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Pauline Mutumwinka: “Down the Rabbit Hole”

5.24.12

Pauline Mutumwinka

Pauline Mutumwinka

Photograph by Jim Harrison

In her Harvard oration, one of four student speeches given as part of the Class Day ceremony, Pauline Mutumwinka ’12 compared her Harvard experience to Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass: "For starters, I think you'll agree that freshman year felt a bit like falling down a rabbit hole."

Mutumwinka is particularly far from home—she is from Rwanda—and she spoke of struggling to figure out where she fit in: was she "Black/African American" or "Other" on the U.S. census? Should she pretend to care about the Red Sox just to make nice?

She said she emerged from Harvard having learned that it "is not the Wonderland where things always work like magic," but "it is the Wonderland where we tirelessly questoin our beliefs and assumptions—a place where we try to make sense of a world that often seems quite absurd, knowing that hard work, not magic, will solve this world's problems."

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