Valedictory Address: Emily Bouzan '23

On my first night living as a student at the College of the Holy Cross, the Worcester skyline winked at me, teeming with dots of light that indicated signs of life. I had time to study this view in detail because I was locked out of my residence building, Clark Hall. After a call to PubSafe, I finally entered the building, turned the corner, and found two smiling strangers in my path: Abe Lundy and Jamil Davis. They greeted me and embraced me like I was already their friend. They didn’t know I had been locked out, and to this day maybe they don’t remember our conversation that night nearly four years ago; they were simply being kind to their new hallmate. Abe and Jamil transformed a trivial, mildly irritating event into a noteworthy one.

Class of 2023, today we left campus for the last time as students. How we spend our time from here will differ - whether we pursue a sociology Ph.D., work as a consultant at a financial firm, teach French to middle schoolers, or take the time to consider our options. Despite the myriad pathways ahead, all of our lives will likely present us with the task of confronting ordinary, commonplace events: the mundane. Don’t get me wrong, great highs and terrible lows will punctuate our everyday routines. Most of our time, however, will consist of moments that are not horrible but not particularly exciting either. We all dread the iPhone alarm sound every morning. At our jobs or schools, we will glance absentmindedly at the clock, counting the hours until we go home. We will make our commutes to and from these places, thinking about what we might throw together for dinner.

If there is one thing that our Holy Cross education taught us, it is that experiencing mild frustrations is a privilege. For members of our Worcester and even Holy Cross community who wake up each day and make impossible decisions brought about by poverty or grieve their mental well-being in the face of daily microaggressions, boredom is a luxury. Still, having that knowledge won’t always change how we feel in our day-to-day lives. We still fear getting lost in the mundane. We wonder if we will be able to make our lives meaningful. How do we find happiness in a world of routines? How do we reconcile daily grievances and painful tragedies with the ordinary? I cannot stand here and tell you I have an answer. But what I can do is recount moments over the course of our time at Holy Cross when you’ve inspired me. Moments whenyou derived meaning from the ordinary.

I’ve witnessed some of you sit next to the beds of local seniors to listen to their stories about their loved ones that have passed on. You once packed an entire theatre to support your soccer teammate in a play. I’ve seen you sprint from Easy St. to Kimball to make your Wednesday 7:30 am dishwashing shift on time. You’ve sat at a Hogan lobby table for hours to sell t-shirts to carry on the legacy of your teammate, Grace Mason Rhett. I’ve eaten the cookies you baked for members of your hall, just because. You engage in academic seminars about hunger, racism, misogyny, and other social justice issues, not because a class requires them, but because you genuinely care about them. You founded a student organization to uplift and empower women of color on campus. You’ve decorated signs for protest marches in Boston and stood in solidarity with victims of hate crimes and gun violence. You’re the first one in the science building to start something in your chemistry or biology labs and you’re the last one to leave at night after a tutoring session. I’ve been woken up Saturday mornings to the beat of the drums of your Good Time Marching Band, rallying students for a day of football and music.

These things and the countless others I haven’t seen or heard about represent moments when you connected with someone else. You may see them as unremarkable, just another part of your routine. But in the realm of the mundane, we find opportunities to listen to and understand one another. When we show up with our intelligence, empathy, and attention we can transcend the ordinary, share a burden of crisis, or even make a complete stranger feel right at home.