent judgment and revelation. Beloved class of 2020: While we can’t gather in shared space, through the rituals to which you have looked forward for years, we are instead together in spirit. And there is a special spirit on this day in which you’re graduating that is stronger than any space that exists between us.
Or any distance that divides us.
So today is much more about what it is than what it isn’t.
It is a day of resilience, when our tenacious gathering reveals what we can do if we push beyond obstacles. It is a day of resistance, for as you mark your Commencement, you celebrate that the tools of change are in your hands.
It is a day of revelation, for this pandemic has laid bare social, racial and global inequalities, and each of you seniors is uniquely poised with eyes to see, ears to hear and minds to understand. It is a day of revolution, for we cannot afford to go back to normal. We can and must go forward to the creation of a new, more just world.
So, may the spirit of revolution blow through this imperfect format into your minds and hearts and connect us over the miles. Seniors, the strangest graduation ceremony in the history of the world may be the most important. Let us begin.