2017 Cheverton Trophy winner Taylor Lee Patti delivered the following speech at the 2017 Closing Convocation ceremony held the evening of Friday, May 19, 2017 on Wilson Field.
I’d like to start off by thanking all of the aunts and uncles who helped raise me and all of the Chapman faculty and staff who helped shape me. But of course, I really have to thank my mother. She was a single mom who always worked more than 40 hours a week, even when she was attending university. My brother and I watched her graduate. She read to me every night and taught me how to write with conviction. She allowed me to pursue any opportunity I could find, but never failed to remind me that to whom much is given, much is expected.
So now, as I near graduation, I can only imagine what is expected from me, because Chapman University has given me everything.
These fascinating classes, this abundant research, the incredible philanthropy, our devoted community, have given us students the greatest gifts conceivable: the opportunity to think, the occasion to struggle, and the appreciation of the profound. Mexican poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz put it more eloquently than I when she penned [in the poem Quéjase de la suerte]:
“no estimo hermosura que vencida
es despojo civil de las edades…..
teniendo por mejor en mis verdades
consumir vanidades de la vida
que consumir la vida en vanidades.”
I do not esteem loveliness which conquered
is the civil spoils of time…..
holding it better in my own truths
to consume the vanities of life
than to consume my life in vanities
But we must not only apply the teachings of Chapman at the hour of learning difficult lessons or complex ideas, we must continue to propagate the persistent murmurings of fairness and equality that are growing to chorus on this campus.
When I came to Chapman, I, like most American women, felt that I was inherently bad at math and physics. But, the Chapman community saw me and encouraged me. They educated me on the natural world, and in so doing, they freed me to be the scientist who I am rather than the quiet little girl who so many expect of me.
But Chapman does much more than promote women in science. The Chapman mission is much broader than that. It is our responsibility as Chapman graduates to use our global education to work and advocate for the rights and equality of all people in all circumstances. For, in the words of Mexican author Rosario Castellanos [in “Mujer que sabe latín”]:
“(Tenemos) que comprender, ….., que nada esclaviza tanto como esclavizar, que nada produce una degradación mayor en uno mismo que la degradación que (inflige) a otro”.
Translation: (We have) to comprehend,….. , that nothing enslaves as much as to enslave, that nothing produces a greater degradation in ones’ self than the degradation that (they inflict) on another.
That is to say, that the struggle for justice and fairness is to the benefit of all people, the oppressed, the powerful, and everyone in between. Because to belittle or abuse my fellow human being is as damaging to me as it is damaging to them. There is but one human dignity and it rises and it tumbles with the treatment of 8 billion people.
So, in the spirit of Chapman, let us be resolved. Let us run towards knowledge and truth, not from them. Let us work tirelessly for the equality of all people, because there is no person with whom our soul does not suffer equally. And, most importantly, let us see each other, let us encourage each other, and let us see and encourage ourselves.
I have had the pleasure of getting to see you all throughout the years, and I am here to tell you that there is no person inherently above you, no limit to your intellect. We have all been given a human brain, each of which, with very, very few exceptions, has the capacity to learn anything that anyone else’s can. Now that brain has been given a Chapman education.
To whom much is given, much is expected. I expect great things from all of you. I expect great resistance.