After four years of torturous classes, sleepless
nights and Waffle House runs, May 12 marks my exit from the Emory
bubble into the real world of bills, 9 to 5 workdays and rush-hour
My fellow seniors seem so sad about the prospect of entering this
world and transitioning away from college. We all realize, grimly,
that there is nothing like college. My friends and I have grown
from curious, shy freshmen to seniors at one of the finest institutions
in the United States. Many of us have added new friends, lost other
friends and grown in different ways. The people I’ve met,
the experiences I’ve had and the joys this place has brought
me mean that I will always be bonded to Emory University.
The reason I love Emory is far more personal and intimate than I’ve
been willing to admit previously. Before college, I lived a fairly
troubled life. Born to a low-income mother and abandoned by my father,
I knew the harshness of life early on. My childhood was spent reading
old books that had been donated to the Salvation Army and Goodwill
by people not unlike many of my friends here at Emory. I escaped
the world around me through reading history. Reading about the great
presidents, kings and wars provided me with relief from what I viewed
as a weary and sad existence.
My mom and stepdad are the hardest working people I know. They worked
hard to provide a roof and food for my stepbrother, stepsister and
me. I remember wearing old clothes, cheap shoes and skimpy jackets
but never being ashamed.
To me, my tattered clothes and cheap shoes were symbols of our struggle.
I was teased and harassed throughout my early schooling years by
bullies who picked on me for “acting white,” “being
too black,” “being too smart” or “being
too poor.” Reading was my shelter from this bullying. While
I had many friends, history books and encyclopedias were really
my best friends.
Reading gave me a sense of struggle. I was the heroic warrior against
a world of villains, cowards, traitors and weakness; classes, life
and school were all struggles, in my mind. Of course I would be
teased and called everything from a “dork” to a “nigger,”
but in my mind I was exceptional.
At 15, I was diagnosed with bone cancer. Under the weight of cancer
and chemotherapy, I gradually wore away. I was cast into a wheelchair.
I lost the ability to speak. My nose would bleed for hours, and
I would vomit every day.
When given five years to live, everyone in my family was in shock
but me. Within my mind and world, it was just another test of wills
that would strengthen my soul of steel. The only time I was sad
or showed true emotion was when I lost friends to cancer. I saw
them as fellow warriors killed by a vicious world. They were fellow
fighters who understood the struggle. We were kindred spirits.
I defeated cancer and recovered fully, and I returned to school
far more determined to win my life’s struggle. I doubled my
concentration on my school work, fighting to reach higher levels
of achievement. In my mind, the achievement of Christopher Richardson—and
the failure of those around me—was my redemption. I reveled
in the defeat of those who bullied me.
I smirked as many of them were carried off to jail, their lives
sometimes ruined, as many dropped out of high school. In reality,
they were victims of the same poverty I suffered, but at the time,
I had no sympathy for them.
I fought, in essence, to prove the world wrong. I fought to prove
the father who abandoned me wrong; I fought to prove cancer wrong;
I fought to prove life wrong. This is why I accepted the pain of
cancer so easily. This is why I barely flinched when given five
years to live. This is why I brushed aside those who cried over
me, because I felt they were not being strong enough.
This was how I saw the world before entering Emory. The main (and
secret) reason I love this school so much is because it showed me
that life doesn’t have to be that struggle. I don’t
have to fight and struggle against any “forces” set
out to destroy me. Emory helped heal me.
It healed me of the bitterness of my past and the sense of injustice
inflicted upon my soul. It helped me come to terms with cancer and
losing my right knee, but more importantly, gave me chances—not
at awards or leadership, but at true friendships and true youth.
I lived my life before Emory like a serious and old man. I confronted
a world that would make many adults cringe, thus I felt I had to
fight poverty, cancer, death and all that opposed me like a “true”
man. When others cried, I could not, because their tears were weak
but I was strong, I told myself.
Emory gave me a chance to be young and relaxed and to move beyond
the mentality of a struggle. No offense to all the great administrators
of this University, but I probably won’t remember any of my
meetings with you. I won’t remember my meetings with Brit
Katz about the Student Bill of Housing Rights, but I will always
remember Dr. Katz’s charm and personality. I won’t remember
talking to Tara Frank and Paul Towne, the student activities advisors,
about schedules or dates, but I will remember laughing with them
about our lives or sharing my personal thoughts and emotions with
What I will remember are late-night runs to Waffle House with good
friends before finishing an assignment due in a few hours. I will
remember the friends I made within the Student Government Association
(SGA) and College Council and all the fun we had at our meetings
and outside of them. I will remember practically living on the fifth
floor of the Dobbs Center with Meredith Honeycutt, SGA Vice President
Jason Miller, Treasurer Dan Hauck and a slew of others.
I will remember laughing and debating professors. I will think fondly
back on the “secret seven” and how much joy they gave
I will remember learning for fun. I will remember class assignments
that shocked my senses, that made me happy and made me sad. I will
remember living on the bottom floors of libraries writing my thesis
about the horrendous subject of lynching. I did not write my thesis
for the struggle, but for the want and will of learning.
I did not do my Kenneth Cole fellowship for the struggle, but for
the want and will of the experience. I won’t remember the
title of president or summa, but I will remember my most important
titles: friend and buddy.
I will always be a friend of this University because it gave friends
to me. Emory gave me a sense of peace and fellowship long absent
from my soul. This is why I have no sadness about entering the real
world, because Emory showed me that all things can be confronted
with a little determination, but also a little love.