Remarks to Phi Beta Kappa Inductees
Every year, just before commencement, we take the time to celebrate the achievements of the students who have been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the most distinguished of all of the academic honor societies. We do this because Phi Beta Kappa is the ultimate expression of the values that Trinity holds dear at the moment of commencement: high scholarly and academic achievement, devotion to excellence, unabashed exaltation of performance standards that make no excuses.
We need these kinds of reminders of the ultimate values of higher learning in an age that often diminishes the importance of high academic attainment. Popular culture is notoriously anti-intellectual, and too many children grow up thinking that there’s something un cool about getting good grades. This is particularly true for girls, who sometimes repress their academic potential in a misguided effort to be more attractive, or, at least, to avoid embarrassing the boys whose attention they desire. When boys and girls grow up with such mythologies, the repression of women’s potential for academic excellence becomes so ingrained that women’s lifelong achievements and earning capacity are seriously impaired.
Women’s colleges continue to exist because women still need these places that celebrate their achievements, that expect them to excel, that hold out the best role models of women who were absolutely delighted to get A’s and show them around, including to their male friends. Places like Trinity that educate women of high ambition who go off to run the Congress and take possession of governor’s mansions and win Pulitzer Prizes and preside over corporate empires and blaze pathways in urban and rural communities of great need.
Trinity College has long expected women to excel. Today and this weekend, as we send forth the 100th class ever to take Trinity degrees into the world, we are particularly proud of you, our newest members of Phi Beta Kappa, because the lamp of learning that you replenish today with your achievements shines brightly for all of us.
May your light never diminish, may your example always be as clear and as strong as it is this afternoon. May your academic achievement here at Trinity ensure your lifelong satisfaction and fulfillment in high intellectual pursuits. Thank you for setting an example that is thrilling for all to behold.