Class Day Remarks 2017

Speech by Pericles Lewis, President, Yale-NUS College
Yale-NUS 2017 Class Day Remarks
28 May 2017 at University Cultural Centre, National University of Singapore

Welcome, Class of 2017, Parents, Relatives, and Friends,

Tomorrow we will observe the formal graduation of the class of 2017 but today is a less formal celebration, really a gathering to commemorate the four years we have spent together and to reminisce about the times that shaped this community.

When I think back over the past four years, all kinds of vivid memories come to mind:

  • Experience Yale-NUS Weekends with trips to outlying islands and to Arab Street.
  • Xi Min and Ronald dressed as Mao and Gandhi at Halloween 2012.
  • Celebrating a fast-breaking at Ramadan with our year zero interns and some elderly community members.
  • Meeting Tiffany Sim and Jon Ho on the first weekend when students moved into RC4—the first enrolled students I met.
  • The freshman assembly in RC4 on the 4th of July in 2013 and the opening dinner when my colleagues and I had tears in our eyes at the accomplishment of something we had spent three or four years planning and were finally seeing realized.
  • Lunches in the dining hall at Berkeley College in the summer of 2013.
  • The CSI video at the first-ever common curriculum lecture.
  • The week 7 trip to Greece and racing in the original Olympic stadium with Sylvia Gan. Sylvia, I think we tied for sixth place.
  • Spontaneous swimming in the waters of the Mediterranean.
  • The terrifying “asylum” haunted house in the performance hall at RC4. My 13-year-old son refused to check it out but my 11-year-old daughter went through more than once.
  • The first Yule-NUS ball, and Mollie making me dress up as Dumbledore. I gave a speech and the students took bets on how long it would take for me to mention our vision and mission statement.
  • Bhangra dancing at the end of year dinner in your freshman year.
  • Walking my dog and dropping by the Shiok Shack at the basement level of RC4.
  • The visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand. And the first several president’s speakers.
  • The All-Yale-NUS Provost’s Cup Debating finals where Dennis won best speaker in a debate regarding whether to ban cosmetic surgery.
  • The CAMPOS party for our construction workers and Barney and the workers knocking each other over in the bouncy castle.
  • Listening to the scheduling club or maybe it was the wallets practice “In My Life” in the dining hall at RC4.
  • Tea at the Raffles Hotel with my Conrad class.
  • Taking my 13-year-old son to the stand-up comedy performance by Kumar.
  • The Confessions controversy and the play that David Chia and others put on in response to it.
  • The controversy about the name Panopt and its replacement by the name The Octant.
  • The controversy over gender-neutral housing.
  • The famous Mocktant headline, “Yale-NUS Study-Abroad Student Doesn’t Understand Context of Latest Facebook Argument”
  • The town hall meetings
  • The launching of the Yale-NUS Contract Bridge team and Tara’s grandfather’s saying “If you don’t want to spend the night under the embankment, you’ll take out your trump.”
  • The construction delays, the haze, and the dengue fever.
  • Running into many of you in New Haven when you were there for summer session or for a semester.
  • Running into many of you who had been on study abroad during late 2015 and seeing the dazed looks on your faces in January 2016 as you moved onto this campus for the first time and discovered that the school had grown to over 500 students and that you didn’t know your way around the new campus or recognize half the people.
  • The poetry reading on the last day of my modern poetry class last semester.
  • Dancing in Shanice’s capstone project last month.

I’m sure you each have your own list of memorable experiences. For me, and I hope for you, most of these experiences were good. The difficult experiences always made me think of a line from Virgil, in which Aeneas says to his shipwrecked crew:

“Perhaps someday it will please us to remember even this.”

Fortunately, we never quite suffered a shipwreck, and the ship of Yale-NUS remains afloat. Today, I can say that it pleases me very much to remember all this, and I look forward to many opportunities in the years to come for all of us to get together again and remember all that we have enjoyed, suffered, and accomplished together. To the Class of 2017, congratulations.