I make my living with words and, most times, I’m able to say something close to what I’m thinking and feeling. I am rarely at a loss for words, even if they’re not the right ones. Each year, however, I find myself inadequate even in this regard as some of you, ignoring my best advice, insist on leaving, graduating, going away to do interesting and important things with your lives. It’s been this way for a while now and I have little hope of being able to change it. And so I will write a few words in a sorry attempt to express all that you’ve meant, individually and collectively, to the College, to the work that we share, and to me.
It has been my privilege to work with the best of the best (W&M students), and the best of the best of the best – students selected for MANOS and SOMOS. Those who accept the invitation join ongoing projects that come closer each year to realizing visions imagined about a decade ago, nurtured through deep study, field research, and reflection, and articulated with greater precision each year. Joining the impressive list of those who preceded you, each of you has contributed uniquely and singularly, and on behalf of all of us who have benefited, I say thank you to:
Christian Delgado, gracious, kind, with a gentle and loving heart and sneaky humor; quiet champion of those whose voice might not be heard;
Lester Chavez, lion-hearted (with a small sticker in his paw), incisive thinker, committed to his homeland and to transcending ideas that limit and constrain;
Rebecca Silverstein, the very opposite of P.I.T.A, soul of the project, refusing to accept reductionist understandings that limit either knowledge or sentiment;
Ambika Babbar, guardian of precious energy and effort, always insisting that we “measure twice before we cut once,” ensuring that project decisions reflect the very best of every relevant consideration;
Jeff Rohde, promoter and articulator of shared understandings, master of languages and good taste, insistent advocate for steady progress and sentry of needless distractions;
Kristin Giordano, “thoughtful watcher,” arbiter of cultural and cross-cultural awareness, cautious and analytical thinker of many important things, not least the complicated, risky, and optimistic notions about partnership, agency, and ownership;
Alyssa Luisi, who continues to teach me about international development, continues to challenge me to think more fully and precisely about community-based participatory research, and who, ultimately, will help to change the paradigm in international research and social change;
Mel Alim. She wants us to believe that she is a “Satisficer” while she casually achieves a PBK-worthy academic record (Biology and Finance), quietly leads as Vice President of the Student Assembly, and becomes the team’s resident expert on Esfuerzo’s residents, families, and households, and does it all with humility and unfailing patience;
Chrissy Sherman, FOMO extraordinaire, driven by passion and the conviction that problems have solutions and that she has the energy, determination, and stamina to be part of (all) those solutions; intellectually and analytically rigorous and profoundly sensitive to the needs of others;
Rob Marty (no real last name), perceptive beyond measure, gifted researcher with skills that most of us still can’t appreciate fully, and selfless in his pursuit of knowledge and resources to serve those who suffer injustice and disparities;
A. Elizabeth (Betsy) Thabault-Coco (could you share one of those names with Rob?), who finds a way often to cause us to re-think, to explain a little further an idea, a plan, or a conclusion whose foundation may not be as obvious or as compelling as might appear and who brings unflagging love of life to all that she does.
To each and all, you have my appreciation, my admiration, and my unstinting support. And, yes, I’ll be happy to write (any number of) recommendation letters.