Baccalaureate-Speech: Henry McCorkle '11
From Local to Global: The Dickinson Paradox
Henry McCorkle '11
The world is tiny. This was the conclusion that I came to last spring while studying abroad at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. I had been chatting with a fellow American in one of my classes and found out that this student was a housemate of my best friend from high school at their home college in Massachusetts. Several months later our mutual friend came to visit us in Norwich. I remember how floored he was thinking that two of his close friends from different parts of his life were here together in a foreign country. On that day the world was smaller than ever before.
Because the world is so tiny it has become evident to me what a large impact one individual can have on it. The key, I have come to realize, is that we humans must use our abilities for good rather than evil. I must admit that Dickinson has helped shape me into an individual who has the potential to do good in this world. Four years after ascending the old stone steps I am considerably more aware of global issues, I am infinitely more sustainable, and I have learned to seek connections between academics and “real life experiences.” Many of you would say that I have bought into Dickinson’s mission (literally). I admit that I have, to a certain extent, but I can assure you that I have come to these conclusions on my own. Over the next few minutes I plan to chart the path of a Dickinson student from Convocation to Commencement and from a first-year with tunnel vision to a more globally engaged citizen.
Arriving at Dickinson as a first-year student, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that my primary focus was centered around what was happening on campus. I remember being worried about my classes, how I would meet friends and how I would open my HUB box. Dickinson’s campus seemed huge, Hanover Street seemed so far away and going to Target was a day’s journey. There was so much to explore and discover at Dickinson that I did not have any immediate desire to venture into the community.
Before long I had formed good friendships, settled into my classes, and had heard so much about Carlisle from professors and upperclassmen that I felt it was time to explore the community. My classmates and I began walking down to Hanover Street for wings on Tuesdays or grabbing Massey’s on a warm evening. My increased comfort level in Carlisle led to a desire to benefit the community. Many of my classmates and I began to involve ourselves in some form of community service in the Carlisle area. There was a good chance that our community outreach stemmed from something we had learned about in class or were passionate about from previous experiences. In any event, we took the first step toward seeking connections between our academic experience and our community outreach. We began to emerge from the Dickinson bubble and our world began to expand.
As we continued to spend more time at Dickinson, many of us continued to get more involved in the Carlisle area. Many of us also began to take on leadership roles on campus and started to share our experiences in the community with other students. As we continued to lead and continued to learn, our community awareness broadened and more connections were forged between our academic experience, our community outreach and our own personal growth. Our world continued to grow.
Many of us were fortunate enough to have spent some time studying abroad or studying in another part of the U.S. while attending Dickinson. Some of us had an internship on campus or had a chance to study abroad during the summer months. Regardless of where we went or for how long, there is a good chance that many of us became more globally aware during this experience. During our international, national or regional experience, connections were forged between our homes, Dickinson and our abroad community. Although we continued to see more of the world and may have experienced different cultures than we were used to, we began to recognize common threads that hold our entire world together. Because of this, our world, which had been steadily growing, could suddenly be viewed as tiny.
Before we knew it, our senior year at Dickinson began. Personally, I viewed senior year as an opportunity to return to Dickinson as a more globally engaged citizen and pass along what I had learned during my year away from campus to my peers. Although I admit that I did not make the same personal strides as I did when I was attempting to navigate an airport in a country where I barely spoke the language, I felt that I grew as a leader and was able to articulate my experiences more effectively to my professors and my peers.
Regardless of what our paths at Dickinson has been, it is safe to say that as seniors we have experienced the spectrum of what Dickinson has to offer. Many of us have discovered what we love about Dickinson and have continued to give back, even during the busiest times, when we may have had a thesis to write, jobs to apply for and a future to plan.
Although there have been countless examples of seniors exhibiting exceptional leadership on campus over the past year, I will use Relay For Life as an example. Relay for Life was a success for the third year in a row because of the incredible leadership of seniors who knew how to delegate, communicate effectively and consistently and take the right steps to make this often emotional event an enjoyable time for all. I do not want to discredit any underclassmen who played a vital role in the planning and implementation of this event, rather I simply want to commend my classmates on diving headfirst into this task, staying poised throughout the process and setting the course for a positive service to be done at Dickinson three years in a row. I think it is safe to say that the leadership and communication skills that these senior leaders obtained during their four years at Dickinson certainly helped them during this event.
After the success of an event such as Relay For Life, it is clear that my classmates have been able to seek connections between their academic experience, their community outreach and their global experience and use these connections to create a better community for themselves, for their peers and for the world. Over the course of three years, over $175,000 was raised for the American Cancer Society. For most Dickinson students, during Relay for Life, their entire world was inside the Kline Center. It was all that mattered, it was tiny. Despite the fact that our world was literally small that night, it is clear that the work that was done will have positive global ramifications. From local to global, this is the Dickinson paradox. Congratulations, Dickinson College class of 2011!