President Coppola’s speech from Opening Convocation 2015
I remember as a fourth grade student returning home from the ophthalmologist with a new pair of glasses that I was astounded at how clear the landscape and the rich verdant colors appeared. The right prescription gave me a completely new appreciation for the world around me. I was very happy until the next day when I endured the taunts of, “Hey Specs,” “Four Eyes,” and “Poindexter!” To see or not to see; there was no choice for me. I needed to see.
I also remember as a child trying to protect my possessions from my younger siblings who would say, “Let me see that!” Of course, they meant that they wanted to feel or touch the toy or tool. I would unconvincingly reply, “See with your eyes, not your hands.” I was so mistaken.
About ten years ago, filmmakers re-introduced the three-dimensional movie experience and provided patrons with 3-D glasses in movie theaters. The technology has improved dramatically from the 1954 black and white films, The Black Lagoon, by Jack Arnold or Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, and the perspectives are magnificent. Beginning slowly in 2004 with Polar Express, and continuing in 2008 with Journey to the Center of the Earth, and in 2009, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, and several films in 2010, such as, How to Train Your Dragon or Toy Story 3, began an avalanche of activity that has produced more than one hundred 3-D films that are often cartoons, but also encompass works of action, science fiction, and horror.
Students, you have always known 3-D movies as part of your cultural reality. You are accustomed to looking at things from several perspectives, several points of view. You have been invited since you were children to dream, be creative, and imagine a broader, bursting world. You have been asked to see and experience the world through other people’s eyes. In fact, the 2009 James Cameron film,Avatar, proposed exactly that.
Artists, writers, poets, musicians, filmmakers, and teachers often try to help others see and experience the world from different perspectives. One example was when Pete Townshend of the music group, The Who, penned the haunting and desperate 1970 lyrics for the blind, deaf, and manipulated messiah figure, Tommy, who sang: “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.” For Townshend, seeing is not only the proverbial believing but is also feeling, touching, and opening one’s mind.
College is also a place where we try to see and feel through other people’s eyes. Going to college opens up a wide panorama of possibilities. The communal telescopic perspective is possible because you have the gift of being surrounded by and engaged with hundreds of people your age who are all trying to see and figure out where they want to go and who they want to become. Sometimes we must travel away from home before we can gauge the clarity of our vision and perception. Thankfully, Keystone is a safe and welcoming destination; a home away from home.
From another point of view, college life offers one the opportunity to look deeply within in a way that was never possible before. Some of this personal microscope dynamic will come into focus for you over the next few years when you take the time to reflect, to re-see, re-view, and evaluate your perspectives and assumptions. Insight comes from reflection on hindsight while planning with foresight for those things that are out of sight.
Here is the way we see it at Keystone College: each one of you (and all of us together) can grow, learn, and be transformed in this educational community where learning flourishes. Each one of you is encouraged to seek out your prescription for happiness and virtue in the “Stairs to Success” process. When you are able to distinguish your needs from your wants, selflessness from selfishness, virtue from vice, honesty from deceit, then you have not only sight but also a vision. In this way, seeing is belonging and believing in oneself and then succeeding in becoming your best self. Volunteering, sacrificing, being part of a team or group, or even falling in love all help to clarify your vision—although falling in love is also known to make things a bit blurry, at first.
Seeing is literally defined as the faculty of sight, but our College is largely about being open to the sight and insights of the faculty. The faculty and staff are here for you because our visions are now focused on the same aim: your success. We are here to help you more clearly see your dreams and work towards achieving those dreams that are right for you.
The writers of The Book of Proverbs (29:18) aptly note: “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.” Thankfully, the vision promoted in a Liberal Arts and Sciences education empowers you to think freely and critically, to act with justice and compassion, and to open your eyes and hearts to love. We want you to see in three-dimensional color and enjoy the wonder of the love of learning. We invite you to see, feel, touch, and heal by removing any self-imposed blinders such as indifference, cynicism, suspicion, and lies. Ironically, indifference does not make any difference. Cynicism leads to loneliness. Suspicion makes everything smell fishy, and lies bury our dreams in piled-high deceptions.
Pablo Picasso, the Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, poet, and playwright who spent most of his adult life in France until his death in 1973, once remarked, “If I paint a wild horse, you might not see the horse, but surely you will see the wildness!” I suggest to you that Keystone College encourages and fosters a wildness, an unbridled and broad three-dimensional kind of seeing and living. Of course, an open mind is not the same as an empty head. But keeping yourself open to other perspectives will allow you to experience the most magnificent places, ideas, and people.
Today, we celebrate the beginning of your journey to achieve your goals and dreams—even if they are only dimly perceived at this time. We do not fear confusion or darkness here. The stars shine brightly in darkness and rocky shores sparkle best after the mist has lifted.
Today, we confidently pass on the scrolls of enrollment that symbolize our three-dimensional vision imbedded in our Latin motto [via fit-vi] that we translate as “progress through effort.” The challenge embodied in “progress through effort” is for us be ambitious, do our best, and to see far. The word “effort” invites us to work diligently and the word “through” calls us to be actively engaged and involved. The result will be steady and fulfilling progress.
Today, we see you. You will never have to call out in desperation like the figure in Tommy, “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.”
Today, we feel your excitement, enthusiasm, and energy. We see and celebrate you not only as someone’s son or daughter, someone’s sister or brother, someone’s spouse or partner, someone’s former student or employee, but as someone—an original person who is so much more than three-dimensional. Each and every one of you is a multi-dimensional mystery and gift to this community. We believe in you and officially welcome you to the Keystone College community!
To see or not to see—that is the question. Whether it is nobler to keep your head down and “mind your own business,” in the classroom or on campus, or rather, to get involved and see widely and embrace the life-giving opportunities around you, the choice is yours to make every day. I challenge you to make the most of your experiences here at Keystone College. Get involved. Fall in love with learning. Choose to see and you will succeed.
President David L. Coppola, Ph.D.