Below are excerpts from the remarks I gave at the New Student Convocation for the College of Arts & Sciences: (note: I will publish the results of the convocation straw poll on Monday!)
Welcome to the new students of Trinity in the College of Arts & Sciences, including the Blue Class of 2021 and many transfer students into upperclass years. You are a remarkably diverse class. You are 48% African American and 38% Latina. You hail from ten states most immediately — DC, MD, VA, NC, GA, NY, FL, SC, NJ, CA — with birthplaces in many different countries including Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Jamaica, Israel, St. Lucia, Brazil, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Bolivia, Venezuela, Myanmar/Burma. You are Dreamer Scholars and Conway Scholars and DC-CAP and DC-TAG and DC-Achiever Scholars, and many other scholarship recipients.
You speak many languages including English, Spanish, Amharic, French, Burmese, Swahili, Yoruba, Igbo, Portugese, Patois.
You plan to major in Nursing, Business, Biology, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Education and many other disciplines.
You are called, most frequently, Maria, Karla, Jasmine and Ana.
The top high schools in this class include Columbia Heights/Bell, Center City Public Charter School, Don Bosco Cristo Rey, Paul Public Charter School, EL Haynes, Montgomery Blair, Roosevelt, Kipp, Suitland, Dunbar, Cardozo and Northwestern
Today you will receive your Trinity medals and sign the Honor Book as symbols of your acceptance into the Trinity community and your affirmation of agreement to live by our values.
The Honor Agreement is our way of life at Trinity, and it’s been our tradition since the founding. We expect you to live lives of honor and integrity, and to help each other to do so. This sets Trinity apart from many other schools and many places of business today.
You are starting your academic lives at Trinity in a time fraught with national concern over racial hatred and symbols of egregious racism, over the treatment of immigrants and extreme bias against persons for other reasons — Muslims, gay or transgender individuals, persons whose beliefs, language, culture customs, skin color or political beliefs seem different from those who claim center stage. The mission and values of Trinity, as embodied in our Honor System, reject any and all acts and words of hatred against other individuals; we welcome, honor and respect everyone here at Trinity and we expect you to treat every other person you encounter here with the respect and dignity they deserve.
In the same way, the Honor Code also rejects lies and upholds truth. Unfortunately, too many people in the headlines these days do not seem to have any respect for the truth. They are not your role models. And there is no room at Trinity for “fake news” or “alternative facts.” We expect far more of you here at Trinity, and telling the truth, doing your academic work with honesty and integrity is fundamental to everything we do. Live by the Honor Code and you will do well.
As part of this ceremony you will also receive the Trinity Medal, a symbol of your entrance into the Trinity community and commitment to the values of the Honor System.
The Trinity Medal has, on its front, the image of Our Lady – Notre Dame – the patron of the Sisters of Notre Dame who founded Trinity in 1897. In those days, women did not have the opportunity to go to college in Washington, D.C. The Sisters of Notre Dame saw that was wrong, a grave injustice, so they worked hard to establish Trinity. Your Trinity Medals are symbols — symbols of the power of women to change the world. Wear them well, wear them with pride, never do anything to disgrace them, show the world why you have the distinction as a woman of power to wear this medal starting today and every day henceforth!
Let me share a little more about you. I have read your applications to Trinity, including the essays you wrote in those applications. I have taken some anonymous quotes from your essays as evidence of the strength and resilience and power of this class. I can’t quote all of you today, and so more will be on my blog in the week ahead.
You are remarkable, tenacious, ambitious, phenomenal women. You have experienced a lot in your lives already. Your essays are full of hope, sorrow, love, anger, fortitude. You have triumphed over illness, the deaths of loved ones, homelessness, poverty, perilous journeys across borders that were both physical and psychological. You have demonstrated the grit, resilience, inventiveness and vision to succeed. You are now Trinity Women!
You have had to overcome many stereotypes. This student writes:
“Growing up in a male dominated society it’s hard to believe that my status in this country wasn’t the biggest challenge I was facing growing up. …Even though I was raised by so many strong women, I was also living a stereotype where women were to take care of the house and the kids …Understanding clearly this conventional yet biased image as a young woman — and I’m sure many other Latina women — I found a voice within myself that had space to express my own opinions and beliefs …I would fight those odds and build a strong mindset that will turn factors like being a women and an immigrant something I can be proud of instead of scared or ashamed.”
This student made a similar discovery when her family wound up living in a homeless shelter:
“I hope to one day become a psychologist and help people who were once in my situation. I want people to know, your race nor your sexuality doesn’t describe who you are as a person. SAT scores, or you GPA doesn’t show your true potential. You are somebody and you will be somebody when you leave.”
Some of you have traveled on long journeys from other countries:
“The many linguistic and cultural barriers that I have faced have taught me to be fearless and not to accept the larger structural erasure of marginalized groups in society. As an immigrant in this country, I have a voice. I refused to be invisible.”
Like a number of you, this student is a Dreamer:
“I never quite understood how much being undocumented would affect me, until I entered high school. Most of my high school years were a blur as I tried to grapple the reality of what was to come after I graduate. …I cherish the opportunity to further my education because, in the end, no one can take that away from you. I am built to succeed, and the only thing that is holding me back now is myself because legal or not anything is possible with hard work and perseverance.”
And this Dreamer has some strong words about those who would reject her:
“We are referred as “aliens” as if were some type of monstrous creatures. What most people don’t comprehend is that we are all the same, we all breathe the same air, we all long for a better life and a better future. What’s wrong with us realizing ours? Pursuing your dreams shouldn’t be a crime nor the be denied…”
Many of you point to your mothers in citing the biggest influence in your lives. This student writes:
“My mom is strong, independent, caring, and ambitious. She has shown me that no matter what obstacles life brings that I can get through them and keep pushing to get what I want in life.”
And this student writes of her mother:
“My mother graduated from Trinity Washington University, magna cum laude. She studied Business Administration, which is my major as well. It always resonates deeply with me, how my mother balanced raising her children, being a full-time federal employee and running a business, with school. I watched my mother take down courses like Managerial Accounting and Understanding Global Institutions. …it crossed my mind that I was becoming just like my mother. … I could only hope to attend the university that molded the skillset that my mother illustrates so beautifully today.”
Some of you are mothers, yourselves, and you have great ambition for your children:
“I will be the first person in my family to go to college and begin a career in medicine. …It is significant for me to achieve my goals to change the trajectory for my offspring. While this may seem like something so distant, it is my reality as I am learning to raise my 2 month old son. Research shows that educated individuals tend to be healthier including their physical, financial, emotional, and mental beings. I desire to teach my son how to eat healthy, so he can outlive me. He will be afforded the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities to propel him into being a well-rounded man. I will save once I start my career so I send him to college without strain in the event he is not awarded scholarships. I will provide him with the adequate resources for him to learn how to express himself without offending or harming other people. In essence, I want to give my son an opportunity to live differently than my experiences.”
You have heroes. This student reveres a member of the Supreme Court:
“[Supreme Court Justice] Sonia Sotomayor is a massive inspiration to me because she is proof that the background you have grown up in does not determine your future. …Justice Sotomayor inspires me because the issues she faced I face too, and I used to let that be an excuse for my failures and lack of motivation. However, after reading Justice Sotomayor’s book My Beloved World where she talks about what she has experienced how being raised shaped her into her person she is today. I realized …that if I really want to succeed in my goals I have to try hard in my academics, know what I want and how I’m going to achieve it, [and] also to not make excuses when I fail.”
This student aims for Nursing:
“Growing up as a child with Sickle Cell Anemia really made my childhood rough. Not being able to do things such as playing in the snow with my friends in the winter or going swimming in the summer because of potentially having a crisis put a limit on my childhood. …Being in the hospital frequently for long periods of time is where I grew my love for nursing.”
This student has her own business already, loves writing and wants to study Journalism:
“For my age I think that I have a really good head on my shoulders and I already know what I want out of life. My grades and school work are important to me and failing in life is not an option. I know that it takes dedication, prayer, hard work, and patience to get where you want to be in life and I am completely driven to make that happen. While my mother did attend college, she did not finish and my father never attended. It is very important to me to break the chain and not just go to college, but to graduate from college. To be able to experience not just doing college work, but meeting and interacting with new people and just getting a feel of what college life is like would mean everything to me.”
This student aspires to be a Math teacher:
“My goal is to someday give back to the kids that struggles with math, to influence their motives and values to be better at math. In addition to being motivated, I am also innovative, diligent, and have great mentorship skills, which are all qualities that would help me be a good leader and teacher.”
This student wants to be a veterinarian:
“I have always loved animals growing up …I have discovered that I want to become a Veterinarian. I discovered that Trinity has an outstanding biology program which can lead me into a successful path into veterinary school. In high school I worked in the animal awareness club where we helped hundreds of animals get adopted each year. It was a beneficial experience which helped me realize what my occupation truly should be.”
You realize you have to be open to learning new things. This student writes about going on a camping trip and spending a lot of time hating it at first, mostly because of all the bugs, and then making a big discovery about herself and openness to new experiences:
“One night I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. I just sat up and looked up out the tent crowded with four other girls. I saw the open sky for the first time. It was beautiful. I was not used to seeing this by living in the city. It was as if at that moment everything changed. I began to view the trip differently. … I developed a new love for nature. …I never knew I would love nature because of my love for fashion, make-up, and modeling. I learned I can do both. There’s nothing wrong with a girl who can be a fashionista and get her hands dirty.”
That story seemed to confirm the wisdom of Andre Gide, quoted by another student: “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore…” Isn’t this what we’re now asking you to do as you start your college lives at Trinity? Come with us on the journey!
As you embark on this journey, you will do so with the love and support and guidance of so many of us you will meet along the way — your sister students, faculty and staff, alumnae and alumni and many friends of Trinity, many of whom are making large financial contributions to support your scholarships because they believe in you and want you to succeed. You will succeed if you pay attention to our directions, uphold the Honor Code, live up to the expectations of Trinity’s mission and values.
And always know that you are here thanks to some very brave women who made Trinity a reality 120 years ago, our Founders among the Sisters of Notre Dame, courageous and faithful religious sisters who founded Trinity for every student across those 12 decades — they founded Trinity for YOU, and they are surely smiling with immense pride on you today.
May the power, wisdom and love of the Trinity be with you throughout your Trinity journey.
(Trinity Women make great things possible for the rising generations! Thanks to Sr. Ann Kendrick, SND, Class of 1966 (green shirt) two students from Apopka, Florida are now in the Class of 2021 — Hannia and Joseline! (on the left) — and special thanks to CAS Director of Admissions Iris Escarraman ’10 ’16 who made it all work!)
Check back with this blog on Monday for results of the convocation straw poll!!
Follow me on Twitter @TrinityPrez