In Pursuit of “Eudaimonia”

At Class Day on May 15, I spoke about My Columbia College Journey, a recently introduced framework for students to reflect on their growth and experiences during their time at the College. 


Eileen Barroso

At Class Day on May 15, I spoke about My Columbia College Journey, a recently introduced framework for students to reflect on their growth and experiences during their time at the College. What follows is an abridged version of my speech. To our most recent graduates, who now receive Columbia College Today, congratulations again, and welcome to the community of more than 51,000 Columbia College alumni.

I said to you at Convocation 2014 that what you did from that day forward would define your Columbia College experience and bring you here to Class Day. Each of you brought a special personal story, a story of the path by which you arrived at Columbia. You were then at the beginning of your Columbia College journey.

I am sure you have had days of jubilation — perhaps not as great as today — but still, days of triumph. But I am also sure you have experienced setbacks, and you have had to pivot in response. And you have found that the path may not always be straight and predictable, but that it can lead to success in ways that, though not at all predictable, are no less satisfying.

During these days at Columbia College you not only gained knowledge, but also developed critical thinking and research abilities; refined your written and oral communication skills; improved your quantitative, information and technological literacy; engaged in teamwork and collaboration; expanded your creativity and innovation; took on civic and individual responsibility; participated in community engagement and inclusion; built global awareness; and encouraged all of us to foster a sense of wellness and resilience. In short, you developed your Core Competencies, even before you knew that phrase or could name its components.

While the narrative of “My Columbia College Journey” was introduced to you only a month ago, you were on your very own individual Columbia College Journey from the moment you arrived here, without realizing it. What has changed is the self-awareness of that journey, a self-awareness that you will have many years to benefit from.

The word “journey” derives from the Latin diurnus, meaning day by day or daily. And though you are graduating, it is still your Columbia College journey, because Columbia College is now a fundamental part of you, and your experience here will forever influence your path. The road goes on, paved with Pantone 292 and all that that color represents.

“Jubilation” derives from Latin as well, and refers to a very vocal kind of joy, with wild and loud shouting of great enthusiasm, loud shouting I am certain I am going to hear at this ceremony. Every day, however, can’t be like this one; every day can’t be cause for loud shouting of great joy. But, every day can be a source of satisfaction and fulfillment and meaning. You will notice I did not say “happiness.” I did not, because happiness is not the object to pursue. You know that, and you know what is to be pursued, because it is part of the Core Curriculum experience of every student. It is eudaimonia.

Eudaimonia is to be found when you plot your own trajectory, when you build on what you have learned here to be active and engaged citizens, responsible and valuable members of the many communities — personal and professional, large and small — of which you will be part.

Eudaimonia means much more than simply faring well or being successful, the outcomes with which “happiness” is associated. Eudaimonia is the essence of My Columbia College Journey: a personal, individual, unique path to flourishing, substance and meaning in life.

Many things will interfere with, even preclude, the simple thing called “happiness” — events you can’t influence and people you can’t persuade. But the eudaimonia of your journey is indeed yours, so focus on it.

We admitted you to Columbia College based on our belief that you were the applicants who could best profit from and contribute to Columbia College. I hope you have profited from your experience at the College. I know you have contributed to it, in classrooms, arenas, laboratories, residence halls and even on Low Beach. For all of that I thank you. All of us at Columbia College thank you.

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James J. Valentini