Yerin Yang ’17 Valedictory to the College

“I’ll never forget how Dartmouth taught me to think critically, dissect arguments, challenge conventions, and forge connections,” Yang told her classmates.

President Hanlon; members of the Board of Trustees; honored guests; family; friends; and finally, fellow members of the Class of 2017.

In the past few months, we’ve all been constantly told to look toward the future, asked about where we’ll be moving to after graduation, and what our 2-year or our 5-year or our 10-year plan is. But I’m not the person to be giving advice about the future; and to be honest, I don’t even know what I’ll be doing next year. So, while thinking ahead is important, today I’d like to take some time to look not at the future, but reflect on the past, at the memories we’ve formed and shared over our years at Dartmouth and what we’ve all accomplished together.

In Psych 1, we learned that we could make people like us more if we perform self-disclosure, or in other words, if we reveal personal information about ourselves. So, in my vain effort to make you like me, I’m going to tell you an embarrassing story from my freshman fall. I had signed up for my first volunteer trip with the Tucker Foundation and was told to meet inside their building, described as “the white house next to FoCo.” So, I walked up to FoCo, I saw a white house next to it, and promptly knocked on the doors of Psi U.

Now, I’m sure that many of us share similarly embarrassing stories throughout our time at Dartmouth, but I’m also willing to bet that not many of us would take them back. Because during my time here, I’ve learned that Dartmouth students are, above all, unabashedly themselves, fierce, and unafraid to carry themselves with a sense of levity and humor.

Now that you hopefully like me a little bit, I can say that when I first sat down to write this speech, it was the same day I started cleaning out my room in preparation for the inevitable college move-out. Amidst the chaos, I found many remnants of Dartmouth past: pom poms from the 2013 homecoming, Morano gift cards, ticket stubs for Hop events, a total of 38 fortune cookie fortunes from various free food events around campus, and a candy wrapper from a streaked final.

What stood out to me the most was the “letter to myself” we all had to write during first-year trips, to be delivered to us many months later. On top of the letterhead read the Doctor Seuss quotation, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you,” an excerpt that is especially fitting as we celebrate the culmination of our you-ness at Dartmouth.

In my letter, I had written: “You are currently crouching against a mossy stone, writing against your knee. It was an exciting four days, and I hope it’ll be an exciting four years.” Looking back, I can say with confidence that it truly was.

We are truly blessed and privileged to have been part of this special institution—a college that would be incomplete without its treasured traditions, such as running around a giant bonfire 17 times, plunging into the depths of an icy Occom Pond, gathering for a midnight snowball fight, and receiving your first ever flitz (which in my case turned out to be a Gov 10 survey), all activities that make my friends back at home say that we sound a little bit like a cult.

It is also an institution that has taught us much. At Dartmouth I learned to revel in my accomplishments, be satisfied with moments of mediocrity, and at times appreciate what others might call failures. My Dartmouth education led me to discover my love for writing, my inability to swim or dance, and things I can and cannot do in between.

In 2067, when many of us head back to this very Green for our 50th reunion, I can’t say with certainty that I’ll remember that whales evolved from prehistoric deer, or that it takes about 40 minutes to sort a deck of cards using bubble sort—but I’ll never forget how Dartmouth taught me to think critically, dissect arguments, challenge conventions, and forge connections—all lessons that will prepare us in our next endeavors into the rest of our 20s, and beyond.

Lastly, if I, in my inexperienced 22-year-old glory, may impart just one tidbit of advice: Please be kind to others, and just as importantly, be kind to yourselves. Because as high-aspiring, high-achieving Dartmouth students, we often focus on our imperfections and can be our own worst critics. But know that today we are surrounded by people who love us and believe in us—parents, relatives, friends, and educators who have gathered to celebrate our special day with us.

Now, our time here will soon come to an end, but I truly hope that our future holds experiences as rich as those we’ve shared in these past four years. Congratulations Class of 2017!