Congratulations Class of 2010!
Our first Neuroscience ceremony was held at 4:00pm on Sunday, May 16, 2010 in the Metcalf Science Auditorium. Our graduating class was joined by their family and friends to celebrate their accomplishment!
The student speakers were Steve Ramirez and Darrien Garay with Dr. Howard Eichenbaum giving the Commencement Address. Below is a student made movie shared during the ceremony.
Steve Ramirez’s Speech:
I do like GFP (+) eggs and ham
To the students, thank you for choosing Darrien and me[PL1] as your speakers today; to the parents, thank you for showing up (as if you had a choice). To the professors and coordinators, thank you for taking the intellectual hammer and educating us to within an inch of our lives.
My talk is essentially about what I’ve learned these past 4 years. Let’s start with freshman year. Freshman year, I lived in west campus. I kind of hated my floor, (because really, who plays hallway football at 3am Every. Single. Night) but I thankfully loved my roommates. We quickly opened up to everyone at BU except our floor, and I began to find out what BU was all about.
BU has just been a phenomenal experience for me. 65% women and 35% men, just saying. So, what have I learned? I learned that judging a person meant not actually getting to know them, but creeping through all 800+ of their facebook pictures during class. I learned to avoid Ashford street at all costs, bro, not matter how desperate I was to party. And I learned, amazingly, that studying for gen chem felt actually the exact the same as punching yourself in the face.
But in all seriousness, to me BU is the reason why none of us will ever be that awkward kid that people avoid in class or at work. If you take a cross-section of the students walking down commonwealth ave, you find the entire spectrum of personalities, from the “dude, this person is winning the Nobel Prize” to the “dude, how did THEY get into college.”
It is a realistic profile of the real world. If you want a lopsided view, go to the schools across the river (uhem harvardmit). We basically now know how to socialize with virtually any type of person, and that is something I could’ve only gotten at a school with 10 billion students, namely, BU.
Okay so, there is a world outside of BU and that’s what I turn to next, because it’s the world we’re all about to enter. As an example, my family and I have been going to El Salvador about once every two years, and the last time I went was sophomore year. I’d like to share what I learned, because it speaks to the problems of the world and why we’re all capable of fixing them.
During our trip, I learned that for many people, leaving home doesn’t mean heading to class or to lab, but it means accepting the sobering possibility of not coming back, because tomorrow is a privilege and is neither promised nor a right.
For some, like my parents, it means leaving your home and job, coming to this country illegally, not seeing your spouse and kids for 2 years in order to give them a fighting chance, learning a new language, building your way up from scratch to provide for your family and get them out of their war-torn country.
It means waiting 20ish years to see your son or daughter finally graduate college, one step closer to being a successful person. Whether or not you had to go through those troubles, though, isn’t the point. The point I’d like to make is that while we, the class of 2010, waited 21 years to have our “first beer” (wink wink), every parent in this room waited 20 some years to be here today.
Being a parent is one of the ultimate acts of altruism. I can understand why parents love their children. Outside your immediate family, there are people who have nothing in common with you but your humanity. Of these people, nearly 1 billion do not have access to clean drinking water. Just a few weeks ago, we didn’t have access to clean water for about 48 hours and Boston nearly collapsed. There were fights in supermarkets for water and Armageddon was pretty much here.
We couldn’t even buy coffee, and we found out quickly that America, in fact, DOES run on dunkin, because people went nuts. We can only begin to imagine what it’s like to be in this situation for a lifetime. The point I’d like to make is that life isn’t and shouldn’t be a spectator sport.
This ultimately taught me humility. If your biggest complain is “oh my god I can’t believe I have TWO exams next week and a paper due,” then face it, you’re living a pretty good life relative to the rest of the world.
Just turn on the news to be reminded that the world has an abnormal pulse—global warming, terrorism, poverty, limited access to clean water, and nuclear warheads. This is the world we’re inheriting whether we like it or not, and we have to figure out how NOT to be okay with it, because WE need to do something about it.
Yet, we’re living in pretty good times. Out of every century that has ever past, despite the somewhat depressing claims I’ve made, ours almost ironically is the most peaceful, and this positive trend is only getting better and better. It seems crazy, but it’s supported by virtually all the data compiled.
In the age of hunter-gathering tribes, competing groups would simply club each other to death. Skip a few million years to the Romans, where public torture was entertainment. Skip a few centuries to the middle ages where saying “King Henry is a doofus” got you executed—these acts are all considered morally reprehensible by today’s standards. There is a positive trend in altruism among our species and a negative trend in violent acts, even if you include both world wars and the holocaust of the last century.
That is an amazing and captivating trend for our species as a whole, and is a testament to our ability to transcend our sometimes violent and animalistic nature to uphold that thing we call empathy.
Our ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others and feel our common denominator – our humanity – is what neuroscientists call having a theory of mind, and it’s what normal people simply call having a pulse. It’s important to occasionally check that we still have that pulse. This was a lesson that I learned both at and away from BU.
[So what can we do about it? Well, how many people know what they’re doing after graduation? How many don’t? I’m scared to ask how many are still paying attention[PL2] ? ]
To those of you who do know what you’re doing, the bit of advice I have is: Try not to overspecialize. Ever. I promise you that if you do, you’ll learn more and more, about less and less, and you’ll eventually come to know everything about nothing (I don’t love this paragraph: it borders on preachy and condescension).
Basically, it’s good to be well rounded and well informed in a world where everything is becoming interdisciplinary. This way we can have a meaningful understanding of the world’s problems, from immigration laws in Arizona to nuclear arms in North Korea, HIV in Africa to cancer worldwide. Then, as I know some of us will, we can begin to chip away at these issues through our respective careers.
To those of you who do not know what you’re doing: You’re in better company than the rest of us. Last summer I went to a lecture by Eric Lander, i.e. the Lady Gaga of genetics (I don’t even know what that means, it just sounds right) and arguably the most influential figure in the sequencing of the human genome. When he was our age, he was a math geek writing papers about combinatorial numbers and their application to a whole bunch of other fancy terms that probably don’t really have any application at all.
It turns out, when he was our age, the field of genomics didn’t even exist. Yet today he’s a world-leader in it. How could he have known what he wanted to do at our age when the field he would later devote his life’s work to wasn’t even in existence?
The point is that there are some trajectories in life we just can’t predict, no matter how big our frontal lobes are, and, I think, that’s exactly where life just begins to get interesting. It gets interesting when we’re faced with uncertainty, with choosing whether or not to try, for the first time… green eggs and ham:
I do not like green eggs and ham!
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
You do not like them. So you say.
Try them! Try them! And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.
Sam! If you will let me be, I will try them. You will see.
Say! I like green eggs and Ham! I do! I like them, Sam-I-Am!
At some point, we have to listen to Sam and not be scared of change, of life’s green eggs and ham, because we just might actually enjoy them.
Just think about what the last 4 years have brought about and how absolutely no one would have predicted these events when we were in high school—from an African-American president and a Hispanic female on the Supreme Court, to earthquakes in Haiti and the spread of Swine Flu.
Speaking of which, there’s an old joke that has nothing to do with any of this but I thought it was pretty great. People said we would have an African American president when pigs could fly, and then 100 days into Obama’s term, Swine Flu.
We’ve seen the Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots win championships. I’m from Boston, and if anyone says “18-1” right now so help me god. Even the Terriers won a championship. We’ve seen Comm. Ave go from miles of broken sidewalks to… miles of broken sidewalks with dinky trees. We’ve seen our neuroscience major go from an idea to the 2nd largest science major in CAS in just under 2 years, and there are no signs of it slowing down.
We’ve also seen our fair share of tragedies, like, oh my god, taco bell degenerating into a Starbucks. We’ve probably even experienced our first hangover on the Friday morning of an orgo exam or maybe that’s just me but anyways the point is we’ve all experienced a lot.
Finally, some of us may have even found love, and if you haven’t, well with nearly 7 billion people in this world you absolutely will. PS211 taught me at least that much. By the looks most of you just gave me I’m guessing you haven’t so anyways sensitive topic my bad moving on.
So I’ll leave you with three bits of advice that you can apply to virtually any situation:
When life doesn’t work out exactly as you had hoped, just remind yourself of what the wise warthog once said: hakunamatata. It means…
And when things work out exactly as you had hope, just remember what Willy Wonka warned about: “don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he ever wanted.” “What?” replies Charlie. “That man lived happily ever after.”
And finally, whether or not you know what you’re doing after today, I’ll leave you with, what I think, is the key to happiness, and it’s the moral of all of the stories I’ve shared today. When you leave BU, simply find something more important than you are, and dedicate yourself to it. If you’re really savvy, then you’ll find someone to pay you to do it. Thank you and congratulations.