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For a few weeks now, I have been attempting to make people believe that I am getting ready to leave Halifax. I’m sure I am not alone in this attempted deception. Without classes and papers looming over me, I have noticed my peers and I developing a considerable aptitude for putting off this inevitability.
Recently I attempted to clean out my books. Despite my best efforts, the piles that populate my living room have not been diminished. I have managed, however, to pick up each book, flip through it and think of a reason to not get rid of it. Here is my somewhat panicked rationale: I sometimes feel like without those dusty course readers and the tattered secondhand books I’ve accumulated, I would loose something of what made my time at King’s so great, and made me who I was while I was here. For some reason, I’ve managed to accept leaving this place, but I cannot think of leaving the things that go with it. It’s like those binders of notes are the evidence I will need in order to back up my diploma if I am questioned in the wider world. This is of course crazy, and finally my rationality catches up with me. I convince myself that I will still be the same person without two copies of The Tempest. With a deep breath, I put the eldest of the two paperbacks aside and check myself for missing pieces.
Fortunately, in the course of my “pretending to pack” I’ve re-discovered one text that has helped me greatly when I start to get this panicked. It is an adventure story mainly, concerned with friendship and discovery, and after going through it again after a long time, I’ve realized that it has a lot more to teach all of us than I ever thought. Let me share with you just a glimpse of what I mean: in one shining example, a character states “The only true wisdom consists of knowing you know nothing.” To which his faithful companion replies, “Whoa. That’s us, Dude.”
I am of course referring to the Keanu Reeves classic, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. In this film, two Californian High School Students armed with a crucial Socratic insight and a time machine learn that their party-dude attitude can win over not only their history teacher, but also a wide assortment of historical figures and medieval mega-babes.
This may seem like a strange topic choice coming from an EMSP student like myself, and perhaps a strange choice for this speech, but since exams have been over, I’ve watched a lot of movies from the Bill and Ted era, and I’ve found myself thinking a lot about them. I think I’ve decided that their appeal lies in a certain reoccurring theme that connects their various plot lines. The quirky characters at the center of all these stories- be they Ghostbusters or high school students- are only able to win the day when they have accepted their quirkiness and learned to use it to their advantage. This is hardly an original idea as I’m sure you will have noticed. It has been haunting world literature and FYP students alike since the epic of Gilgamesh. But as I was preparing to write this and ultimately getting myself ready to venture into the world outside the quad, I have felt a similar need to come to terms with who I am, and who we have been at Kings before saying our goodbyes.
Now, this is a problematic task for many reasons: Probably the largest of which is the fact that King’s means so many different things to so many different people. Some of you haven’t taken classes on campus in years, some never went to FYP, and I’m sure that some of you have never even seen “Bill and Ted”. But it has become clear to me in the past few weeks that there is something that defines us, regardless of our King’s experience. It came to me while I was walking down the hallway one Wednesday night and heard Neil Robertson singing in his office. For those of you who have never experienced this phenomenon, when Neil is in his office, and you are in Seminar 6 across the hall or down a ways in Seminar 7 you can often hear him belting out some of the most beautiful sounds baritones have to offer. As I walked down the hall that night, it suddenly occurred to me that this is not an experience many people will ever have. I stopped, realizing just how at home I felt here, and how completely un-surprised anyone I was with was, hearing this outburst of beautiful noise in a subterranean hallway on a Wednesday evening.
Random acts of beauty like this happen all the time here, and I think that they are a large part of what makes King’s such an amazing place. These moments can be as big as Neil Robertson’s voice or as brash as a KTS show, but ultimately they speak of a common culture that we share here: a culture of passion I have yet to find anywhere else.
At King’s, it seems that whatever we are doing, be it academic or otherwise, we attack it with a curiosity and passion that far exceeds the norm. Sometimes these moments are mundane, like discovering someone’s Spanish conjugation lists taped to the treadmill in the gym, or opening a library book to discover an old photograph pressed inside. Sometimes they are spectacular. In our first year, when the sun on the library steps drew our whole class outside, we didn’t just bring guitars and blankets; we set up a lemonade stand and a foosball table. I have perhaps never been more convinced of King’s Students’ potential to persevere and inspire than the day I walked into the library to find Wes and Jason seated at a table with a toaster and a full bag of bread. In fact, it’s hard to spend any time on campus or in any coffee shop in Halifax without encountering the passionate creativity and inspiring presence of King’s students.
This is the same reason that leaving this place is so hard to do. What do you do without Zona in the Wardroom to provide endless coffee and the latest news? What happens when Neil isn’t singing just down the hall or you can’t go hide out in the library? What happens if I get rid of my EMSP 2000 course reader?
In moments like this, I remember the lessons I’ve learned from my procrastinating, and return to the knowledge that there’s no one else to call but the Ghostbusters. We stand on the brink of the world outside of King’s, which is just as full of ghosts and stay-pufft marshmallow villains as it is full of uninspiring situations. With all this to look forward to, it is tempting to turn tail and run for the quad.
But, as the Ghostbusters have taught us, all we have to do is realize what we already are in order to deal with the challenges we will find. The lessons learned in this fine place, weather they were about journalism, CSP, HOST, or ways to put off the inevitable are both more portable and more powerful than any ghost-busting tool. Now, as we prepare to disband into the world, I feel compelled to draw this to your attention You, my friends and classmates, are more powerful than Ghostbusters. The things you bust have the power to inspire those around you with the same insipid curiosity and passion that marks you as a King’s student. It will stay with you, no matter what notes you decide to keep, or how far away you go, and it will help you win the day just like the Ghostbusters and Bill and Ted. The time we have spent at King’s, amid this culture of passion has instilled it in each of us — so when all is said and done today, and my books are finally sorted through and packed, the things I think I will end up missing the most are the ones that I have been spending the last four years learning to carry with me — and I can think of no better tool to enter the world with.
Mitchell Cushman: Claire and I are both feel very fortunate to have been given the chance to say good-bye and thank you to this institution. But we know that we are not alone in our graduating class in wanting to do so. We will now present a short mad-libs sections of our valedictorian address, where we say thank-you to all the people who have made the last four years possible, using words supplied by members of our graduating class, at last evening’s president’s dinner.
Thank you faculty members for being so fiery (adj), inspiring and red (adj). Your smiling ears (body part) and smelly (adj) personalities made us always excited about poking (verb -ing) to class. A pleasing (adj) shout out to Jean Coleno and Jim Gow, who, like us, are departing from King’s as well this year — we’re eroded (adj) to add your gorgeous (adj) personalities to the ranks of our graduating octagon (noun). FYI, the grad party is at Angus Jonson’s (name of someone in the room) house.
President Barker, thanks for the endless invitations over to your chapel (noun) — it’s been funky (adj) to have house parties we know the cops won’t break up.
Thank you Zona for all the free Broccoli (food). Thank you Dalhousie for being close by, and allowing constant comparisons to you. Thank you parents for your infinite support and understanding, in all the many forms it has taken. Finally, thank you to King George III for founding this Heideggareian (adj.) institution — and giving us all a home for the past four years.
Claire: Even though it’s sad and a little scary to be making this leap out into the unknown, I’m sure we’ll find our way just fine. As the Ghostbusters themselves have said, “Let’s split up.”
Mitchell: We’ll do more damage that way!
Claire Guyer graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with Combined Honours in Early Modern Studies and Theatre.
Click here for Mitchell Cushman’s portion of the Valedictory Address, which preceded Claire’s speech.