We gather today, expectant,
to mark and to celebrate a new beginning
in the life of the college,
as Elizabeth Howe Bradley comes to Vassar
to work with us, and to lead us.
It is the season for new beginnings.
It is Muharram, the first month of the new year in the Muslim calendar, a time of new beginnings.
It is Tishrei, the first month of the new year in the Jewish calendar, a time of returning to ourselves.
It is Autumn, the time when trees set their buds in anticipation of spring’s new growth.
The word “invocation,” is based on the Latin for “call in.”
We gather today to invoke—to call in—the promise that is glimpsed in all new beginnings.
The secular mystic Simone Weil gives us a practice for tuning our lives to that promise.
She calls it “attention.”
For Weil, developing the capacity for attentiveness,
making it a habit,
is the real point of all learning,
whatever the subject matter.
“Never in any case whatever is a genuine effort of the attention wasted,” she tells us,
for it brings “more light into the soul.”
In an unevenly broken world,
we pause. We call in. We attend
to the promise that inheres in beginning anew,
the possibility of a world, otherwise:
More light, more love, more laughter,
truer justice, deeper learning, wider healing.
May that begin today, begin with us,
—Samuel H. Speers