Creativity is Nothing Without Empathy

Shaina Garfield’s 2018 Undergraduate Commencement Speech for Pratt Institute

Pratt Institute’s 2018 Commencement Ceremony at Radio City Music Hall

Good morning Class of 2018, faculty, and guests. It is such an honor to be speaking to you on this momentous day. I’d like to thank my family, friends, faculty, Farmer In The Deli and Khim’s Millenium Market. Your love, support, and all-nighter food breaks are the reasons I made it here today.

I don’t know most of you. But I feel as if our collective journey has made us close. Yes, it has been filled with many blackouts of critiques we were too tired to remember… and interesting sculptures, such as a rat with confusingly large balls.

There are many experiences that have made our time here strange, but Pratt gave us unique tools to create profound change in the world. And we’ve already begun doing this. This year, Communication Design seniors held a panel about the role of women in design. Printmaking majors spearheaded a successful print sale to raise funds for Puerto Rico. And my peers in Industrial Design developed affordable desks for schools in Nepal. These are just a few of the examples of the positive change we are already making.

This morning as we cross into the daunting real world, I wonder: what will our future positive changes be? I’m not exactly sure. But I know one thing– we have been given a great gift: creativity.

Because of creativity, we are able to have emotional connections to those around us and are able to help all beings through difficulties… no matter how big or small.

But creativity is nothing without empathy.

To be truly empathetic, we must be active participants in our surroundings and constantly ask questions. As we enter our professions, we must have the gumption to always be curious about the worlds we have yet to understand or discover. We are graduating at a time when our society is at odds. We have a responsibility to create a world that is better off than the one we were given.

Assumptions and ignorance form great divides in today’s society, but through our creativity and empathy, we can build common ground. Our power comes not from the classroom, or the patriarchy, or any other top-down institutions. Our power comes from our compassion for one another.

Take a look around one last time at your fellow peers: It is our job to inspire each other to use our creative gift for good, and to remember that empathy and curiosity will bring us the success we hope for.

Not a success based off a high paying job, but in the lives, we touch each and every day.

Congratulations, Class of 2018!

Thank you.