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WILLIAM SMITH STUDENT SPEAKER

Allison Toepp '07
May 13, 2007

President Gearan, members of the Board, distinguished guests, faculty, staff, families and members of the Hobart and William Smith classes of 2007:

It’s always been about the people, the conversation and the challenges. Individuals have the power to transform one another. The people I have met have transformed my life in a way that has magically shaped my future into one that I confidently anticipate as an opportunity to be best that I can be. The past four years have become, to me, a series of instances, conversations and interactions, all of which have led to relationships of which I am only beginning to understand the significance of.

When reflecting on my time here, I recall Tracy Spates, an individual who taught me the power of love and conversation. I was lucky enough to travel to Vietnam with Tracy, and it was on this trip that I became aware of the importance of every moment and every interaction. Tracy’s presence inspired such comfort, that people paused to connect and engage in conversation.

I remember, with such clarity, a rainy day in Vietnam. It was not that long after we arrived in the country, so everything was still new and overwhelming. A small group of us stopped for tea, and as I sat down, I found myself feeling tired and, for the first time, homesick. I sat amidst my friends at a small wooden table, trying my best to comfort myself, when suddenly I felt a warm hand on my shoulder. Tracy had noticed me from across the room, and with such compassion in her eyes, all she had to do was smile. It was with an attentive and genuine nature that Tracy induced conversation everywhere, this conversation would then lead to thought and appreciation for ones surroundings, and when engaging on such a level, people become unified.

As I traveled with the Colleges to Vietnam, it became clear that living in this wonderfully intimate community that is Hobart and William Smith has provided me with a real passion for people and discourse. As students, this conversation continued on the streets of Hanoi, New York City, Toronto, Washington DC and Geneva, and I know that it will continue for all of us, everywhere, and I love knowing that it all started here with such great strength.

I feel that, by coming to the Colleges, I was given the time to be self reflective and to truly understand the importance of conversation, whether it be about text, art or social interactions. This community has become a place where cherished moments converge. I feel that everyday I am influenced by a conversation, a speech, a lecture or just a simple glance or exchange. As it all comes to an end, every decision, every instant becomes complete and suddenly college seems to become…a greater conversation.

To the classes of 2007, we will always have these moments.