Laura Beaver's 2019 Valedictory Address
There is a hidden gem in Halifax, and that is Halifax Humanities. It is a place where people come together and talk about amazing authors and stories, but it's also a place where lives are changed. It's a special community where everyone can instantly recognize Laura Penny's laugh and Neil Robertson's iconic voice. It's a place where friendships are created and passion for reading is reignited. Most of all it's a place that let's us show our true selves.
When I first heard about the program, I was in a dark place. There was tragedy in my personal life and I was in desperate need of fresh air. When I went for my initial interview, I was excited about the program because I love to learn and was looking for something to that effect. As I was talking with Dawn and Mary Lu, I couldn't contain my excitement! The books we were going to read, the periods we were going to study, and just the experience of meeting all of these amazing professors. I couldn't wait for September! I had no idea what I was actually in for.
The program was so much more then lectures. I have gained many amazing friends through the program, friends that understand me and the struggles that I go through each day. I met amazing professors who have changed the way I read and interpret the world. I have also met other amazing people who have gone through the program before and others who continue to volunteer. And they all say how life-changing Halifax Humanities is. And I can confidently say, that it has changed my life. For a year I was able to go to this "happy bubble" for four hours a week and be immersed in the conversations with intelligent, weird, hilarious, and incredible people. My love for reading was reignited, and my confidence increased with each class. I found myself noticing modern examples of Nietzche, The Second Sex, and Karl Marx, and I found new authors that I absolutely love such as Alice Munro and Henrik Ibsen and new subjects I couldn't wait to explore such as The Medici Family and the brilliant imagery of The Divine Comedy. I can safely say that people who have gone through this program wish it was longer because four hours a week was not enough to absorb all this wonderful material.
It is such a generous program. Throughout the year we received free books, countless concert tickets and tickets to many of the amazing plays at Neptune Theatre. The professors donate their time and they allow access to their brilliant minds and we could not be more thankful. The program really is a gift, a gift that keeps on giving because it is impossible to walk away from Halifax Humanities without wanting to learn more about at least one subject. Halifax Humanities allows people to have the chance to broaden their horizons while being guided by experts in the field. It's a gift because of the very special people involved in the program. The classroom was often filled with laughter, often times non-class members would walk through the doors because they were drawn to the laughing! Those are some of my most cherished moments. Whether it was someone accidentally swearing because they thought something someone did in the stories was so ridiculous, or it was someone calling an author or character out on their behaviour, the room would erupt with this laugh that could be heard through the library. You could be your true self in the classroom because everyone respected each other and everyone appreciated what each person brought to the table.
I want to give a special thank you to those amazing people. First of all to our fearless leader Dawn who was the coordinator for this year. Dawn you were so caring, kind, and always willing to spare whatever free time you had to help us navigate the program. You always made sure we knew what we needed to know with "a few announcements" and you were a wonderful support. I also want to say a special thanks to our volunteers Mark, Austin, and Miranda for always making sure the classroom was a nice environment with snacks and coffee to keep us energetic, and for also helping out with the lectures that were a bit tougher to grasp. A huge thank you to the amazing professors we had this year. An extraordinary group of people who you could spend hours with and still want more. You brought all the books to life and made us better people. I want to also thank our families and friends who stood by us while we went through this year, without your support we wouldn't be able to do what we love. Lastly I want to thank my classmates. You guys are an amazing group of people. We all came together from our many walks of life and we united under one roof twice a week to discuss everything from religion to literature to politics and everything in between. We encouraged each other throughout the year and made sure that everyone was enjoying the class. You guys hold a special place in my heart and I will be forever grateful for meeting you and getting to spend this year with you. I like to think we each learned something new about ourselves by going through this program. Whether it's a new subject you found a passion for, or an author that you just couldn't get enough of, or simply that you had more confidence then you realized. I think this was a very important experience for all of us.
This year may be ending for us, but I know we will continue to be a part of the Halifax Humanities family. We will often reflect on the lessons we have learned and the stories we have read and we will smile at the memories that we are so fond of. This "hidden gem" is the shining diamond of Halifax and I am incredibly grateful for everything it has done for me.