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Sierra Fleenor '08
Photo by Marshall Kean

Opening Convocation Welcome

By Sierra Fleenor ‘08

September 2 , 2007

Good morning, Colorado College, and welcome. As president of the student body, it is my pleasure to address our distinguished guests, faculty, administration, and staff, as well as my peers of the classes 2008, 2009, 2010 and especially our newest group of students, the class of 2011.

On the first day of every academic year, we gather here in Shove Chapel to hear words of encouragement and recognize the opportunities that lie ahead. Never in my life would I have guessed that one day I would have the honor of addressing our community.

To our faculty, staff, and administration, I want to thank you for the endless hours you’ve devoted to enriching our education, from helping us create independent studies to arguing with us over whether or not Harry Potter’s life parallels the miracles of Moses or even the tragedy of Hamlet.

To the classes of 2008, 2009, and 2010: Here we go. You may have one, two, three, or for a select few maybe even four or five more years. Let’s make each day worth the living.

And to the Class of 2011: Welcome home. You may not think of CC as home yet, but the first time you slip up and call it home to your parents, you will know. They won’t let you forget it. So, welcome.

You have been told and will be told that you are the brightest class CC has ever enrolled, and you might be. We’re all still anxious to see. I am here to remind you, though, that you are joining a student body filled with some of the most dynamic and awe-inspiring people this world has to offer. They will challenge you, inspire you, and as they have often done to me, they will call you out. They won’t allow you to coast through your classes because they will want to know what you thought of Emile Durkheim’s approach to humanity’s social problems. They will also become your friends. The same person who challenged you on your views regarding The Trojan Women as a commentary on the Athenian conflict with Sparta, will hold your hand when your girlfriend or boyfriend breaks up with you. When you fall, and you will, they will pick you up.

Your professors will ask more of you than you’ve ever thought you could give. But, you can. Trust them. There will be days when you will walk out of your advisor’s office and wonder, “what were they talking about? I think I just got advice on how to be a good human being based on Dante’s Inferno.”

Get used to being amazed. This will not always be a passive experience for you, though. You and your peers will achieve more than you ever dreamed. Many of you will go abroad, many of you will devote your time to community service, and many of you will partake in groundbreaking research, as part of a summer fellowship, or for your thesis. These grand gestures are not the only way you’ll change the world. Your everyday actions, from eating at Rastall to playing Ultimate on the quad, to spending time with your roommates or hall-mates, every moment will matter. And take a second look at your roommate. Maybe you don’t like them, but brace yourself because they may become your best friend, like my first-year roommate did. Happy Birthday, Lavinia.

In all this, though, the advice I want to give, and this is for everyone from first-years, to professors, and especially to myself, is:

Failure is inevitable, but failure is different from defeat. You will be a better person, friend, and lover for the pain you experience, rather than the successes you may be anticipating.

Keep this in mind and enjoy your time at CC. It will change you.

Soon, you’ll be in my shoes, looking back at three years worth of younger students, wondering, how did I get here? And then you’ll remember:

  • I stayed up ‘til four in the morning laughing with my roommates.
  • I connected with people I never thought I would while studying Spanish in Spain.
  • I struggled with concepts of divinity and humanity with my peers…for a grade.
  • I devoted my time to rugby, TWIG, and finding every last free meal on campus.
  • I lived.

And that’s how you’ll know your time was well spent.

CC will often appear as a mirage, an idealized oasis in the midst of the world’s madness, and it is. You will find that life outside of this oasis is daunted with hatred, fear, and intolerance. That’s not to say CC doesn’t have its fair share of these, but in this safe haven, you can learn, grow, and fail, knowing you can try again. You will be a better person not for your successes, but for your failures. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share.

Rest assured, though. Today you will see three CC Grads and you will know there is a future. We have the great privilege of honoring an economist, a scientist, and an artist. See, even we in the humanities have a future. These three and countless other alumni have loaned CC to us. Once it was theirs, for a while we may call it our own, but we will eventually loan CC to those who come after us.

Try to remember this when you get discouraged. Others have made it and one day you will give CC to another generation. Cherish it while it’s yours.

Good luck with your time here and remember that every time you fall, there will be a hand to help, just look up.

Thank you.