Josiah Ethan Meadows
Josiah Ethan Meadows’ parents wanted to focus on a classical education when they decided to homeschool him and his four sisters. Meadows started learning Latin at 11, and very quickly his dad realized he couldn’t keep up with his son’s passion for the language.
He hired a professional tutor, immersed Meadows in summer Latin courses, and took him on trips to Italy from their hometown in Athens, Georgia. Meadows competed in his first Latin orations competition at age 15 in Sulmona, Italy, and won, becoming the first non-Italian to take the prize.
Over his four years at the College, Meadows has dreamed of delivering the Latin oration at Commencement. His oration, which will marry the two experiences, takes as its theme the value of a Harvard education.
“I wanted to write a reflective speech, something that speaks to everyone,” Meadows said. “I feel like people will be able to reflect on their time here and really consider what means the most to them about their Harvard experience.”
Meadows noted that in recent years, the Latin speeches have become more modern and comic in tone. But he also spent a lot of time in the Harvard archives, looking at speeches from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Most of those tended to be more formal and ornate. Meadows hopes that in imitating that style — while also embracing contemporary approaches — he can honor a tradition that has been going on for more than 300 years.
“It was really fascinating to see how the speech has evolved over time,” he said. “I wanted to find a good balance between something serious and something humorous.”
The value and pleasures of eclecticism is something Meadows will take away from his time at the College. During his four years, he studied government with a secondary in economics, yet still found time to take many classes in the classics. Being surrounded by smart, funny people from around the world was a gift, and he’s hopeful these relationships will continue for decades to come.
“I’ll miss the days when I’m walking out of an exam or walking out of a class and discussing what we learned with my roommate,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll be a lifelong learner, but there’s nothing like learning in this environment.”