Three student orators will mark Commencement Day, delivering speeches in both English and Latin during Morning Exercises in Tercentenary Theatre. This year, classics concentrator Phoebe Lakin will deliver the Latin Salutatory, given, not surprisingly, in Latin. Economics concentrator Christopher Egi will deliver the Senior English Address, and Harvard Law School student Pete Davis will deliver the Graduate English Address.
Considered among the highest honors a student can achieve, student orators face a selection process that begins in early March, with final auditions in late April. The three will speak from memory before an audience of 32,000 graduating students, their family members, and friends.
This year’s winners shared their thoughts on their impending graduation and on the inspiration for their speeches.
Phoebe Lakin ’18 — Latin Salutatory
Phoebe Lakin, from Ithaca, N.Y., is a classics concentrator who has studied Latin since the fourth grade. Lakin, who has also studied French and German, plans to pursue an M.Phil. in classical studies at Cambridge University next year, with an eye toward a Ph.D. and a future teaching career.
Lakin said the study of language and literature gives her the ability to be part of a long-lasting community centered on works of literature.
“When you read a poem, when you read a book, you’re not only participating in the experience you read about, but also joining in a community of readers, and that community stretches across space and time,” Lakin said. “So, when you experience a piece of literature and talk with other people, you’re engaging in human experience as a whole and it’s that engagement with that community that’s been so valuable to me.”
The study of literature also gives her an avenue to explore her other love, that of the outdoors, as she did in her senior thesis on a first-century Roman poem about gardens. Lakin is planning to spend the summer in Switzerland working on an organic farm before diving back into her studies.
“I’m very interested in the human experience in the natural world and how that makes its way into literature,” Lakin said.
Her speech, to be delivered in Latin with an English translation available in the day’s program, will deal with themes of change — how Harvard has changed students graduating this year, but also how the students have changed Harvard.