Brian T. Li, Valedictorian

Made at Williams

Out in the Berkshires, there’s a blacksmith named “Williams.” She can be cold at times, really cold, but in her heart lays a bounty of warmth. She is strong, tough, even unforgiving, but a master artisan nonetheless.

Through the past four years, we as a class have been put through the fire, melted down, and pounded thin. We have encountered Williams at her fiercest. But we have also seen her soft side. Who could forget the gentle polishing of papers, problem sets, and theses? Maybe I mixed up a couple of images there.

Regardless, when I look at the class of 2012, I see a beautiful masterpiece. We have emerged from the workbench stronger than when we arrived. We are a unified community, yet diverse as can be. We are athletes, artists, writers, teachers, scientists, mathematicians (represent!), musicians, and the list goes on. Yet perhaps the most beautiful thing about this class is the fact that none of us lies in only one of these categories.

In some ways we are all well-crafted Swiss Army Knives. Throughout our time at Williams, we have accumulated different tools for different occasions. On the one hand, we have the big and strong implements used for athletics, and on the other hand, we have fine and delicate points for the arts. We have the sharp and precise edges used for the intellectual rigors of the classroom, and at the same time, we have bottle openers for the weekends. And the weekdays. Parents, I’m joking about the weekends.

But every new class, every new conversation, and every new experience has been a welcome addition to our toolkit. We have been equipped not only by the faculty and staff, but also by each other. It was through those 3am conversations in the nooks and crannies of campus that we learned about ourselves and taught ourselves about each other. We have developed different talents, passions, and callings. And more than all the academic work and cerebral pursuits, we have majored in ourselves, with concentrations in our closest friends.

Fellow classmates,

We came to Williams as raw materials, and we now leave as finely crafted instruments. As we travel on to exciting new experiences and adventures, let us remember the people and challenges that equipped us. When we use the tools that we have been given, let us appreciate who and where they came from. Let us be reminded of the communities, classes, and conversations that forged us into who we are today. And especially on this day, let us appreciate the masterful craftsmanship of the friends, family, and faculty around us.

Finally, as we go from this place, let us remember that we will always be united, bearing the marks of our maker. Because for all of us, somewhere up here (point at head), or maybe in here (hand over heart) there’s a tiny little stamp that reads “Made at Williams.”

Thank you.