Hassan Raza '11, president of the Thelmomathesian Society
Remarks at Matriculation, August 23, 2009
President Fox, Senior Staff, Members of my Senior Exec Board Student Delegate to the Board of Trustees Simon Lynch and Vice President Brian Brownell, Members of the Faculty and the Student Body, and more importantly the great class of 2013. Welcome Home!
My name is Hassan and I have the honor of serving as Student Body President or the President of the Thelomathesian Society, our student government association here at St. Lawrence.
Dean Cowdrey, I’ve always wondered if your office compiles a list of you know the “good stuff,” the craptastic litany of things like: “20 of you failed at least one exam in your high school career.” But we don’t because we shouldn’t and because your matriculation here at St. Lawrence marks a new journey, and just by looking at you I can tell how terrific this journey is going to be.
It was the fall of 2003 and I was 14 when I first moved away from home to the US to attend Deerfield Academy in Mass. Shortly after my arrival at Deerfield, I found myself trying out for the squash team. I looked nervous as I was stepping into the court and my coach smiled at me and said, “break a leg, you’ll be fine.” “Break my leg?” I asked. “Why would you want me to break my leg?” He smiled and shared that it meant good luck. Surprised as I was, I entered the court and said to my opponent, “I hope both your legs get broken today.” For most of you, St. Lawrence will not be such a transition and while I hope that you will be patient with those from whom it will be such a transition, nevertheless, this will be a transition for you on many levels. My hope is to offer you some new insight regarding life here at St. Lawrence and to endorse the sense of purpose that has brought you here today.
“There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university,” wrote John Masefield in his tribute to English universities - and his words remain true for St. Lawrence. He did not refer to dorm rooms or towers on campus. He admired the beauty of a university, because it was as he said, “a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see.” Welcome to such a splendid place.
Having had a parent in the hospital for the later part of this summer, I was reminded of the fragility of life and hence the fragility of opportunity. Having spent my summer at the Chautauqua Institution, I had a chance to talk to Larry Summers; the Director of the White House’s National Economic Council for President Obama and his theory on life and it is simple. Mr. Summers said to me, “Hassan, nobody washes a rental car – it is simply against human nature.” Your experience here at St. Lawrence is not a 4-year rental service, it is completely yours – you own it. An experience that will require you to exert yourself in aspects of academic, social, and the athletic programs here – this will be an experience that will alter your life and hopefully for the best. This is an experience where you will find yourself continuously challenged by your professors and peers so that you may bring out the best in you. This is your chance to experience the direct impact of a generous alumni network, many of whom are very interested in your growth and eager to facilitate the opportunities. And this experience is your window to endless possibilities, but don’t forget that you might have to create them or at least attempt to strive for ones already in place for you. After today, the ball is on your court – how you conduct yourself socially and academically will define you. To comfort you, I will reinstate the value of those here to help you. You will not walk out of this place without being dramatically impacted by at least one faculty member, you will find yourself moved by at least one service or performance in the Chapel, and your Laurentian identity will be revealed to you at sporting events such as the hockey games.
Serving in my position, I have witnessed the direct impact of student input to the university. Only two years ago, a number of students voiced the need for a social space on campus – a concern that was directed to the administration and the Board of Trustees by my predecessors and today we have a new building that bears the name “Pub 56.” Such is the impact of student input. The crux of my message to you is this: Get Involved! Join a club that interests you, join thelmo, write for the hill news, play on a club or an intramural team, run for the first year council, take both of your FYP faculty out to lunch or dinner, and find like minded students and organize yourselves for action. My predecessor, friend, and mentor Jon Cardinal’08 who is here today, he and I share the same virtue if you will regarding St. Lawrence and it is this: St. Lawrence is a place that is big enough to get lost yet small enough to impact. There isn’t a better place you can hope or ask for at this point in life.
My hope for you is that you will remember some of this message in the weeks ahead and act on your interests. Jack Kennedy once said and I quote: “be an idealist without illusion. My hope for you is just that, and while I know that your ideals should and will vary from each other, I know that you will not be illusioned -This is your community, welcome, good luck, and Godspeed on this new journey! Thank You.