When Christine Lagarde was announced as Smith College’s commencement speaker in early February, I was disappointed. Lagarde is the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund—an organization that I don’t support because of its heavy-handed debt repayment plan that requires countries to cut health and education services. My first reaction was to want Smith to rescind the invitation for her to speak.
It was a hot issue on campus. I began to have a dialog with other students, professors and staff on campus. Some supported Lagarde as our speaker, while others opposed her. Over the next few months I began to think about Lagarde as an individual and not as the organization that she represents. I also began to think about Smith and the ideas the college and student body represent. We support and believe in the boundless potential of all women. We recognize that we are not all alike, and we find strength in our diversity. We honor the sacrifices of the women who came before us. We honor the commitment and strength of women doing things that have never been done before—women like Lagarde, the first female director of the IMF.
I was disappointed when I found out Monday that Lagarde had withdrawn as our commencement speaker. Smith has opened up a world of possibilities to me that I had never dared to dream of before I came here. That being said, we students sometimes neglect to think of diversity in a larger sense. Diversity of thought is equally important. As an educated woman, I should be willing to hear differing views and treat them with the same respect and thoughtfulness that I would want from those whose views I oppose.
I have learned many valuable lessons in my time at Smith, including that the world is a complex place full of differing voices. And I have to learned to recognize the value of each differing voice. However, the greatest lesson that I have learned here is the value of strong women role models. I think what has been forgotten in all of this is that, as women, we should support and raise each other up. I don’t have to support Lagarde’s beliefs or the organization that she represents, but as a fellow woman I do support her achievements. I support that she has broken barriers and that, because she has done this, other opportunities will be available to me and future generations of women.
Dawn Ginnetti is a first-generation college student from Starke, Florida. She is an American Studies major at Smith College, Class of 2014.