Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lavender Graduation

Lavender Graduation
May 10, 2012

Thank you for the invitation to be here today. Who would have thought a week ago that we would be standing together at such a time in our nation’s history?  We can parse the decision our President made to announce his views on marriage in a variety of ways, but when the dust settles, I think it will be viewed as a courageous decision made by a thoughtful and caring human being who will be treated well in historical perspective.

In our gatherings on Tuesday morning in the chapel on those days when classes are in session, we have spent the year reflecting on things we would change if we could: something about our selves, our jobs, our school or out world. My friend Courtney Crummett who works in our library, shared this poem last Tuesday as she explored what it meant to try to live beyond regret for what we have done or not done.

Thanks, Robert Frost by David Ray

Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept,
mistakes made by the selves we had to be,
not able to be, perhaps, what we wished,
or what looking back half the time it seems
we could so easily have been, or ought...
The future, yes, and even for the past,
that it will become something we can bear.
And I too, and my children, so I hope,
will recall as not too heavy the tug
of those albatrosses I sadly placed
upon their tender necks. Hope for the past,
yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage,
and it brings strange peace that itself passes
into past, easier to bear because
you said it, rather casually, as snow
went on falling in Vermont years ago.

At transitions such as the one we celebrate tonight, regret is often present in the form of “would a, could a, should a”. Would we had time to take another class taught by Lorna Gibson,.  Why didn’t I tell so and so what a jerk they were then they said such and such.  If only I had done such and such I would have been ….  We have a standing joke in my family when we are watching a particularly difficult performance or athletic endeavor: my daughter will look up and say, “If you had only pushed me, I could have done that.” It is a joke about regret, but there is a germ of truth because she remembers that we did often push her and she pushed back; we all did when pushed and that is a source of a lot of regret.

Regret can cripple when we dwell on it and that is why I like the poem. There is hope in the future, but there is also hope in our ability to redeem the past. A lot of us were uncomfortable when ROTC remained on campus during the years when “don’t ask, don’t tell” was in play, but  MIT continued to be engaged in the conversation and I think that had we stepped out of the conversations our ability to influence policy would have been lessened.

To move beyond regret is a human perspective, it is not unique to the LGBT community. There is enough regret to go around for all of us and learning to move on without regret is a benchmark for maturity. My hope for each of you is that you can move on and look to the future with hope knowing that the past is taking care of itself.


May you leave this place whole
May you leave this place hopeful;
Knowing that we are with you where-
ever you go and wherever you are.
You are part of MIT even as MIT has
Insinuated itself into the very marrow
of your bones, the blood that courses
In your veins, and the passion that enlivens
your spirits.
Do not forget us for we will not forget you.


Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute