Distributed M28, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Kristen Cole
Senior Oration: ‘The Enriquillo Dilemma as an Approach to Leadership’
Ana Escrogima was one of two senior orators who addressed the 2001 graduating class during the Undergraduate Convocation Monday morning, May 28, 2001, in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America. The text of her address follows.
Good morning!!! I would like to begin by congratulating the class of ’01. I hope that the story I share this morning inspires and motivates us as we take on the challenges and promises of the future.
Historical accounts depict the colonial encounter between the Spaniards and native Caribbeans as brief and tragic. It was marked by disease, death, and finally, extermination. Dominican history highlights the story of “Enriquillo,” a native, who in the early 1500’s, was selected by local Spanish officials as the brightest of his tribe to be educated in Spain. He was expected to return home a refined, polished elite and be an administrator for the colonial government. However, upon his return, Enriquillo grew increasingly outraged as he witnessed the abuses suffered by the natives at the hands of the Spaniards. After a crisis of conscience, Enriquillo’s purpose became clear. He decided instead to provoke and spearhead a native uprising. Establishing his headquarters in the Bahoruco Mountains, he gathered a great number of natives under his command. From there, Enriquillo made good use of his elite education. He successfully employed the logic and methods of his Spanish teachers against them in battle. In the long run, Enriquillo achieved his uncompromising vision of freedom from colonial rule. In 1533, after 15 years of battle, Charles V granted him the right to choose a region within Hispaniola, where he could settle with his people and form an autonomous community. I personally identify with the Enriquillo story, as part of my Dominican heritage, and because it points to a larger dilemma faced by many leaders. If we look closely, we can see that this very story has repeated itself across time and across borders. History remembers a handful of visionaries who were educated in one society and chose to use their skills to bring about change in the communities they left behind – Moses, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior all come to mind as examples.
The internal struggle faced by these individuals also captures something of the dilemmas we as Brown students face. We too were selected as the brightest of our tribes, our schools, our towns. For four years, we have lived and learned on College Hill. The Hill has often been compared to a state of physical and psychological separation from the rest of society. In fact, our campus often acts as a bubble of sorts. For many of us, it is the first time we have encountered groups about which we have always harbored stereotypes. We come together in a community where certain kinds of behavior are not tolerated, where a sense of social justice and human compassion are encouraged and fostered. In this safe space, we have had four years to learn. Learn about the world, about ourselves, and about each other.
As we pursue our Brown career, we have had lots of practice making crucial choices. These choices define who we are and what we stand for. From far reaching things, like deciding what will I be when I grow up? What course of study will I take to get there – or to something as simple and immediate as whether or not to speak up when someone is saying something we know that we are against. Often, this process of self-clarification is tested during moments of tension between groups on campus. This is intensified because Brown, like other institutions of its kind, has only imperfectly managed to create a safe space for the expression of viewpoints born of socioeconomic, racial, and other kinds of diversity. This said, I want to affirm the sentiments of many alumni, who often remind undergrads that there is truly no other place in the world like Brown. For some of us tragically, this realization will not occur until much later.
As we go out into the “real world” to make our mark, we share a unique perspective shaped by our time here at Brown. We are also faced with some of the most important decisions we will ever make. Here is where I would suggest that The Enriquillo dilemma is most relevant to us. Just like the leaders mentioned before, we must also choose how we will use the privilege of this educational experience to shape our future career. As I contemplate my options, a sense of urgency pervades my consciousness. Thanks to the sacrifices of my parents and other loved ones, I have had so many amazing opportunities to learn and grow at Brown. Looking back reminds me, however, that I am one, out of thousands of people from the New York City housing projects where I was raised who “made it” out of the cycle of oppression and poverty. Just like Enriquillo, I myself, and I’m sure most people in this room have contemplated how we ought to make a difference in this world once we leave Brown. Our respective communities clearly need us to “go back” and be its leaders. They need us to become community advocates, historians to counter revisionist versions of the past, teachers to support and nurture our children, the poets who will express the sentiments of our people, entrepreneurs to bring economic vitality to the neighborhood. I recognize, however, that while it is imperative that some of us go home and fight for the rights of those we left behind, it is also imperative that mainstream society in general, and the American and global workforce in particular, benefit from our unique perspective.
As we make our way into the workforce, lets keep in mind that individuals possessing an alternative worldview can have a tremendous impact, as our perspective influences our leadership style. Whatever projects we choose to take on, either tomorrow or in twenty years, as leaders, we will inevitably be faced with many difficult choices. For us as Brown graduates, the Enriquillo dilemma reminds us to stay true - true to the aspirations and dreams we have cultivated here at Brown. It is also about remaining conscious of the social issues to which our eyes have been opened while at Brown. As we go along our path, we should never be content with using our diploma as merely a networking resource. While a Brown degree is a door opener in many circles, we should use what we’ve learned here to affect real change once we’ve made our way through those doors. I once read on an activist bumper sticker: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. As such, let’s make sure our time here was not in vain. Armed with our education, we have so much to offer.
######Return to News Release 00-131.