As the end of the year finally arrived, it was time for Graduation. The Department of Interior Architecture held a graduation show for which the opening was Friday June 3rd. Refreshments and snacks were served before the names of the awarded graduating students were announced [list coming soon]. Parents walked around the 6th floor of the CIT building to take a look at the students work. Liliane Wong, the Department Head, gave a final speech and congratulated the graduating students for their exceptional work. Her graduation speech can be downloaded here: graduation 2011.
The work of Nobel laureate Jose Saramago frequently explores the delineations and divisions made
by lines drawn in physical and metaphoric space; lines drawn between action and inertia, between
birth and death, between what is and what might have been. We stand at such a line today – an
invisible partition between life as a student and life beyond.
Graduation occupies a special place on such a line, a sliver of space that is betwixt and between. A
place that we, both students and professors, have been working towards since the day each of
you was accepted at RISD. It is a point from which one can observe that which has just finished
and also contemplate that which lies ahead. It is a time when one is wished every success in life and
also the brief moment when one has the disinterest and distance to ponder the meaning of that
Success has many faces. In the global arena, the world has marveled at the success of the Arab
spring and the struggle for democracy. Nationally, President Obama lauded the success of the Navy
Seals operation in Pakistan. Much media attention was spent on the lack of success in Japan’s
efforts to contain the nuclear power plant despite the heroic efforts of many unnamed workers
who have risked their lives to do so. Speculation has taken place on the fall from success of
Dominique Strauss Kahn. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga’s meat dress has achieved notorious success.
According to Mark Twain “to succeed in life you need 2 things: ignorance and confidence”.
Even within our four walls, success, like Janus, has more than one face. Your achievements around
us today speak of accomplishment. The plans, sections, renderings here record the success of your
journey in Providence and in our Department. They demonstrate to your parents and family the
skills you have acquired. As part of your portfolio they will also demonstrate your creative abilities to
the professional world.
There is another kind of success here in this room, one that does not translate to lines and pixels. It
too has other faces, ones that you all know well. In many degree projects there is success in the
courage to undertake projects that push you farther than you have ever dared. In the unresolved or
incomplete project, there is the success of ambition and attempting ambitious works. In projects
with recurring queries over several semesters, there is the success of dogged and relentless
exploration. In huge undertakings involving 25 ft installations, sheets of plywood, enormous
quantities of sheetrock screws and several colleagues there is the success of sheer determination. In
modest projects, there is success in recognizing the commonplace and the democracy of design. It is
these at times impossibly long and arduous explorations that have guided you to this moment.
Standing on this line in that space between student days and professionalism, there is a brief
moment of clarity, not clouded by grades or fame, when we can see that these are the successes
that will hopefully keep you company for the longer journey. I’ve heard it said that success and
failure are good companions; that one is a hero and the other is its sidekick.
Where will you be next year? Ten years from now? I know that this speculation and the endless
portfolios and cover letters it entails have caused each of you anxiety this semester. Don’t worry. The
successes will come. But what will you take with you from here? Seneca said “It’s not because
things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are
difficult.” As you leave us, I wish that you take what you have lived here and venture far in your
successes but not so far that you don’t come back to us now and then.