September 6, 2017
Thank you President Bradley.
It is truly humbling to be able to stand here and address you—my peers, professors and community members. However, I don’t know what to say to you because whatever I say will be inadequate and incomplete to capture the depth and width of experiences and knowledge in this room.
So, in preparation for this speech, in true Vassar spirit, I read every Fall Convocation speech made by the VSA President in the past 16 years as well as those from 1977 and 1978. Those who have stood here before me have chosen to speak about their vision for the college, outlined priorities of the VSA for the year or shared personal experiences about what makes Vassar and life meaningful for them. It seems to me that the only common link in all their remarks has been an underlying desire for urgent and rapid change.
However, I submit to you a seemingly contradictory suggestion. As we, the class of 2018 start our final 264 days of undergraduate education and you, the class of 2021 embark on a life changing journey, I urge you to identify and savor the moments and rhythms that make this place meaningful for you, make it a community for you.
It could be having a conversation with our outstanding faculty, listening to music as you admire the beauty of this campus, finally getting that book, pset or experiment done or representing Vassar in a game. It could also be to just stop walking, look up and be.
Or, to not only hear, but listen to the raindrops from your room.
Or, to think about what got you here one random night.
Or, to just be in this moment—senior year has begun, college has started.
Just reflect in these small moments, for it is in this reflection—these moments of stillness where time stops—that we can truly Imagine.
And we need to imagine—imagine what we want Vassar, the world and our lives to be.
Vassar means different things for different people. It is pain, joy, oppression, solidarity, love all at the same time. And as you think about what Vassar means to you and imagine what you want it to be, the VSA is right here with and for you. This is the start of something new—we have a new President of the college and a new VSA. As the first international student to be VSA President leading the most diverse VSA in Vassar’s history, I am excited for the Vassar we will create together.
But as Vassar students, I urge you to not only think about the Vassar we want to create, but the world. We live in a world in which humans have the capacity to change the climate but not accept those fleeing persecution and violence…where the United States is threatening dreamers and continues to endanger those for whom this country was not created—and this is precisely why we need to imagine
The power of imagination lies in its ability to see, hear, touch, feel and sense differently. To envision. And to enact.
What are the different modes of being in this world? Where do you see your place in it? Who are the people that mean the most to you? What is Vassar for you?
To the friends, faculty, workers, staff and administrators that have enabled me to help me find my place at Vassar, I thank you.
To the class of 2021—make college what you want it to be and let college make you
To my peers in the class of 2018—This is it. Let’s make our final 264 days count…
—Anish Kanoria ’18, president, Vassar Student Association