The morning I landed in Boston on May 31, there was static in the air. As the cab driver made small talk wanting to know why I have travelled for almost a day to be on this side of the world, he seemed really excited to tell me that Oprah Winfrey was in town for Harvard’s Commencement Ceremony.
The same buzz the cabbie had was replicated by the young man who checked me into the Sheraton Commander and later that day, the same infectious buzz was almost tangible with the four students who joined my table (purely out of curiosity) at Bertucci’s for some pasta and wine.
What Lauren Portman and her pals did in the course of conversation, helped set the tone and mood for my days here. They pulled out a transcript of Oprah’s speech and sent me the youtube link to the same. I went back to my room happy to have made new contacts and thrilled to have landed in Harvard at such an amazing time.
Oprah Winfrey was the speaker at Harvard University’s 362nd commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013. Wearing a crimson dress rather than the ceremonial gown Winfrey took the podium to a standing ovation. The first words out of her mouth went straight to my heart. “Oh my goodness, IIIIII’M AT HAAAAAARRRRRVAAAARD!” she boasted in traditional Oprah style. She spoke for both of us.
She advised the graduates to strive for one ultimate goal: to “fulfill the highest, most truthful expression of yourself as a human being. You want to max out your humanity.” I’m here to learn how to do that. Get maxed out. I might do the same to my credit card while I’m at it, but I hope the next couple of days will help me learn how to max out my humanity.
Allow me to tell you something about the Harvard class of 2013 and why I know for sure this is the year I was meant to be here - God is never late - and I have been putting off this trip for two years. The class of 2013 are an unusual group, but my kinda people. They entered Harvard as the most socio-economically diverse and the most international class in Harvard history. (They represent 84 different countries.)
They were the first to enroll after the global economic crisis had rattled almost everything. In the theme of maxing out their humanity, the class of 2013 built a virtual library that will reach more than a million students in India.
They taught philosophy to prison inmates and tried to diagram truth. The class of 2013 produced four Rhodes scholars on a single floor of Quincy House.
This lot also co-founded “Sex Week,” a campus discussion about sexual health that landed on the front page of The New York Times. In a place such as this, I can’t help but learn and when class kicks in proper on Monday - I will gearing up to grown.
After putting off this trip for the last two years and in some cases using Nduku as an excuse not to leave, an amazing gentleman sat across from me at lunch, looked me dead in the eye and said bluntly “stop using your child as a crutch. Either take her with you or leave her with your mother, but you must go Harvard. “Caroline you are at the top of your game, the only way you can possibly grow from here is go to a place where you will become so small that you will be forced to grow again”.
I’ve quoted him almost word for word because he knocked the wind out of my lungs. He was matter of fact, brutal but also strangely caring in that moment. John - I’m eternally grateful.
So here I am. Out-ranked, out-smarted, out-classed and very unknown and it feels good. I don’t know what the next couple of days will bring, but I’m ready.
The journey to this place and this moment has been interesting and since I am in the home of Facebook (FB was born in Harvard) I want to trace the two- year journey over the next few days and share it with you.
I can’t think of a better way to tell the story than on Facebook on my timeline from Harvard - join me on www.facebook.com/carolinemutoko.