I will not pretend that Vassar is perfect. There is no perfect place. But it was a place where I felt I could figure things out. I saw people walk onto campus the beginning of freshman year as the person they thought the world wanted them to be, and I watched them become the person that they wanted to be. I had wonderful teachers who encouraged us to question and search. I made amazing friends who are still some of my favorite people.
When I heard that Westboro Baptist Church was going to picket Vassar and that the college community was joining together in response I knew I had to participate. There are a lot of links about how the students, administration and alumni responded, and the response was swift and greater than anyone expected. Campus organizations quickly organized a rally in response to the WBC picketing and what I loved the most was that the organizers of the rally decided that the focus would not be Westboro and their hate, but Vassar and its culture of inclusion.
It was a challenge to get to campus (four trips to the mechanic in one day before we left New Paltz) but once E and I got there it was amazing how many people were gathering by Main Gate and how much energy the place had.
I had made sure that E was sporting Vassar colors
I ran into my friend Liz and her husband who I had met when we lived in Brooklyn and who made the move to the Hudson Valley around the same time we did.
Liz was there with her friend who is a Vassar grad from '66
Being Vassar, there was singing and dancing
About a week ago, I received an email about the schedule of events leading up to today's rally and then the schedule of today's events. When I took the time to read it carefully I found that my classmate from both high school and college, Joseph Tolton, would be making the key note address (which starts at about minute 23). I was so excited to hear him speak. His speech was one of the highlights for me. He was powerful, moving and inspirational. E described Joey as reassuring. Joey's conviction and strength of character which were so apparent in his speech really gave us the feeling that we could be vehicles for change, that we had to be vehicles for change, and that we all could make a necessary difference.
Some of the bikers who now form a barrier between WBC and those they are picketing were there.
They were rather rough looking, but after some of the great things I've learned about what groups of bikers do for their communities, and remembering the message of the day, I simply went up and thanked them for coming. When I saw that they were NYC firefighters, well, I did think about giving them all hugs.
After a bit everyone started walking down the road in front of the school to get to where the WBC was picketing - all 4 of them - but word spread that they had left, so instead, we all started walking back to Main Gate.
Along the way a human chain started to form. Thinking back, it would have been amazing if someone had turned it into a Conga line!
Once back on campus the human chain was made to circle Main Building. It was so much fun to watch this enormous line of people, all holding hands, surround the huge building that is Main.
It was a great day that I am so glad I got to share with my son and with the students, faculty, staff and fellow alums of Vassar College. There are so many people I know who weren't able to be there in body but were there is spirit.
I couldn't resist a few last shots of the beautiful campus