Both accomplished speakers, 2014 senior orators Caroline Bologna and Joshua Block will strike themes of individuality and community in their orations, to be delivered Sunday, May 25, to thousands of graduates, parents, alumni, and friends on the College Green. Fittingly, their individual journeys through Brown happened to include some shared experiences.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Caroline Bologna and Joshua Block will stand together as Brown’s senior orators on Commencement May 25, 2014, but they have been crossing paths for years. The first time, fall semester 2012, was in the kind of unlikely place that becomes possible when two students are living their university lives to the fullest.
“We were both abroad the same semester,” Bologna recalled. “I was in Paris and he was in Scotland. I went to visit a friend who was doing the same program with him.”
The friend lived across the hall from Block in their Edinburgh apartment building.
“I was in a very small program there and so we all went out together and Caroline came with us,” Block said.
On campus Bologna and Block each volunteer in the University tour guide program. There, too, they know each other and share the art of telling visiting families what Brown has to offer.
Speaking of Brown
That will be their charge one more time, but now it will occur on the grandest of University stages. Their speeches were chosen from about 80 nominated for the consideration of a committee chaired by Zachary Sng, associate professor of German studies.
“In their speeches, both Caroline and Josh will be drawing from their individual, personal journeys at Brown while also reflecting on the importance of community, communication, and shared commitments,” Sng said. “Their stories highlight something that is unique to Brown: an environment in which individuality and differences flourish alongside connections, relations, and commonalities.”
Bologna said her talk, “Labels,” will describe “the way that our time at Brown teaches us how we don’t fit into neat little boxes with neat little labels, and how our sense of identity becomes more complicated as time passes.”
Block’s address, titled “Listen,” will discuss the value of “healthy controversy and the ways in which Brown fosters and promotes that culture.”
‘The jobs we want’
Block will continue to engage in fora of civic and civil discourse for years to come. He’s already begun working as communications director for the Providence mayoral campaign of Brett Smiley. After Election Day the political science and philosophy concentrator will return to the United Kingdom to pursue a masters degree in political communication at the London School of Economics.
Bologna is headed to New York after graduation. At Brown while she concentrated in comparative literature and French studies, she applied her love of language and culture as a managing editor of the Post magazine, the regular arts insert in the Brown Daily Herald. She also wrote for other publications.
“I’m going to pursue a career in media on the editorial side,” Bologna said. She’s already mulling an offer to work for a journalist and author there.
As Block noted, “We both have jobs that are exactly the jobs we want.”
As for why they wanted the job of senior orator, both said they find great meaning in public speaking. Bologna gave the valedictory speech at her all-girls Catholic high school, Sacred Heart, in New Orleans.
As a high school student in Sharon, Mass., Block led an international Jewish group called United Synagogue Youth. “When I gave the presidential address for that there were about 1,500 people in the audience, and I remember that as one of the most enjoyable experiences I had,” Block said.
Block and Bologna’s orations to more than 10,000 people at Brown promise to be memorable too, both for their individual speeches and as a shared experience.
“Caroline and Josh are eloquent, compelling speakers who represent so much of what makes me proud to be a member of the Brown community,” Sng said. “I am very excited to have both of them address us at Commencement.”