Matilda Rose Cantwell, M.S.W. ’96
College Chaplain, Director of Religious and Spiritual Life
Good afternoon and welcome to Ivy Day.
OK, friends, to state the obvious, here’s what I’m thinking. All year, we have had to do everything outside. Not that we don’t love outside, right? But we’ve had to picnic on rooftops, and we have had to sit around fires, and we have had to have our classes outside in the wind. And now here we all are in a room together.
Before we begin, I invite us to take a moment of quiet, acknowledging and cherishing all those we have loved and lost this past year, from COVID or otherwise. May their memories be a blessing. May the broken hearts among us let in the light of the world. We ask in this moment for an end to violence, dispossession and xenophobia. In a time when breath has not been, and for some has never been, guaranteed, and has been extinguished by the forces of hate or inequality, I invite us all to breathe deeply in the name of liberation and truth.
I will now offer Smith College’s Land Acknowledgment.
We acknowledge that this campus is built within the ancestral homelands of the Nonotuck peoples. We 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 and all around us.
Today we welcome you watching from all over the world, we welcome all alums—you are no less present with us than you would be if you were here among us. In fact, today is a special Ivy Day. Maybe it’s the best Ivy Day ever, actually. For today more than ever we praise that which was once a tiny lone shoot will extend its tendrils into a new world. You seniors will grow between the cracks of the justice system, the health system, the capitalist system, the climate-eroding system; you will break the bricks and smash the mortar. We praise you alumnae from wherever you are watching us for how Smith nourishes you from the inside and you nourish us. The quad and the gates, Seeyle and new Neilson, will wait for and welcome you home, when you return in body or spirit.
Praise Paradise Pond that was dredged and refilled this spring and is now high on its banks and teeming with promise. Praise all that lived and grew, pandemic or not, and praise the river, remembering how it will always buoy up our spirits as we imagine walking along its banks.
Praise the Zoom hosts, alternate or primary, praise the webcast managers—even the Netflix bingers and the TikTok obsessors; praise all ways of coping.
Praise rest and the spirit that claims it. (You all can clap whenever you want, by the way.)
Praise the faculty, in remote labs and virtual classrooms, from the study of women and gender to sociology. Praise you who learned new technology, taught across time zones, reached across screens to say: I see you, I hear you, you are not remote to me, we are not virtual to each other, and praise the friendships that sustain and inspire us. Praise justice, and praise joy, Asian joy, Black joy, Indigenous joy—all kinds of joy.
Praise not only one way of defining excellence but many ways of embracing struggle.
Praise the life of Smith College—the housekeepers, the groundskeepers, the chefs, the deans, the directors, the res-lifers, the volunteers here today, Office of Student Engagement, and praise Information Technologies and Media Services and Events Management. Praise the miracle workers—all those of you who watered the soil of this place in the most arid of times, praise you for doing the impossible; now we know that we can.
Praise each of you here today. Praise you, seniors. You have made precious and unique contributions to Smith, perhaps as much as any class in the history of this college. Praise the ivy, and may this moment help you grow your roots wild and wonderful, healing the ground of this broken but beautiful world.
Let us begin.