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Caroline Engelmayer’s 2020/2021 Address: Iter Perpetuum

5.29.22

Praeses Bacow, decani notissimi, professores doctissimi, familiae honoratissimae, hospites clarissimi, et tandem, vos, condiscipuli carissimi: salvete omnes. mihi magno honori est apud vos in hoc foro, quod Theatrum Tercentenarium appellamus, verba proferre etiamsi in lingua (eheu) plurimis obscura. felicitatis nostrae conscia, res gestas pronuntiabo cohortis Universitatis Harvardianae anni bismillesimi vicesimi (et vicesimi primi), cohortis et nomine clarae et factis fortis.

hodie ex Area Harvardiana proficiscimur, alii ad terras remotas, alii ad sedes propiores, alii ad regiones novas, omnes tamen post experientiam tam mirabilem ut nonnulli eam transformativam esse affirment. mihi autem alio de itinere dicendum est, itinere nostro per Universitatem Harvardianam, quod mihi simile videtur fabulae Ulixis, multa ac diu patientis, qui decem annos post Troiam direptam erravit dum domum rediret.

nemo dubitare potest quin tantis vicibus repetinis afflicti iter nostrum identidem flectere cogeremur. nos novos homines controversia de stipendiis laborantium ex tricliniis Annenbergensibus expulit; nos seniores pestis totum per orbem terrarum calamitosa ex deversoriis Cantabrigiaque propulsit. sed triumphavimus. alacritate, constantia, Tauroque Rubro acti, quaestiones collectas Scientiae Computatoriae Quinquagenta debellavimus atque compositiones Expositionum Scribendarum superavimus. cum hieme furioso Bostoniense hostibusque Novi Portus certavimus. Sicut Ulixes ad sedem Lotophagorum approprinquavit, etiam nos locum invenimus ubi quicumque ingrederetur, nec dormiens nec vigilans, temporis procedentis oblivisceretur. (id est, contignatio tertia bibliothecae Lamontis.) 

mox domus novas progressi sumus, pars ad ripas fluminis Caroli, pars (illa beatior) ad locum amoenum Horti Quadrati. sed terque quaterque beati, quibus intra moenia alta Domus Currierensis, splendidissimae ac illustrissimae omnium, considere contigit. 

paene ad finem itineris nostri perveneramus, thesibus scriptis correctis submissis, cum subito nuntiatum est morbi causa nobis plus ultra vagandum esse. pro noctibus in Taberna Felipeana tritis spatio inter socios consuescere conati sumus; cubicula dormitoria in cellas Zoomienses mutata sunt; et tandem vestimenta solita bracis sudatoriis cederunt. sed multas per gentes et multa per aequora vecti, memineramus experientias nostras apud Universitatem Harvardianam nos coniungere.

hodie, amici, aut coram aut procul, domum revenimus. diebus festis veris anni senioris amissis, aliquid tamen quoque adepti sumus: nexum inter nos duraturum. Sunt in porta Areae Harvardianae cohortis anni millesimi octingentesimi quinquagesimi septimi inscripti quidam versus poetae Horatii, “Felices ter et amplius / quos inrupta tenet copula / nec malis divulsus querimoniis / suprema citius solvet amor die.” Haec verba, condiscipuli carissimi, haec verba vobis loquor: illa familiaritas nostra semper inrupta manebit. ergo naves solvite, sed memoria tenete amicos Harvardianos tamquam portum tutum in alto mare semper futuros esse. avete atque valete!

Iter Perpetuum, A Lasting Journey

President Bacow, distinguished deans, learned professors, cherished families, illustrious guests, and, finally, dear classmates: welcome all. It is my great honor to address you in this forum, which we call Tercentenary Theatre, although I will speak in a language (alas) incomprehensible to almost all of you. Aware of our good fortune, I will proclaim the achievements of the Harvard Class of 2020 (and 2021), a class both famous in name and strong in deeds.

Today we set out on our journey from Harvard Yard. Some will travel to remote lands, others to nearby places, others to unknown regions, but all after an experience so marvelous that some call it transformative. But my topic is another journey, the journey that our class took through Harvard, a journey that reminds me of the story of the long and much-suffering Greek hero Odysseus, who wandered for 10 years after the sack of Troy until he returned home.

No one can doubt that we have been buffeted by so many sudden twists and turns that we have had to change course repeatedly. When we were first-years, a labor strike exiled us from the halls of Annenberg; when we were seniors, a destructive global plague drove us out of our lodgings and Cambridge altogether. But we have prevailed. Fueled by eagerness, determination, and Red Bull, we conquered CS 50 problem sets and Expos essays. We fought against the raging Boston winter and our enemies in New Haven. Just as Ulysses reached the land of the Lotus-Eaters, we, too, discovered a place where anyone who entered lost track of time, half-awake and half-asleep. (I refer, of course, to the third floor of Lamont.)

Soon we proceeded to new homes. Some of us voyaged to the banks of the Charles River, while others (the more fortunate bunch) journeyed to the idyllic setting of the Quad. But three and four times blessed are those who had the chance to settle within the high walls of Currier House, the most splendid and illustrious of all.

We had almost reached the end of our journey—our theses were written, revised, and submitted—when it was suddenly announced that, because of the pandemic, we had to wander even farther. Instead of late-night trips to Felipe’s, we tried to accustom ourselves to social distancing; our dorms were transformed into Zoom rooms; and our normal garb gave way to sweatpants. But even though we traveled across many nations and many seas, we remembered that our experiences at Harvard connect us.

Today, friends, whether in person or via live stream, we have come home. Although we have lost the festivities of senior spring, we have nevertheless gained something too: a lasting bond between us. On the Class of 1857 Gate in Harvard Yard, certain verses of the poet Horace are inscribed: “Fortunate three times and more are those whom an unbroken bond holds, and their love will not be torn apart by evil quarreling before their final day.” These words, dearest classmates, these words I say to you: that bond of ours will always endure unbroken. So set sail, but remember that friends from Harvard will always be a safe harbor amid storm-tossed seas. Hail and farewell!