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John Harvard's Journal | Commencement 2005

Harvard Local,

July-August 2005

In her Senior English Address, “Perfect Imperfection,” Alicia J. Menendez ’05, whose concentration was women, gender, and sexuality studies and whose thesis investigated gender and Harvard final clubs, made passing references to the climate on campus this year.


Alicia J. Menendez
Photograph by Jim Harrison

In absolving us of the burden of personal perfection, Harvard inadvertently prepared us for life. Life itself is imperfect: Things fall apart. People fall apart. Friendships fall apart. Even families fall apart. It was a lesson that we as a class and we as a nation learned the day before our first Harvard lecture: September 11, 2001. But in the course of our time here, we also learned that it is our responsibility to each other and to ourselves to pick things up and put them back together. Some seams are effortlessly re-stitched with an apology or a kind word. Others take more time, more healing. And still others require more sociological super-glue than we have at our disposal. But we cannot afford to simply resign ourselves to the fact that things are not perfect in the first place. We cannot turn our backs on people, things, or an institution we once loved, simply because we have found their flaws. What we can do is reassemble the pieces and find beauty in the way things come together, even if it is different from the way things once were, even if it is not perfect.

We may sometimes disagree with the University on anything from the move to Allston to issues of divestment. We may criticize the administration for being out of touch with the student body. Many of us think Harvard is a lonely place—perhaps even its president. But most of us realize that at the core, its principles and values remain strong. Harvard is constantly evolving. We are undeniably a part of that change. We keep the University humble. We remind the College that it still has a lot of pieces to put together.