Marlboro College

News Remarks by Shea Witzberger ’12

Congratulations class of 2012! I’m honored to be speaking to you, to your families, and alongside such accomplished, inspiring and dedicated nerds. 

This is an amazing day in a way that no other commencement in the history of ever has been, and not because Marlboro is such a rigorous institution, which it is. It’s not because the Plans that this class wrote, danced, sang and acted were better than all the rest, although I’m quite proud of the work that so many of us pulled off at the last minute. We deserve congratulations for completing our undergraduate degrees, but I feel that our time here has gone underappreciated in one way—I have heard slim to no praise for completing college in 2012, year of the apocalypse. This is the least reasonable time in history to get a liberal arts degree, and I’m not talking job prospects and starting salaries, my friends. I’m talking Armageddon.

While working so hard on our own projects in the last year, you may have missed some key doom signs. It’s ok. You were in a dark Plan cave, typing for one thousand hours. Individualistic, academic, productive zombiehood prevailed during that dark age. While I’m glad to see you back in the social world, exposing yourselves to sunlight, wearing graduation robes instead of bathrobes, I have some news for you. Allow me to recap the writing on the wall.

Doom sign number one—the Rapture. Do you remember? Number two. Revolutions sprouted across the globe! Everyone occupied everything! There were hurricanes and floods and tsunamis, but I’ll leave that for Bill to talk about. Continued economic uncertainty kept little institutions like this one shivering in fear like endangered tropical birds in a nuclear winter. Sallie Mae was named an honorary fifth horsemen of the apocalypse, and her first hellish deed was in fact an attempt to repossess the speech that I'm giving you today. If, as you finished your oral examinations, the sight of “smokers” on a “party barge” on a “fire pond” didn't bring vivid images to your mind of Waterworld, then I seriously recommend revisiting your VHS collection. Global Weirding is certainly upon us. And, despite the amazing, articulate, inspiring and rational call to arms that I’m sure you will receive from Bill McKibben about saving the planet, I’d like you to take a moment to remember the Mayan prophecies. Have fun arguing against that, activism and science.

Seniors. As your fragile, transitional minds drift toward worry about all of those little anythings—worry about moving back in with your parents, about how you'll survive an unpaid internship, about if there will be internships to be had for the survivors of whatever catastrophic craziness may head our way—remember that old cliché that liberal arts colleges teach you how to think, and maybe, just maybe, this place taught you a few things about how to think about surviving the black hole of a twilight zone real world that Marlboro is regurgitating us back out into.

Marlboro taught us that when the going gets rough, it’s good to have surrounded yourself with dedicated self-starters and lots of camping equipment. Marlboro taught us that when there aren't any cups left in the dining hall and while people debate about whether or not to buy new cups, we can drink out of bowls. Marlboro taught us that when resources are slim, people are going to argue about whether or not women should get any of those resources, and in the meantime you have found the dream fuel for excellent feminist criticism. Marlboro taught us to examine and change our governing processes, and to watch how our governing structure handles crisis and to improve it. This will mean that we are the people who are best prepared for leadership roles in the transient governments of the space colonies. These are vital skills for 2013 and beyond, if we make it that far.

In closing, no one doubts that this is a weird time to be a bright-eyed graduate of a liberal arts college. But I'd be doing you a disservice by letting you “celebrate” with your “loved ones” about your “accomplishments” in such uncertain and dire times. Think about stockpiling the refreshments on your way out. A sharp social mind, an ability to thrive in uncertainty, and some really heavy-duty crampons and vacuum-0sealed food packets. This is the Marlboro alum of the future.

I ask that you all glean from these last joyous moments of these golden years on this beautiful hill what pragmatic, critical knowledge you can, because it is a cold, cold world out there. But it's getting warmer at an alarming rate.

Thank you!

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