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Senior Orations

History

Compiled by Ethel Kanoy in 1977: “In the first year of the Institute (1834) students organized a debating society. Soon after the opening of the second session in 1835, students organized two groups, the Euze1ians and the Philomathesians. These two literary societies promoted debate and oratory at all special occasions of the college.

At first, all members of the senior class were expected to speak, unless excused by the faculty. In the early ’80s the number of speakers was fixed at ten; others in the class wrote a thesis. In 1899 the number of speakers was reduced to eight, in 1909 to six and in 1924 to four. In 1973 the Dean of the College reduced the number of speakers to three.”

Read the full history

Since 2010, the orations have been read by the authors at Founders’ Day Convocation:

2014 Orations

“The Lethe and the Liberal Arts: On Avoiding Chronological Snobbery and Remembering the Past”
Michael Hunter (’14)
Greek; Kernersville, NC
Michael Hunter ('14)
There is a tremor in both culture and higher education that threatens to become a rather major fault line. That tremor is arrogant intolerance. I say “arrogant” intolerance because not all intolerance is bad. For example, we are and should be intolerant of plagiarism and plagiarists in the academic community, as well as a great number of other evils. Arrogant intolerance, however, is a different matter entirely. Read more »

“Broadening to Narrow: University’s Paradox”
David J.W. Inczauskis (’14)
Spanish; Homer Glen, Ill.
David Inczauskis ('14)
Children, for all their naiveté, are particularly astute. They are credulous when it comes to certain matters, yet they ask very difficult and honest questions. Above all, children ask questions that begin with the pesky word why. “Why is the sky blue?” they think. “Why do trees lose their leaves in the fall?” they wonder. Or, a much more typical one in my household, “Why do you always burn the frozen pizza, ma?” Anyways, children’s demands for causal knowledge — and their restlessness in the pursuit of i t — never cease to catch us off guard. Read more »

“Who Is Wake Forest?”
Melvin Washington III (’14)
Political Science; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Melvin Washington ('14)
On the first floor of Carswell Hall; just before the Annenburg auditorium; there is a quote that goes sporadically noticed and seldom explored by the average student rushing to class. It is credited to Wake alumnus Ed Wilson and reads, “Long before we played football, edited publications, acted, or sang – in fact, almost before we studied, we of Wake Forest talked.” And talked we have. Read more »

2013 Orations

“Our Actions, Ourselves”
Joshua Courtney (’13)

Political Science; South Bend, IN
Josh Courtney ('13)“I subconsciously observed this Wake Forest society in comparison with my old society, and we can call this a culture shock. However, one thing I noticed from the people here that strikes me the most remarkable is that everyone here walks with confidence. It was not until I arrived here then I realized that I often walked with my head down. Indeed, if I did not learn anything else from this university, it is confidence that I have gained.” Read more »

“What a Tapestry WE Weave”
Dean D. Guerra (’13)

Theatre; Cypress, TX
Dean Guerra ('13)Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” I grew up in a rich, colorful, beautiful tapestry of life. You may not realize it about me at first glance, but I grew up in a children’s home in Texas with 27 girls. Some Mexican, Some Black, Some White, Some Vietnamese, Some Eritrean, Some Choctaw Indian. Read more »

“The Confessions of A Show Dog”
Xinxin Zhang (’13)

Chemistry with Biochemistry; Lumberton, NC
Xinxin Zhang ('13)“So what’s your trick?” asked my fellow interviewee. I was sitting in the admissions office of X medical school at some indecent hour of the morning, paused in my unattractive inhalation of a croissant. “Mmf?” I asked intelligently, not quite sure what “trick” I was supposed to have. “You know, your difference trick,” he replied. “What makes you different from the rest of the applicants.” Read more »

2012 Orations

“The Power to Strive Forward”
Hsien-Ching (Jean) Chen (’12)

Russian major; Taipei, Taiwan
Hsien-Ching (Jean) Chen“I subconsciously observed this Wake Forest society in comparison with my old society, and we can call this a culture shock. However, one thing I noticed from the people here that strikes me the most remarkable is that everyone here walks with confidence. It was not until I arrived here then I realized that I often walked with my head down. Indeed, if I did not learn anything else from this university, it is confidence that I have gained.” Read more »

“Don’t Give Me an Education”
Amy Gardin (’12)

English major; Clemmons, NC
Amy Gardin“I was used to easy As that didn’t challenge my way of thinking. Now, I’m not saying that As are unheard of at Wake, but I know that I had to let go the need to define myself by good grades. I had to learn how to learn all over again. Once I did this, I discovered that the experiences and the new knowledge I gained were what truly made a class good for me, not whatever letter went on my transcript. However, that was a difficult lesson to learn as a hopeful young freshman.” Read more »

“Easy as Pi”
Brandon Turner (’12)

Biophysics major; Fontana, Calif.
Brandon Turner“Rather, scientific discovery seems to be something like climbing an incredible mountain, with each step forward, each advance taking us closer to the top. For most things we simply haven’t reached the top yet, we’re more likely at the tree line. But there’s nothing for me to fear in someday reaching the top, no beauty to be lost. In fact, it is only once we’ve reached the top, and are able to see the breathless view of the clouds surrounding us, and perhaps other, even taller mountains off in the horizon, that we can truly appreciate what a majestic piece of work the world is.” Read more »

2011 Orations

“Building Bridges at Home and Abroad”
Catherine (Cate) Berenato (’11)
English major; Blacksburg, Virginia
Cate Berenato“If Wake Forest is to live up to its reputation as a preeminent national institution, we must demonstrate the “Pro Humanitate” spirit in each and every aspect of our community. We must continue to build bridges, not just to foreign countries, but to those who seem like foreigners in our midst. For the greatest knowledge is not solely learned in textbooks, but is enhanced and developed through our everyday interactions with all members of our Wake Forest family.” Read more »

“Application for the Class of 2011″
Ashley Gedraitis (’11)

English major; Peru, Illinois
Ashley Gedraitis“The challenges that Wake Forest has placed before me have undoubtedly made me a stronger, more capable human being. That is possibly the biggest testament to Wake Forest – it does not just turn out accounting majors, psychology majors, or English majors. It produces wholly educated individuals. And for that, Mother So Dear, I would like to thank you.” Read more »

“To Understand the World …”
Ava Petrash (’11)

Sociology major; Kensington, Maryland
Ava Petrash“Reflecting on my almost four years here in Winston-Salem, I have come to realize that the ‘Wake Forest bubble’ is a myth. This place catapulted me out into society. It challenged me to create my own path and supported me as I shaped my worldview. As I prepare to spend the next year teaching in a low-income charter school in inner-city Boston, I am fully aware of the numerous gifts that my education has given me.” Read more »

2010 Orations

‘The Fear We Do Not Understand’
Monica Giannone (’10)

Monica Giannone“I have realized that overcoming this ‘fear of the unknown’ that I experienced for the first time on campus has come to shape my academic and scholarly pursuits. My professors, colleagues and friends have challenged me not to fear that which we do not understand, but instead to strive toward discovering the truth behind the foreign.”
Read more »

‘The Road Less Traveled’
Kate Miners (’10)

Kate Miners“Wake Forest has confirmed a life belief of mine. The easy road may be as its name suggests, but there are many things it is not. It’s not challenging or interesting or engaging or exciting. So when you are faced with a choice, choose the challenge, choose the mountain, and you will never go back.”
Read more »

‘We are Wake Forest’
Zahir Rahman (’10)

Zahir Rahman“Our Wake Forest community is strengthened by our differences, but its foundation is built on our shared commonalties. Our passion for higher education. Our belief in Pro Humanitate. Our allegiance to the Old Gold and Black. While we claim different identities, we all share a common interest in Wake Forest.” Read more »