Prepared text of the 2011 Baccalaureate student speech by Samuel J. Gould, BS candidate in biology
To most people, my life seems a contradiction.
I believe in God, but at Stanford I majored in biology.
I was raised in a culture that exposed me to the social injustice of our financial system, but at Stanford I decided to minor in economics.
I want to be a priest in the Episcopal Church, but at Stanford I chose to join a fraternity. To the outside world my life does not make sense. But at Stanford, I am not alone. Here I am just one of many who live lives of contradictions.
One of my spiritual practices while at Stanford has been to walk over the time capsules that are buried around the Quad.
Like many of you graduating this weekend, I was born in 1989. I found my birth year claims a unique place among the capsules, because when I stand in the back right corner of the Quad there is a break in the sequence of numbers. To the left there is 1989 and beyond, while to the right is 1988 and every year before it.
I always walk to the right, into the past.
When I step on '85 I am reminded to pray for my brother – my best friend.
When I stand on '74 I think about my activist mother graduating from high school having lost her faith in our nation because of Watergate.
On '66 I reflect on the world my father entered as he graduated from college amidst the chaos of Vietnam.
On '41 I meditate on both my grandfathers, who served our country in World War II.
On '19 I remember the birth of my recently deceased grandmother, who waited 86 years to see our beloved Red Sox finally win a World Series.
And when I reach the end and stand on 1892, I look back and am humbled.
This weekend we will join this amazing history of graduates. Like always, a speaker will wonder if the next Martin Luther King Jr. or Bill Gates is sitting among us. I, however, do not dwell on our future accomplishments. When I look out at all of you, I see friends who will be at my wedding, help me celebrate the birth of my children and, when the time comes, be there to remember me.
I chose to attend Stanford University because it is an amazing academic institution with an unparalleled athletics program in sunny California. What more could a boy from Massachusetts want?
As I prepare to enter the real world, I do not deny that all of that is true, but the more I think about my time here the more the memories of my classes begin to fade, while the people I've met remain vividly etched in my mind.
The friends and classmates who surround us today are the people who have made Stanford, Stanford.
I know that what I will take from the Farm are the relationships that have changed my life forever.
I know I will never forget the biology professor who challenged me to develop an ecological model using my background in economic theory; the coach who pushed me to become not only the best athlete but also the best person I could be; the cook who did not speak English but still became a second mother to me; and the friends who have seen me at my best and worst and love me anyway.
So as we go down our different paths in life, we do not travel alone.
We carry within us not contradictions but the community that is Stanford. The community that has made us who we are today.