[Welcoming remarks given as emcee of Goddard College’s MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program Commencement, 28 July 2013.]
Good afternoon. Thank you for gathering with us.
Commencement is a time of beginnings, not of endings. It is not a time of leaving, but a time of re-entering the world.
Yes, we are gathered in this house to celebrate the accomplishments of these brilliant people; but we must not dwell too long with what they have done.
We must not try to convince them that what they have accomplished while here was extraordinary or exceptional.
Instead, we must encourage them to embrace what is now possible. We must convince them that the extraordinary and the exceptional must be their everyday.
We can take this moment to note the powers of discernment and thoughtfulness they have cultivated in the pursuit of this degree, but this ritual must also nurture boldness and action. We might think of this ritual as a consecration of alacrity, of brisk and cheerful readiness.
We live in a time of distraction and diversion; a time when we are told to hold back, to wait, to stop. We are told we do not know enough to act and that our actions are meaningless. It is impressed upon us that we must slow down, sit down and settle down.
All of which is a put down.
We must learn to shake off this persistent put down. We must remember that we are not three-years old, and that the insistent voices that says slow down are not interested in our safety, but are forces for containing our power, for limiting what is possible. This is the gravity of inertia, this is the social practice of bringing human possibility to a halt.
Yet… the weight of this containment and complication, this obfuscation and delay might still be dispersed by alacrity, by bold and cheerful readiness, by brisk and thoughtful action.
Today’s commencement, this ritual’s invitation to alacrity, to reenter our world with aspiration and the energy to make change, is not simply for these graduates. By gathering today, by joining the ritual, all of us assembled are called to consider what is next, what we can do, how we can act with joyful and thoughtful readiness.
My name is Peter Hocking, I am a member of this program’s faculty. It is an honor to have been invited to stand with these graduates today, and to welcome all who are gathered. For those who have traveled some distance to join us, who have only heard of this place through the stories of loved ones, my colleagues and I thank you. Thank you for joining us on this occasion, but even more thank you for sharing these people you love with our community.