This past March, President Brodhead declared to the student body: “You’ve changed at Duke, you’ve grown here. That blossoming and deepening is the fruit of your education.” An eternal optimist, I firmly believe that though this may be untrue for many, the majority of my peers and I have in fact matured and learned in our four years in Durham.
I am fortunate and grateful that my Duke education has been fulfilling in large part due to Professor Maurice Wallace, who threw my previous knowledge out the window and dared me to re-learn, reconsider and re-evaluate my self. To aid me in this odyssey, I leaned on the friends and the teachers and the institutions around me to seize this unique opportunity to resuscitate my mind and my life.
My new education comes from many sources and many people: from conscientious professors, first and foremost determined to provide the facts and the tools to seek out further truth; from compassionate friends, hell bent on loyalty and camaraderie rooted in goodness and companionship; from their despair, erupting out of victims of sexual assault, of eating disorders sprung from the ideologies and actions that render the sickness unavoidable; from their anger of being confronted with racist dictums conspicuous and subtle; from their hope, surging out of Duke’s true blossoms—those that fight for their education and for their beliefs, for others and for themselves, with ardent humility. These are all the gifts of friendship, and having been entrusted with the truths of my friends is the greatest achievement I believe I could have reached in college. They remind me daily of Frederick Douglass’ sage words: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
I would be remiss, however, to neglect the education I have received from those whom I do not consider my friends. I have learned from those who treat women with disrespect, the severe impetus to the impossible environment in which Duke women live every day-—to be superlative at everything, to stop at nothing to achieve it and to put up with the offensive remarks and ineffectual lifestyle of the odious suitors who crave them. From those ignoramuses who tout Confederate flags or anti-gay beliefs or oppressive sentiments about blacks and whites and Asians and Middle Easterners and Jews and Muslims and Christians; from the close-minded and their antipathy to all things open and progressive; from those who denounce calls for knowledge and equality and compassion as political correctness and then go forth, deeper into the darkness of their minds. These individuals remind me of Kahlil Gibran, who wrote that he “learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.”
But it has been those friends—not just those with whom I speak to every day, but those who will smile and nod hello in passing or who will send a random e-mail to ask about my day or who come over at 2 a.m. with a freshly baked pumpkin pie or who spend a few hours a day to watch The Simpsons or workout in the gym—who have been all the more valued and valuable during this, my senior year.
It was just two months ago that my father passed away after a six-month struggle with cancer, but through every moment my friends have remained all around me, holding me up, gently pushing me forward and upward, lifting me safely up from what could have been a bottomless sea of despondency. I love them all mightily and dearly, and I must thank them here and now, forever and wherever after. I loathe that I must leave their company so soon, and I hope they will put up with my endless tears that will surely be streaming generously on that day. Such is the bitter fruit of a college education, having made friends, and having to say goodbye.
On so many days of my college experience, I have been rowing upstream, waiting for the one fine morning that was surely the reward for having completed the onerous journey. But here, at the cusp of its conclusion, my heart aching, my muscles tired, I am rejuvenated, prepared and educated with the greatest truth I have learned: If I am lost or if I am weary, my friends, my mother and my father will be there to help me find my way.
Michael Corey is a Trinity senior and former Sports Editor and Towerview Editor of The Chronicle. He would like to thank his mother and father, who have blessed him and been his closest friends and best teachers his entire life; Professors Ariel Dorfman, Maurice Wallace, Deborah Pope, Peter Wood and Raymond Gavins; Coach Mike Krzyzewski for generosity of heart; The Chronicle family; and the Duke University community.
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