My first weekend of college it poured. In typical New England fashion, the skies opened and the rain came down in the warm summer darkness. Refusing to let the weather ruin our weekend, we donned trash bags and went outside to dance in the rain and go sledding in the mud. The first weekend of my senior year again began with rain. This time Hurricane Irene shut down most of the state, and left those of us who lived off campus or on the “wrong side” of 195 without power for days. These strangers who once gallivanted in the rain together, were now friends who offered a hot shower and a hot meal in the aftermath of the storm.
For the class of 2012, our time at UConn has been defined by water. Biology and chemistry taught us that water is polar, and that it is this essential property that allows molecules of it to hold together and made life possible. As humans, up to 60% of our bodies are actually water. From the perspective of human rights, access to water is the most essential of rights. In literature, water is a metaphor for everything from cleansing and renewal, to irrational power and destruction, to life itself. Philosophy personifies water as strength. Lao-Tzu wrote, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding, will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”
Across the disciplines, water is inarguably the essence of life. As college students, water has freed us from the technology that defines our lives, sometimes forcibly so, and has brought us together. As a generation we are inheriting a world of increasing instability and inequality, but the ability to change this world is not beyond us. Water has taught us to value our common humanity, how to work together, and how to revel in one another’s company. Water is a constant reminder that we are never alone. Our greatness lies not in technology, but in one another. As we prepare to enter the job market, find ourselves, or go to grad school we must remember this lesson. We each have the potential to change the world in a myriad of ways, both good and bad, and it is up to each of us to make the choice. If we chose to be like water, as a generation we have the power to overcome war and poverty—we have the power to wear away at institutions that privilege the needs of a few over the rights of all. Our greatness after all, is dancing in the rain and offering a hot shower. Our greatness is water.