Wentworth, MA— During President Jeremiah Nesaispas’s inaugural address, some Wentworth City College faculty were seen twitching and shuddering, especially in the humanities corner of the auditorium. Nonetheless, they resisted interrupting the new president or pelting him with tomatoes.
“We believe in human dignity,” philosophy professor Knut Verstandnis commented later, “even the dignity of buffoons.”
The text of President Nesaispas’s speech appears below.
Good morning, professors, students, staff, guests, human beings. As I stand before you today, I realize that I am in the midst of one of those great moments of life, a moment not of attainment, but of possibility.
The great Robert Frost reminds us that we must often make difficult life choices and that there’s no turning back. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” he says so memorably. We all know those words and those woods. Here I am today, having taken one of those two roads, and I can tell you that it is already making all the difference.
Believe it or not, each of you, every single one of you, is doing just what I have done. Without thinking about it, each of you stands at a podium of life choices. Each of you has already taken a road. There will be still more roads to take, and then more still.
How do we make good choices, then? Well, I rely here on another great bard, who tells us wisely, “to thine own self be true.” He goes on to say that if you are true to yourself, you cannot be false to anyone else. I would like to explore this profound idea for a moment.
As teachers and leaders and learners, we are constantly pushing against a frontier—of ignorance, fear, and prejudice. As we advance in knowledge, the frontier recedes. We are Ahab going after the whale. We may never get it, but what matters here is the quest. We are truest to ourselves in the quest.
Think of the quest that each of you launches each day. For some of you, it might be the quest for the Higgs boson particle. For others, it might be the quest for a clean sock. All of these quests are valid. All of them define who we are. When we commit ourselves to the quest, we are true to ourselves.
For me, as a leader, my quest is for balance. We live in an era known as the 21st century, an era of rapid and exciting change. On the one hand, there’s a need to modernize all of our facilities—to convert our library, for instance, into electronic reading rooms and galleries, and to update the data collection hardware in the classrooms. On the other hand, there’s an equal need for human collaboration and teamwork—which is why we’ve hired collaborative cheerleaders and expanded our marketing plan.
How do I balance the human and the digital? Well, I refuse to believe that it’s either-or. The great Russian author Dostoevsky said that “to live without hope is to cease to live.” I have hope—as I hope you do too—that we can have our cake and eat it, too. We can be Gatsby after all. Hope is the thing with feathers, and things with feathers fly far.
So, as I join you on this great journey known as higher education, I ask you to think of three things every day: the quest, the hope, and the truth. Mindfulness is a great antidote to the stress of our times. If we commit, every moment of every day, to being mindfulness-based, then not only will we be great (for we already are), but we will take our greatness to the next level, instead of hiding it under a bushel. Instead of relying on our success alone, we will develop, if you’ll pardon the pun, “true grit.” On that note, I wish you a rewarding and productive year.