News Senior Address: Max Henderson
I want to thank the community of Marlboro College for keeping this a secret from my family. It was a very hard thing to do. And they ‘re looking at me and I'm looking at them. The reason why I kept it a secret is because if my mother knew she probably would've made this a fashion show. She would've had me lined up there. So thank you all, I know that was pretty hard.
I also want to begin by thanking and acknowledging Ryan Dolan. He is a man who is gracious and has a great capacity, a wonderful talent and his beautiful words, I think, are a pleasure. But I also want to thank him for being the lamb to slaughter because if he didn't do good I was going to go sit down. Ryan, I want you to know today you truly are the better man and I could not think of a better human to stand on this stage and share this moment with. Thank you.
And, to add, I cannot think of seventy-five students to share this moment with. Staring at me, heckling at me. You know I think about you guys a lot. And I've thought about you guys a lot through the week since you bestowed Ryan and me this tremendous duty. The conclusion I come to is, I think alot about your gifts. The total sum of your gifts and it is enough to leave me speechless. You could ask someone like my brother or my lady friend and I think they will always tell you, I always get the last word. But today I am speechless. Speechless because there is something seventy-five individuals in this room and myself are aware of in this quiet hour, in this quiet morning of reckoning. A moment made quieter by all the trappings surrounding it: by the students, by the teachers, by the staff, and by the families who are here, today, staring at it. A moment made quieter by all the attention given to it today and made inaccessible, almost forgotten because on this stage people have already commented and opinioned on it and will do it for a few more hours, but have no direct right to it like the seventy-five of us is in it and are now free of it: that is Marlboro College.
I know how futile and inane it sounds to attempt this, but I also know how difficult it is to explain what Marlboro is to anyone who hasn't really been here because I'm from South Carolina if you guys didn't notice and my parents have been wondering what drove me up here in the first place. The difference between knowing this school and not knowing this school is that the students who have lived here can reduce this conversation of shared blood memory to a delicate, knowing stare. Something we students all have shared on this hill amongst each other, at one time or another, is the unsaid, is the quietness, is the glance. I don't know if you've known someone to the point that you can identify them through their laughter, or the silhouette in the dark walking from the library, or there snore in the library late at night, or perhaps the dear, I'll say dear, pervasive odor of an unwashed student. I mean, you guys are seeing us at our best you should come see us at our worst. If you were to take any Marlboro students and have them talk about any of this, inevitably you would see this stare, this nod, this smile we give one another at the mention of people's names or people's stories that make us who we are, what we were. You must realize you are witnessing, eavesdropping on the linked memory that we are now losing, that is being altered as we stare in the dear eyes of each other, knowing we may never again see each other at the same time. Today in our stares and our nods, we recognize something that you all must recognize about the seventy-five students before you.
We see ourselves. We all have come from different places, different backgrounds, genders, religions. But where we come from was most likely a place we were born into. You all must recognize we were born somewhere, some time, but one way or another, we chose to live here. Chose. I say chose because there is no other way you can be a student at Marlboro College except by choosing it, enduring it, besting it. At some point if you want to stay here, share that stare, you must choose it. We carry the weight and the lightness of being in this place, because what many people forget is something about Marlboro that is at its core founding so let me remind you. At the core of Marlboro College are three things: Walter Hendricks, Robert Frost, and the land of Marlboro. Amongst those three dear objects are more things you need to know about Marlboro: it is a place charged by imagination and was founded not as an academic ivory tower as many would have you forget. No, it was an experiment. It is an experiment. A sixty-three year beautiful experiment. I hope when I leave this place it continues to be an experiment: a place in constant search of redefining itself and refitting itself with a better sense of self-reliance and imagination than what we have now when we leave it.
I look at this land, green from remembering, and I see metaphors. Here in this land that we chose and lived a lifetime in, now gone, now stored and storied into this land that we now leave, is a land not made for a college. It is a farm land. This was a literal wilderness where maple syrup was and is harvested and fields were plowed. I found ledger accounts in the archives of the animals that fielded the land an it dates back to 1892. That is what Marlboro was. What Marlboro is, now, is a second metaphor: we like those farmers before us are a sturdy group and we have tilled and we have plowed some medium of language that gets closer to the truth and sense of existing in this outside world. That is what should be commended and remembered amongst and above everything today. Because like farmers we have all wrestled and fought and what we have learned is the price we all have paid for the stories we can now tell. We all now know how dear and imperfect this school is, but also know how it could not exist in any other way. And if you fight battles here, academically, bureaucratically, financially, socially, and you are one of the few who survive it and know what I am saying, then what you will find is necessary to your growth as a person: that is the human capacity to be resilient, stronger, and better than what others think you can be. To the seventy-five students today, that is yours and that is something that cannot be taken away from you.
I am going to step outside of this moment take my seat. I guess step outside of history as they say and enjoy this, but to all of you teachers, staff members, and students, freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, I want you to know one more thing. It is always love, even when it isn't here, even when you don't see it, and even when you cannot recognize it. I'd ask you all to do what the best of what my professors have always told and taught me to do here at Marlboro: whatever you come in contact with, please listen to it and learn it well before you choose to speak about it. Always, look at the world with new eyes with better words that gets the truth for what we all have forgotten: the distinction between being the idea of something and becoming the thing itself. Please right a wrong when you see it and please speak to one another and I mean outside of the convenient social lines. Look out for one another and do not turn your back on your colleagues or your students if they should fall from grace. Please reclaim this land because this is your school. Dear students, please be brave. I realize there are perilous times before you but there were perilous times behind you and the men and women who contributed to the survival of this school survived it, and I am sure you all will do the same. If you learn the history of this place you will never forget that you come from a quiet but endured generation of men and women. Look to them and everyone else for you will need them. Most of all, in this moment, in this unyielding, upended necessary hours of ending and beginning, I ask that you all remember. Please do not reflect, that comes years later when you try to speak to someone beyond the stares, the glances, and the nods. Speak your stories to one another because, by remembering, you are staying closer to this present moment learning what we all know and is often unsaid: the desired, quiet secrets of a conversation subtle and needed, wanted and forgiven, replete with a lasting, delicate beauty.