Good morning class of 2019, esteemed Geneseo faculty, and the friends and family of the soon-to-be Geneseo alumni. My name is Angela Kubik, and you may recognize my face if you’ve been with me on campus these past four years. This isn’t for being some cornerstone of academic achievement or accomplishing some impressive athletic feat. If you recognize me, it’s probably because you encounter me in passing approximately twice as often as the typical Geneseo student. And, no, that doesn’t mean I have the power to be in two places at once (although that would be helpful as a biology major); it’s because I’m an identical twin.
Throughout my life, there wasn’t always a clear-cut distinction between my sister and myself. In high school, our grade point averages differed by 0.01. We both took up clarinet and piano lessons and even had identical class schedules in high school. We both committed to Geneseo, declaring a Biology major and a Biomathematics minor. Physically, we look quite identical. To be completely honest, even I can’t tell the difference in old family photos. I constantly need to peek at the back of the picture where my mom noted a small “A” for Angela and “B” for Briana. As a biology major, I must point out that identical twins share one hundred percent of their DNA at birth. One hundred percent doesn’t leave much room for dissimilarity, so it is this daunting statistic that marked my “quest for differentiation”; a quest we have all embarked on, whether intentionally or not, during our time here at Geneseo.
The first stop on this quest, as is with most preliminary inquiries, was a quick google search on the differences between identical twins. I wasn’t new to the idea of epigenetics and DNA methylations that occur later on in life, but I was looking for something more elemental. Something that was present from the beginning. Much to my surprise, the answer was right at my fingertips. Quite literally actually; because one of the major things that can differentiate identical twins is their fingerprints. In fact, each person has a completely unique set of fingerprints. This is because their formation is dependent on the interaction of genetic and developmental processes, causing a slightly different pattern each time.
Even though I had finally unlocked the key difference between my sister and myself, the years of being called the wrong name, combined with endless questions about twin telepathy (which, for the record, is most definitely a thing) has still led me to sought after a feeling of distinction. But this craving to be distinct isn’t only reserved for the identical twins of the world; in fact, this is a trait I share with each of you, if not today, then last week or month when you tried to stand out on your job application or distinguish your essay from dozens of others, earning you that A.
Geneseo and its curriculum shine when it comes to fostering this sense of individuality. Embedded in Geneseo’s core values are the ideas of innovation and personal growth, which contribute to the liberal arts mission of creating well-rounded individuals who utilize a breadth of knowledge in order to carve a unique path. Contributing more to the diversifying-nature of Geneseo is the plentiful list of organizations and electives offered. According to the Geneseo website, there are approximately 180 clubs offered. After a brief refresher on combinatorial probability, I calculated that if you were to choose just four of those organizations to be involved with, you would have 42,296,805 different combinations to choose from. Surely with these odds, we can each have a distinctive Geneseo experience.
You may ask, “How is being different a good thing?” Unfortunately, nowadays we focus too much on conforming to a societal image or fitting into a predetermined box. We strive to be just like our role models when, in fact, we should use them as guides to carve our own path rather than projections on a path that is already paved. This is what makes us indispensable and irreplaceable. So when I look out into this sea of graduates I don’t see future Albert Einsteins or future Steve Jobs or Maya Angelous; I see future scientists, CEOs, athletes, and teachers with the ability to take our Geneseo experiences and carve our own unique path. It is this individuality which yields our potential. Consider the analogy of a stem cell. Stem cells are totipotent, meaning they have the ability to become any type of cell in the body. A hair cell, liver cell, — any type of cell. However, they cannot reach their full potential until they differentiate and become more specialized. Geneseo, in the last four years, has shaped us from overwhelmed, confused, and totipotent freshmen into differentiated and specialized versions of ourselves, further equipped to fulfill our potential and leave our mark than when we arrived.
I would like to end my speech with this concept of “leaving one’s mark.” We’ve often been told that to make one’s mark on the world is like “leaving one’s footprint on the sands of time.” I’d like to tweak this ideal of the cliched footprint and instead urge you to consider leaving a much more characteristic mark. Something that is more unique and reflective of yourself. Perhaps something like a fingerprint! Thank you and congratulations to the class of 2019!