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Class Remarks at 2024 Commencement by Lexi Parker

The following class remarks were shared by Lexi Parker ’24 at the 2024 Commencement on May 11 at Warren Wilson College. Lexi majored in Social Work and worked on both Land Stewards and the Farm crews. She was the student representative for the Social Work Advisory Board, studied away for a care farming class and went to the Netherlands last spring. She spent the last year living with and taking care of the former farm manager, Ernst Laursen.

Before I begin, I’d like to first acknowledge the privilege of standing in front of you all and speaking on behalf of the graduating class of 2024. It’s been such a gift to learn alongside you all and it feels good to know that some of the best people I’ve ever met are either headed out into the big wide world right alongside me or are staying here to continue to teach and impart wisdom on the next group of students to come across their paths. The opportunity to live and learn and work on this land is a privilege, and I’d like to acknowledge that we are currently situated on the ancestral land of the Cherokee people who are the native and original stewards of this land. 

I once read a poem by Billy Edd Wheeler, a very famous Warren Wilson alum, that described this place as “not a preparation for the world but the good world itself.” It hits home just as hard today, if not harder than it did when I first read it. I cannot think of a better way to describe the culmination of our college experience than just that. We are told from the time we start thinking about school that it is a preparation for the world and while it’s true this place has shaped and prepared us, I think it is easy to forget that here too, is such a beautiful example of the good that still exists in this world. 

My most cherished memories of this place are directly connected to the work we do that is central to the experience of being a Warren Wilson student. I bonded deeply with friends and coworkers who quickly became family through cattle moves, all nighters pulled at hog roasts, and sitting out with the cows as the august evening cooled, reflecting on the work of the day. I even lost the sleeves to my favorite shirt that summer, a story where you just had to be there to know, and it proudly hangs, sleeveless, on the wall in the farm shop to this day. 

The tight knit community that welcomed us when we arrived and the one we have supported ourselves will always be one we can look to. The best advice I could give (and lessons I am leaving with) is to lean into your community. Whether or not you choose to stay in the area or leave to take on something different, always get to know your neighbors. Remember that you have real and valuable things to contribute and you also have things to learn. Be willing to be uncomfortable and to be vulnerable. Continue to be a lifelong learner, even if your formal education stops here. And whatever work you do moving forward, see it not just as a mere obligation, but as vital and worth being prioritized. The work that we have done to lead us to this point is a privilege. And with that privilege is a duty to leave things better than we found them. 

And, as members of the global community, we must speak out against injustice and to support those who are oppressed. The call for a free Palestine is not a radical one; it is a moral imperative rooted in the principles of justice, equality, and human dignity. We must stand in solidarity. Freedom looks like freedom for all of us. To be a part of an institution that prides itself on its commitment to social justice means we carry an additional responsibility to go into the world determined to make it better. 

So, my fellow graduates, as we say goodbye to Warren Wilson College and begin the next chapter of our lives, let us carry the spirit of this place, let us be stewards of the land, and let us continue to advocate and to fight against the injustices of the world. 

I’d like to thank you all. This community, my friends, classmates, professors, coworkers, bosses, and other mentors. I’d especially like to thank my family, my partner Jone, and most of all my mom for working so hard to help me get here and for supporting me through it all. Congratulations, class of 2024. I believe in each and every one of you. The ambition and drive we all carry is something that gives me hope, and it should you too. I can’t think of a better example of the good world itself.