Senior Orations at Wake Forest

The 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 80′s 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 MORE

2013 Senior Orations

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

Political Science; South Bend, IN
“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
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
“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 Senior Orations

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

Russian major; Taipei, Taiwan

“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

“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.
“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 Senior Orations

“Building Bridges at Home and Abroad” by Catherine (Cate) Berenato (’11)
English major; Blacksburg, Virginia

“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″ by Ashley Gedraitis (’11)
English major; Peru, Illinois

“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 …” by Ava Petrash (’11)
Sociology major; Kensington, Maryland

“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 Senior Orations

“A Productive Pursuit” By Monica Giannone

“Leaving for college was by far the scariest experience I had faced in my first 18 years on this planet. Now, four years later, I have realized that overcoming this ‘fear of the unknown’ 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 By Kate Miners

“Wake Forest has confirmed a life belief of mine. Life is difficult and confusing. It’s hard work and although it often doesn’t seem worth it, it always is. 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 By 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. Our trust in each other and the idea that one of our successes belongs to everyone, and that if one of us fail, we as a community have failed. For while we claim different identities, we all share a common interest in Wake Forest.” READ MORE

2009 Senior Orations

The Bubble Experience by Andy Lobashevsky

When I told my friends back in Alabama that my college asked me to give a short talk about culture and higher education, they fired their shot guns in the air for a good two to three minutes with their excitement and pride for me.  In all seriousness, it’s an unbelievable honor for me to speak to you today, and I really do love my hometown.  I can say now with complete confidence that the last four years of my life have been nothing short of incredible, for the most part because I was able to attend such a wonderful and exciting university.  So, all I can share with you is just my experience here at Wake and how it has enriched my life beyond my wildest expectations.

Impossible Questions and Questioning the Impossible by Emily Nicole Leonhardt
Senior Colloquium – 2006

Some of the best advice I have ever received came from my fifth grade social studies teacher.  Mrs. Hillman insisted that no matter how daunting a test question appeared, it was never impossible.  She gave us a simple tip: when faced with a difficult problem, take a deep breath and think, “Oh, what an interesting question!”  To this day, my mother teases me with this line when I’m studying for a particularly difficult test.  The method never worked miracles and it didn’t guarantee correct answers, but the lesson served me well over the years.  Mrs. Hillman knew that no matter how much we studied, we wouldn’t always have the exact answer to every question.  She trusted our ability to reason and encouraged us to rely on experience when memorization failed us. READ MORE

“Hope – in the voices of Africa” by Nemanja Savic

I packed my bags in August of 2002. 2 big, green, cheap suitcases, bursting at the seams and my traveling companion for many years – my bulky golf travel bag. I will never forget the tears that rolled down my mother’s face as she hugged me goodbye – absolute freefall to the indifferent African soil. She had made sure, in her motherly way, that I had packed everything short of the kitchen sink. My father was never a man of many words and his offering was not unusual: “Take care, study hard, don’t do anything stupid.” Wise. READ MORE


2008 Senior Orations

Learning from Orphanage #105  By Joseph Lazazzero
Senior Colloquium – 2008

There are few things that can match the experience one gains on an international service trip.  Fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to attend two of these to Orphanage #105 in Moscow, Russia during my four years here at Wake Forest University, first the summer of my freshman year and then again as the trip leader the summer of my junior year. It has been a combination of these two experiences that has come not only to define my time here at Wake Forest, but also myself as I look to the future. READ MORE

A Few Thoughts on True Freedom By Dorian Cowan
Senior Colloquium – 2008

Thought 1:
Over the past four years, my time at Wake Forest has opened the eyes of my mind and helped me to better understand who I am.  For these few thoughts, I wanted to share my story void of any discussion of my race.  I realize now that that is impossible.  I can’t ignore what God has predestined me to become.  Sometimes I feel trapped in a series of manmade institutions composed of problems that we are all aware of, but cannot fix.  Perhaps one day when we finally transcend from this physical bond we will ascend into heaven or a nebula of understanding and acceptance.  That will be the ultimate freedom.  But what exactly does it mean to be free, not as in the emancipation proclamation freedom, but to truly be free.  READ MORE

“Rereading History”  by Jae Haley
Senior Colloquium – 2008

In my sophomore year, I learned from my English professor that “Our age is retrospective,” and furthermore, that this tendency to look back is quite nearly a sin, preventing us from discovering truth, individualism, vitality. Today, I would challenge my professor and the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson having found wisdom and maturation as the result of retrospection. Is it even possible to not think retrospectively, to not ruminate over the past and how it has shaped and will shape a later time? Indeed, it is near impossible to prevent one’s mind from delving into the interiors of the past and even more so for my fellow seniors and me. READ MORE

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Wake Forest University,
Winston-Salem NC 27109

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