Barbara K. AltmannAs many of you no doubt know, the word "convocation," which comes from the Latin verb convocare, means a call to come together, a gathering of those engaged in a common enterprise. After several days of learning, making new friends, and getting accustomed to campus, your classmates, and Lewisburg, you have been convoked to this solemn occasion marking the beginning of your first year at Bucknell.

Academia is an arena full of tradition, like the beautiful candlelighting we will participate in together after this event. It seems to be the tradition that every good academic speech includes an inspiring quotation of some sort, and luckily I have just the thing at hand. My area of research is medieval studies, and more specifically, I study the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in Western Europe. There is much in the literature of that time that pertains to us still. In this case, the example I want to use comes from a medieval morality play called "Everyman," a play that was written down in the late Middle Ages and widely performed. It is still popular today. We have proof in that the National Theatre in London, England, is currently performing "Everyman" on stage, and we have a chance to see that production a week from today -- at the Campus Theater downtown at 1 p.m. on August 30th.

What is a morality play? A morality play gives advice about the human experience and teaches how best to live a good life. In this case, the protagonist - named "Everyman" to represent the ordinary human being - is looking for help and guidance, and ends up rejecting, or being rejected by, all the usual people and things to which is he used to turning for help. Finally, the personification Knowledge comes along, and Knowledge is the force that helps him achieve his goal. Knowledge says to him, "Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide, in thy most need, to go by thy side" (lines 522-23). In other words, Knowledge will stick with our hero at all times, when most needed, through any and all circumstances, and when all else fails. That's what we're here to do: make use of our knowledge and acquire ever more. Constantly. I as much as you. And no matter what else befalls you, whom else you travel through life with, Knowledge will stick with you, get you through uncharted territory, be your guide and your comfort, and always push you to learn more. So invoke Knowledge, invite it along, let it be your constant companion. Knowledge is waiting for you in the classroom, in the lab, in the studio, in the practice room, in the gym, and on the field. You will find it in your peers, your professors, and in your own hard work. Think about how much Knowledge will be with you four years from now, sending you out into the wider world. And at the beginning of this, your first year as a Bucknellian, rest easy in the knowledge that we are all here to help.


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