Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, April 10, 2002

Founders' Celebration speech

The following is the text of the speech Cody Page, an undergraduate majoring in humanities, gave at Founders' Celebration April 7, 2002.

I have never perceived Stanford as simply a name. True, ears perk up and heads turn at the mention of this university in almost any context, but the true and mind-blowing beauty of this place is nestled much deeper; in the soul of Stanford -- beneath the deserved yet incomplete reputation for excellence. I have pictures of my 12-year-old self clad in a baggy red sweatshirt given to me by my uncle. It had big white letters: STANFORD. Somehow, I can't recall what those letters, the color, meant to me at that age, but it certainly didn't symbolize some faceless academic killjoy. Even then -- even if "Stanford University" was merely a distant Graceland -- I had an inkling of the magic within this school.

As any insulated Southern Californian might, I came to Stanford with a preconceived expectation of this place as a familiar (albeit incredible) representation of the Golden State. My eyes were wide and my mind open -- but I found myself prepared only for some amalgam of Californian culture with which I was already well versed. The life-changing surprise that I received, however, was and continues to be anything but familiar or restricted. High school ears hear lots of descriptions of college, and my experience was no different. My exposure to these descriptions prepared me for something incredible -- for some place where I could learn and achieve all sorts of academic triumphs with the help of one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. I was not disappointed when I found the truth behind this preparation. But, what parents and teachers and counselors could never prepare me for was the profound beauty at the heart of Stanford: its humanity.

The sheer number of extraordinary people that pass my way day to day gives me great pause as I recall my situation: a 20-year-old living with and learning from Nobel laureates, musicians, dear hearts, dramaturges, physicists, storytellers, mentors, muses, talents, presidents and intellectuals, all on top of the most gorgeous, sweeping part of the country that I've ever seen. Yes, "pause" is certainly the least of the things that this realization gives to me. This is a place where Bertolt Brecht mentored your mentor, where Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the student body, where Philip Zimbardo conducted the Prison Experiment. At the same time, this is a place where you chat by Lake Lagunita in the spring, where you run with the Band until 2 in the morning, where you can talk about Descartes or daisies with your girlfriend, where your roommate plays the meanest jazz piano you've ever heard. For me, this is a place of perfect synthesis: high academia and a vibrant human spirit.

This synthesis defies that Southern Californian notion with which I approached Stanford. True, Stanford has distinctly Californian aspects to it, but one might find that much of this motif drops off after the architecture. What I've found beneath the golden surface of this university is the glow of thousands of diverse lives drawn here from all over America and, indeed, the world. These lives interact and argue and enlighten one another like some grand collegiate bazaar. I had a neighbor from Pakistan last year with whom I still keep in close touch. His views are fascinating. One of my draw mates lived in Singapore and Hong Kong for most of her life before moving to Chicago. I recently finished up a fall musical with a close friend of mine from South Africa. Not to mention my classmates from every corner of the United States with their own stories to tell. My point, here, is that nowhere else could I find the level of diversity of perspectives, companionship and intellect that I do at Stanford. Nowhere. The sentence "I learn" hardly covers the spectrum of knowledge I've received here, in and out of the classroom. And I do not reference all of these people to simply tout a perceived worldliness about myself or to aggrandize Stanford's reputation for variation. I do this because this is my reality. I speak today because I am all but struck dumb at the infinite avenues for learning to be found at the heart of this place.

In my eyes, this school in the hills reaches far beyond the scope of description. Even words like "university," "diversity" and "opportunity" seem to limit what fuels Stanford and makes it such a rare gem among treasures. At the risk of sounding trite, Stanford has truly become a state of mind for me -- with the exposure to so many beautiful ideas and personalities, how could it not be? I am still "me," but this place has put a fantastic spin on my perception of my world, of my experience. The intrepid hopes from high school have been fulfilled. My family quoted Samuel Clemens on my page of the senior yearbook: "Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream." Well, these adventures have begun. These dreams are materializing. And the school in the hills is rife with possibility...


Cody Page