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Student Commencement Address 2009

Aliza Leventhal ’09

Aliza Leventhal, president of the Class of 2009, delivered the student speech at Smith College’s 131st commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 17.

Upon arriving at Smith we were told that no mistake had been made in our acceptance. We were chosen, given our induction rose, and invited into an elite group with the expectation of carrying on the legacy of strong, powerful, influential, intelligent and fabulous Smithies.

Our time here has been spent being challenged, embraced, contested and supported by our housemates, classmates, peers, professors, advisers, administrators and our families. We have lived in the moment while always keeping in mind the next step of our Smith careers, which today involves joining the powerful network created and maintained by our alumnae.

By accepting our admission to Smith, we all took on a responsibility to develop our identities as Smithies. I became a Jordanite, a varsity athlete, then an intramural athlete, and found my place within our student government association. Like all of you, I changed with each additional year, month, day and hour of my Smith experience, and we have all evolved intellectually, emotionally, socially, and upon graduating today we will be asked to continue to change and gain confidence in who we are and what we stand for. Smith has challenged us to stand strong and speak out about all that is important to us, often going outside our comfort zone; and in becoming alumnae, Smith is asking even more from us. Yesterday we passed through the ivy that connects all alumnae to Smith and each other; sharing that experience, we too are asked to take on the responsibility of those before us to lead the way for those coming after us. We have been charged with the expectation of carrying on the legacy, established by the Class of 1879, of being innovative, intelligent, indomitable spirited Smith graduates.

Smith, like us, has developed over time – starting with 16 professors in 1875 we now sport a teaching faculty of 285. Our professors have often been our experience, asking the most of us, being our biggest advocates, posing the hardest questions, and sacrificing for us in so many ways including writing those last-minute letters of recommendation. Smith’s progress was not an overnight phenomenon and in large part this was only possible due to the love and devotion and support the alumnae who provided everything over the years. Not only financially but through innovative ideas and provision of various resources, our alumnae have been here for Smith since its inception. It is now our obligation to continue this legacy as well. Smith, like the rest of the world, is in a time of need – and just as we go out into the world in our various occupations to begin to make our mark – it is imperative we do not forget who helped us along the way. We cannot turn our back on Smith once we leave, we must stand by its side, continuing to provide resources and support and connections.

Our relationship with Smith has been symbiotic. It has educated us in uncountable ways, while we have also educated Smith on what our and future generations are interested in and what Smith must do to best serve the needs and desires of its constituency. Both sides have worked hard; sometimes in the form of all-nighters, papers, readings, but also in the form of office hours and wise words and guidance both solicited and not. We have done our best to protect the Smith we know and love, while it has done its best to enable us to take chances, make mistakes but not repeat them, get messy, but all the while succeeding. Smith has asked us to challenge the norms and create our own definition of success, which is why – with our options in place of rules – we are able to always find a way to become heady, nervy and, most of all, intellectually stimulating.

Congratulations Class of 2009! After four years of undergrad we are ready to leave campus but will have this education and community no matter where we go.