Benjamin Martins' Commencement Address

Mister President, members of the Faculty, Board of Trustees, distinguished guests, and those rapidly approaching alumni status,

I cannot begin to explain to you how my heart swells to look out at you all, and to think about how much we’ve grown, and fought, and gotten weirder together – so very much weirder. It is with great pride that I regard my contemporaries and consider the many struggles through which we have shed the unnecessary, in the process of finding ourselves. Comparing our works previous to the academy through what hangs in Wilkinson Hall now; one can draw a clear line between our previous lives and who we are today, as though our Academy experiences have been less a reinvention and more a refining, a finishing of our more accomplished selves.

I am honored to be with you on this occasion that is so important to this school, and to this city, and to art. It is with great optimism and growing hope that I look to the future of our community, and of our relationships to each other. As alumni we are part of a community, a granite foundation upon which the greatness of this Academy rests. It is a service to this schools power that the finest artists working today enter its doors on a regular basis. It is to this service that we must attempt to overcome our biggest enemy, and the only thing holding us back.

We must not succumb to artistic jealousies and envies, for even as we prop ourselves up, they will tear us apart. No artist is in direct competition with another, just as another’s successes do not undermine my own. But infighting and whispered cruelty only reinforces the hold outside forces have on us, and divide our strong community into a thousand self interested enclaves. Hiding opportunities and coveting some small crumb of success only serves to weaken ourselves. Knocking each other down guarantees we will never live up to our fullest potential, I have no doubt. For I believe we will only make it if we make it together, and alone, we have no chance. As artists we must sail against the currents of our time; and the currents of our time are filled with sharks, make no mistake about that. Together we are more powerful than anyone can imagine – and they will never see us coming. Together we are a movement of talented and wildly ambitious artists. We all get our opportunities. We cannot continue to tear each other down and expect to survive. We are all capable of greatness, and it behooves us to reinforce that greatness whenever possible, not belittle or divide it.

A wise man once told me that when he was a young artist, the art world was described to him thusly – that if you come across several crabs at the beach and dump them in a bucket, there’s no need to cover it, for every time a crab moves to make it’s escape, another will reach up and drag it back down. We are better than this, and we can do better than this. People need us, whether or not they know it, and if we can stay strong, we will never back down.

I am so impossibly excited for the future, and I want you guys to know, no matter how things shook out, I wouldn’t change a thing. And I don’t think you would either. I love you guys. Goodnight.

Benjamin Martins was chosen to be the Student Speaker for his class. We wanted to share his inspiring words, as he empowered us all by urging to strengthen our ties to each other. Well said, Ben! 

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts Ben, community, community, community.

    Nice to see your art also.