The Ripple

Julia Qian ’15, outgoing president of the Student Government Association, addressed the Commencement 2015 audience with these words

By Julia Qian ’15

Illustration by Monica Ramos

Today, we are here to celebrate the class that arrived with a hurricane, survived a massive blizzard, and will graduate with a plan for a new library—the most resilient and exciting Class of 2015. I am inspired by the words of William Faulkner who said, “Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished. Maybe happen is never once but like ripples maybe on water after the pebble sinks, the ripples moving on, spreading…”

The boldness and beauty of Barnard has dropped into our lives, like pebbles into ponds. We have learned how to question, lead, love, and serve. And our experiences within our four-and-a-half-acre campus are the start of our own ripple effect. Now is our time to become pebbles, create powerful ripple effects outside the gates, and embrace the global impact that we can have. What happened in the small pond of Barnard will affect the oceans of our lives. We must not forget that it is a privilege to be empowered, to be encouraged to question, and to be inspired to lead; therefore, it is not only our opportunity but also our responsibility to be intentional pebbles in the world.

We asked what it means to embrace diversity at Barnard. Let us continue to uphold inclusion and equity in our communities.

We learned about leadership in the Athena program and at events like the Global Symposium. Let us continue to question top-down leadership and encourage others to redefine leadership with us. 

We engaged in difficult but important conversations such as the one about trans admission policy. Let us continue to make our voices heard and be advocates for the voiceless.

It is in the choice that we make to listen to ideas that are different from our own, to join a protest to show our support, to pause and check our language and opinions, to question the existing systems and structures, and to take actions to support people in our community, that makes us, I dare say it loud and clear, leaders. Our impact lies in everyday choices that create a ripple effect within our communities.

Beloved classmates of 2015, let our 
dreams blossom like the [campus] magnolia tree, let us continue to major in unafraid, and let us embrace our ripple effect. Let us always remember this 
precise moment at our commencement ceremony, this community and this 
family. Class of 2015, may each one of us create a conscientious ripple that always questions, always loves, always leads, and always serves.