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An Open Letter to the Class of 2012

So you moved in to North Campus today. And before we begin, a heartfelt congratulations on all of your myriad accomplishments to date. It is no small feat to enroll at a school like Cornell, and you and all of the people who have supported you in your life thus far should be commended.

But I’ll lay it to you bluntly: The coming years will come with a fair amount of work. Between reams of reading and weekly problem sets, long hours in the lab to overnighters in the studio, there is no doubt in my mind – or in your professors mind – that you will receive an education at Ezra’s University. And, yes even the Hotelies will have to work a bit harder than you might expect.

With all of your hard work, and occasional procrastination, you will also learn a lot outside of the classroom -- both from your peers and from the situations you will inevitably find yourself in. There will be excitement and doubt, laughter and tears, success and failure. Through it all, you will need to continue to follow your own interests and apply yourself, knowing that your lows are never too low and that your highs can always be higher.

There’s both good news and bad news in all of this.

The bad news is that you will probably leave a little bit more confused than when you arrived. Because while you will have mastered all the ins and outs of campus life by the time you graduate, you will only have just begun to appreciate the complex challenges and nuanced obstacles that will face you in our modern world.

But the good news is that I couldn’t begin to imagine a better setting to explore yourself and the world around you. You should only consider yourself privileged to be a student here. Tucked away from the whims of commerce and the noise of industry, East Hill offers a soulful respite to reflect and to learn. Ithaca offers wonder, beauty, and intrigue at every turn, and Cornell and its faculty offers unending resources, support, and freedom to achieve all that you seek.

And through it all, take time out to regain perspective. I recommend frequent trips to the top of McGraw Tower, which allows for breaktaking views of the campus, the city below, and the horizons beyond. Remember that through it all in life there will always be that horizon beyond.

The greatest thing you can develop during your time at Cornell is the ethic of hard work and spirit of insurmountability that built this University in the first place. It was Ezra’s effort – a man who would often walk for more than 30 miles in one day selling his telegraph equipment – and the passion of his first students – who had no way to pay for their education save for helping to build this institution’s first buildings – that continue to make this university today.

Ezra’s spirit cannot be taught. It can only be learned. Corrnell is a diverse, vast, and at times daunting place. But it offers something for everyone. Seek what you want out and soon you will offer something of your own to Cornell.

From one Cornellian to another, welcome to Cornell.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on August 22, 2008 (#)

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