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Message to the Class of 2007
Message to the Class of 2007May 15, 2007SU News ServicesSUnews@syr.eduAlso available:
Webcast of commencement ceremony available at http://commencement.syr.edu
Maria V. DeFazio, a dual major in English and graphic arts in The College of Arts and Sciences and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, delivered the annual address representing the 2007 University Scholars at Syracuse University’s 153rd Commencement on Sunday, May 13. DeFazio is a recipient of the Rossman scholarship for students majoring in the humanities and the Margaret Y. Cragg Prize in English, and a Newhouse Scholar. The text of her address follows.
May 13, 2007
(Speaking in a deep voice:) “Each winter, alone in the pitiless ice deserts, deep in the most inhospitable terrain on Earth, a truly remarkable journey takes place as it has done for millennia. Thousands abandon the security of their home and clamber onto the frozen ice to begin their long journey into a region so bleak, so extreme, it supports no other wildlife.”
(Speaking in her normal voice:) Though this might sound like a typical day of class at Syracuse, it is actually taken from an official plot summary for “March of the Penguins.” Since the release of this award-winning documentary in 2005, a gaggle of other avian films has emerged. In light of this recent trend, we might in fact be closer to these flightless, well-suited creatures than one would think. For starters, just look at us — dressed in dark robes, huddling close together, marching as one in our gigantic igloo, the Dome.
Just as the emperor penguins leave their oceanic refuge to trek into an alien habitat, we, too, have had to leave the comfort of our home nests in making the initial voyage to Syracuse. Forced to adapt to an unfamiliar environment, a sea of unknowns awaited us. Yet think of the friends, mentors and professors with whom we’ve forged close bonds since our arrival — at one time, they were all strange birds. As we encounter new faces in the future, our flocks will continue to expand.
Regarding the weather, we’ve waddled through some rough forecasts. It wasn’t unusual to return from winter break exposed to a steady month’s worth of heavy downfalls, piercing winds and sub-zero temperatures. More recently, this semester we were the lucky ones — the first students in more than a decade to have classes canceled on account of snow. (Students cheer.) True, we may not have enjoyed the year-round sunshine of our southern friends — such as those in Florida, California or even tropical New Jersey — but the harsh conditions have tested our endurance and strengthened our determination. Moreover, we are that much more appreciative of those glorious, rare heat waves when the temperature cracks 40. (Crowd laughs.)
But it wasn’t all rigid, frozen sidewalks. During our time here, we met high-profile speakers and shook our tail feathers at concerts and parties. Some of us flapped our wings abroad, or perhaps we stayed on the home turf and participated in campus clubs, intramurals and organizations. Furthermore, whenever we were exposed to new situations or overcame obstacles, it gave us all the more reason to celebrate our accomplishments.
Besides the often-inhospitable climate, we’ve had to confront other challenges on our mission. Exams, papers, deadlines, all-nighters: dangerous predators all around. At times, the stress of our world made the ice feel thin beneath us. Doubt crept in, and we feared for our survival. Yet, sustained by the love and support of family and friends, we stand proud today, ready to leave the nest yet again. The emperor penguins see the fruits of their labor in the birth and growth of their chicks — the continuation of their species. For us, it is the degrees we earn — the foundation of our future.
However, graduation is only the tip of our iceberg. At one time, Syracuse seemed like foreign terrain, but now we must head out into broader horizons and dive into larger oceans. So, today, I wish all the emperors of 2007 the best of luck on our new voyages — and don’t ever let anyone say you can’t fly.