Convocation Speaker Danielle Simon '09

Chance. Fortune. Destiny. Serendipity. We have hundreds of names for luck, passed down through centuries of legends and stories. In Roman mythology, the goddess Fortuna represented luck in all its forms, whether blind, just, or simply capricious. Fortune makes her appearance in great works of art, including Dante's Inferno and the Carmina Burana, and in staples of  popular culture, like Wheel of Fortune. In our desire to harness luck and tame destiny, humans have coined dozens of phrases to wish one another luck. Onstage, we say, "Break a leg." Elsewhere, we wish each other, "Good luck," "Carpe Diem," or "Cross your fingers." My personal favorite is a phrase I learned from my choir while studying in Milan. Before we began each concert, the members of the choir would turn to one another and say, "In bocca al lupo." Translated, this literally means, "In the mouth of the wolf." This may simply be another antiquated expression wishing someone good fortune, but for me, a beginning Italian speaker, this phrase meant so much more. It conveyed a willingness to enter a realm of uncertainty and anxiety, to step into the unknown armed only with courage and passion. It also offered me a sense of security- a knowledge that my companions entered the mouth of the wolf at my side.

Many of us refer to UPS as a bubble. As students, it has provided us with a safe haven where we can exercise our intellectual and creative impulses to the fullest. Our professors challenge us to think beyond what is to what could be, and our ability to consider options beyond those that are safe and easy will serve us well as we emerge into a world that is not the protective bubble to which we have all become accustomed. We have all seen the headlines emblazoned on the front page of the newspapers strewn throughout Diversions and Oppenheimer: "Fed's Buying Government Debt. Hang On For The Ride," and "OBAMA WILL FACE DEFIANT WORLD ON FOREIGN VISIT."     In his inauguration speech, President Obama enumerated the many challenges our nation faces, both internationally and closer to home. As seniors and soon-to-be members of the professional world, we will graduate into a world of economic and political uncertainty, the figurative "mouth of the wolf." We have the responsibility not only to understand the issues we face, but to confront them head on, armed with the knowledge and the ability to think that is the gift of our Puget Sound education. We can be the individuals the president lauded when he said, quote "It has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom." unquote The difficulties that await us will not simply disappear. But, thanks to the gift of our education, we are capable not only of surviving, but of thriving. We already are the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things. Many of our fellow seniors have already devoted their time, money, and creativity toward creating a more sustainable society, or encouraging college students to become politically active. The "real world" we've heard so much about is not as far removed as we might imagine, and although the problems we face might be intimidating, we can at least be sure that we don't face them alone. As we graduate, we can wish each other "in bocca al lupo," not only because we are aware of the difficulties ahead, but also because we embrace the challenges, and are capable of overcoming them- together.

-May 2009