Charge to Class of 2016 from Senior Class President Deanna Arpi Youssoufian '16

On behalf of the Student Government Association and the Senior Class Council, thank you Board of Trustees, President Spar, Dean Hinkson, Provost Bell, distinguished guests, and beloved faculty, administrators, and staff.

And good afternoon to our families and friends, both those with us and those unable to be here or are watching along with us today. From all of us, thank you for your unwavering and unconditional support throughout our time here at Barnard. We truly do appreciate it.

And, most especially, good afternoon, and hello to the ambitious Barnard Class of 2016! My name is Arpi Youssoufian, and I am the Senior Class President.

“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”

I discovered this quote back in First Year Seminar while reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by alumna Zora Neale Hurston, and her words have stayed with me through my time here at Barnard. As an eager, and admittedly very energetic first year at the time, I thought that the coming semesters at Barnard would be the years of questions, and that the years after graduation would be the years that answer.

To say that we have all of the answers right now would be a bit naive. Stepping out of the gates, away from the College on a Hilltop we called home for the past four years is admittedly daunting. Yet while we do not fully know what the future holds for us or which of our many questions will be answered, I present a challenge you all: when facing uncertainty, step forward, and let your purpose guide you.

Our class is profoundly inspirational. We are methodical scientists, critical writers, and creative artists. We are challengers of authority and questioners of the status quo. We defy expectation, never take anything for face value, and fight for our causes, even when the outcome is uncertain.

So consider the many questions and uncertainties we encountered to reach this moment, our commencement, and the identities and motivations we hold with us today. In knowing both the journey we have taken and the purpose that serves as our beacon, we can take our next steps. Our identities ground us. Our motivations propel us.

And so with each stride onwards into the years that I hope will bring many answers, I charge you all to continue to step forward, without hesitation, and with your purpose to guide you. Our various destinations may not be entirely certain, but our persistence will always advance us. Take charge of your purpose, be the one to ask your own questions, and through that the years will answer.

Because 88 years ago Zora Neale Hurston was where we are now, facing many questions and uncertainties as she awaited her degree, but she too bravely stepped forward.

Of course, with every step forward that we take, we can find certainty in having the support of our distinguished classmates, and our wonderful families and friends who share this occasion with us.

And in twenty years when we return for our reunion, how exciting it will be to not only share our destinations, but also the steps we took to get there.

We are a strong, bold, unafraid class of 619, and we remember that we should have been a class of 620. We graduate today as one Barnard Class of 2016, ready to find purpose in all that the world has to offer us, and all that we have to offer to the world.

Thank you, and congratulations!