Amrita Sankar ’12 reflects on her own graduation, events seen, and how we can avail of our life experiences to change the world
My Dearest Graduating Seniors,
I’m not sure how this note finds you. How are you spending your days? Are you staying connected with loved ones? Do you sometimes take walks outside?
I’m writing this on Day 84 of quarantine from the deck on my parent’s house. I know some of the panic you might be feeling – pushed from the confines of school into the wider unknown– as I too was graduating this year, from business school. My virtual graduation was May 29th, punctuated with an e-receipt that my degree had been conferred. My career as an academic has ended and I am beginning my journey as… well, something more I suppose.
While my feelings about Dartmouth are a separate essay, I have such fond memories of my week leading up to graduation. I’m sorry for what you’ve been deprived of. A last rave at Panarchy, dancing at Sigma Delt close to dawn. So many photos with friends I still have framed, and a tearful goodbye with roommates in front of Baker-Berry. The Keystone caked on my sneakers would last for weeks, but my earnest to become was imperishable.
I think of what many of us have been through already. In sixth grade, a raspy voice over the intercom announced that the first of the Twin Towers had been struck –just sixty-five miles away from my hometown. Within a year we saw troops deployed to Afghanistan, and we hung bright colored ribbons along our Main Street. Some were for families who lost parents – others were for those local graduating seniors who would fight a distant war. When I graduated high school, we endured the underbelly of a recession that would gut American industry and demand structural economic revitalization. I decided to be a government major to change the system from the inside.
And on a snowy evening in November 2008, we charged the green from Collis for Barack Obama, elected the first Black president of the United States. I started my first job in Cleveland four years later, and was serenaded by John Legend when I went to vote in 2012. Alongside “All of Me” there were hymns, hotdogs, and an enduring sense of hope. After I moved to San Francisco, in 2015 “Same Love” blared on the public radio with the passage of same-sex marriage. Rainbow flags lined Market Street and the sky seemed to halo the Castro.
The world is once again so different from how it was then. Now we are enduring a global pandemic that is wreaking havoc on lives, jobs, and livelihood. We are coming into a new America that is asking, urgently, that we face a history of racial injustice, and begs us to answer where we will take our place. We can either justify an outdated way of existing, or we can do the work, provide the leadership, to create positive structural change. This will be yet one more chapter.
And this will be part of your story too. You, the central heroine, who is now equipped with everything you need to find resolution. You are brilliant, and brave, and more resilient than you realize now. Each struggle has clenched too firmly on my shoulders and uprooted me from where I stood in the world. In this moment, I ask that you choose the best version of yourself. The one who freely said “I love you” to your parents, and breathed empathy and compassion. Who told newfound friends at Dimensions that Dartmouth was a landing point on your life plan. You come from a place of kindness and carry a legacy of triumph. You embody the faith of your ancestors that informs your wildest dreams.
The future is uncertain – but hasn’t it always been? There is no appeasing an ever dynamic world, and so the onus is upon you to champion what remains constant: your values, your intrepid spirit, and conviction that we will trend towards what’s better. I hope you stay safe, and I hope you are well. Keep believing in yourself – and keep moving forward.