We were always the dream
and the sacrifice—all of us.
We are the early risers and
the late nighters, studying all hours
in the library during exams,
or working graveyard shifts
to be on campus for an 8 a.m. class.
A parking lot full of empty spaces
is our reward.
We grade never-ending
stacks of papers, repair computers,
counsel and console, we clear
snow-filled sidewalks on brisk grey mornings.
And when the equations are wiped
from the white board, we know
we are the sum of our parts.
We are the proof.
For we were always the dream,
the voices are distant but today
we call them back to Salem,
this harbor town, this Witch City,
to welcome a new president
and a new era. This school,
where Horace Mann believed every child
should have a basic education,
where Charlotte Forten graduated, class
of 1856, the first African American teacher
from the Salem Normal School,
where the unseen moved silently
across quads and corridors
to take their seats and be heard.
From Salem Normal School
to Salem Teachers College
to Salem State College
to Salem State University—
every word once spoken here is still here,
fine as chalk dusk.
And as we are called to the realities
of this world, which seems, at times,
like a globe cracked open,
let us be reminded
that we come from everywhere:
Irish, Italian, Dominican, African, Chinese, Haitian,
Iraqi, Vietnamese, European, Korean, Mexican,
first generation, second generation—
the next generation—the doers, the seekers,
the lifelong learners. We stand here today
without walls or borders.
For we were—we are—always the dream
and the sacrifice of everyone
who has ever walked these halls
in search of truth,
in search of answers,
pursuing the promise of a better life.