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Professor Baker-Siroty's full speech

Professor Baker-Siroty’s Speech

First, I want to congratulate all of our students on their achievements. It is a real honor to be here among you today—to be with many of the staff, the professors, and other members of our community who have inspired you and encouraged you to achieve great things is a gift. I also believe that it is an especially wonderful honor when families are able to join us and share in our student’s achievements—so I’d like to thank the families that are here tonight.

This achievement belongs to the students, but it also belongs to our community. It is so important that we honor high achievers and I am glad to be in a community where scholarship is recognized. I am even more honored to be among those recognized tonight.

Each of the students here, both the inductees to Alpha Chi, and the many students receiving other academic honors, are to be celebrated. I would like to especially thank the Interim Dean of the College, Dr. Bill Stargard for his help and encouragement as a colleague, mentor, and for his general amazing sense of humor.

As the honorary inductee I have been asked to discuss academic scholarship—both my own scholarship and the general sense of the effort to pursue knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself.

The search of knowledge is hard fought—throughout history—and we should never stop in our efforts to engage in scholarly pursuits.

As a writer and poet, I rely heavily on research. On finding as much possible information about a thing before I write. Sometimes this is pure procrastination—I may excel in this as well—but most of it is that I believe knowing about a topic matters—if for nothing else than you will be really great at trivia!! I kid, of course. An example of my search for knowledge in my writing career is my relationship to the Quabbin Reservoir. Let me ask everyone here a question, did you drink any water today? Do you know where it came from? Anyone?

In the town of Brookline, and all of Boston, our water comes from The Quabbin Reservoir, which is located in Central Massachusetts—if you look at a map, you’ll see that it’s about 65 miles from Boston at its closest point.

But since I like my research, I calculated the drive on google maps and it would take 2 hours and 10 minutes to get there from here right now.

That’s how far our water travels before it comes out of our sinks.

And in addition, in order to create the Quabbin Reservoir in 1938, four towns needed to be cleared…as in removed… as in, two of them—Enfield and Greenwich, flooded, Dana and Prescott razed, destroyed. 2,500 people from these four Massachusetts towns had to give up their homes so that Boston and its surrounding towns could have water.

Have I said too much? I could go on forever.

Usually when I write, I don’t know where a poem or story will go. I have a general idea sometimes, but the research helps ground me. It gives me the power to go in absolutely any direction I want. To be unafraid to face challenges. I see knowledge this way, as a great power that we have infinite access to.

How fortunate we are for that.

I want to encourage each of you to continue to pursue the boundless power of education. It is a gift, and in the face of people who see truth as an irrelevant thing, I challenge you to always seek out knowledge.

You may not need information the second you read it, but maybe someday you’ll find yourself in a room full of people—with candles around you—and you can teach them the important truth about where their drinking water comes from.