June 25th, 2012
Over the coming days, the Humanities Blog will be featuring remarks given by six different students at the Humanities Commencement on May 20, 2012. These remarks were made by Alana R. Blum, who received her B.A. magna cum laude in Near Eastern and Judaic studies with a minor in Anthropology. Alana describes herself as passionate about writing and about Jewish history. She was an editor and contributing writer for the Brandeis Hoot, and she won the Rose and Joseph Weissman prize in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.
Good morning. It is an honor to be addressing you today. At this moment, we are each completing our own unique journeys through Brandeis. Our time here wasn’t a collective experience, but today we are unified by a shared sense of accomplishment and a shared ambition to implement our studies into our futures. Each step we’ve taken during our education has been in preparation both for today and for the years to come.
I have often thought that one’s future can best be designed by looking through the lens of one’s past. That is why I chose to major in Near Eastern and Judaic studies, since the department achieves this so well. Each course I took helped me understand and internalize the struggles and triumphs of the generations before me, giving me a newfound confidence to face life’s challenges. In our humanities courses, we have learned to appreciate multiple facets of academic inquiry that have brought us through history and across cultures, helping us to comprehend how our world developed, as well as what is possible for the future.
Personally, I didn’t undergo a single semester without having my perception of reality challenged and transformed. For instance, this past semester I was wisely advised to take a class I wouldn’t have chosen on my own. I approached it warily, only to realize that my entire outlook on the subject was filled with misconceptions. It’s often difficult to admit when one’s vision of truth is much more limited than one has imagined, but the payoff comes in learning to see the world with a deeper and less biased understanding.
Whether we have explored globalism, history, or religion, we have learned that little is as it seems on the surface. This is a lesson—really, a gift—which will benefit all of us wherever our futures take us. As I like to say, the question of who we will be in life is not answered just by a vocation; it’s the totality of who we are as human beings. And both this intellectual openness and appreciation of differences are truly what distinguishes us as students of Brandeis’ School of Humanities. If I were to offer some advice, it is that we radiate this broadened worldview as we find our futures and the commitments we make to them. Thank you, and congratulations.