Every year, the vibrant tradition of Brandeis’ orientation week culminates in the cherished Light the Night ceremony, an annual event that warmly embraces the incoming class of students. Orientation Core leaders at Brandeis present their inspirational speeches to the new class of students before they embark on their journeys at Brandeis. Each student is given a small candle where they are instructed to write one word or a few words detailing their goals and dreams for their times at Brandeis.
As students gathered by Chris Burden’s “Light of Reason” installment outside of the Rose Art Museum, the Orientation Core leaders, Eric Cooper ’25, Jessica Freedberg ’24 and Kaija Grisham ’24, all spoke from their experiences at Brandeis to welcome and invite in the new first year class.
In her poignant Light the Night speech, Freedberg began by acknowledging the bittersweet reality that this marked her final Light the Night ceremony. She began by saying that, “My Brandeis journey has meant the world to me, and getting the opportunity to spend my last orientation with this class of new students is just what I envisioned.” Freedberg went on to recount how her personal Light the Night experience was distinct, as she looked at all her new peers through a computer screen during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Freedberg continued her speech by touching on what word she would describe her entire Brandeis experience as. She noted that she’s written a word on a candle every year, but has forgotten it each year. However, her word to sum up her Brandeis journey would be growth. “My Brandeis journey has been characterized by growth,” Freedberg stated, “growth in my sense of self, my intellectual understanding and my physical prowess thanks to what seems like endless hills.”
Freedberg ends her speech by touching on how easy difficult tasks were because of the supportive and kind Brandeis community that surrounded her.
The next speaker, Cooper, skillfully wove a thread of wisdom into his speech by quoting Uncle Iroh from “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” The quote stated, “destiny is a funny thing. You never know how things are going to work out. But if you keep an open mind and an open heart, I promise you will find your own destiny someday.” Cooper continued referencing the show and its dedication to resilience through difficult times.
Cooper then went on to tell an anecdote about his first year at Brandeis, where an encounter with a few students altered the course of his journey. He had walked into the SCC with his trumpet, and three students came up to him. They encouraged him greatly to join MAD Band, a pep and jam band on campus. Cooper noted that he was very apprehensive and didn’t know if he would enjoy his experience with MAD Band. Two semesters later, he decided to join MAD Band and overcome his fear of the newness of Brandeis. Presently, Cooper is now a trumpet player and music director of MAD Band.
Cooper’s moral of that story was to encourage students to not be afraid to try new things. He ends his speech with a quote from Taylor Swift that states, “standing here at the stage door for the rest of your life. Time to dip your toe into the deep end. Try things. Say hi already. Laugh a lot. Mess up. Take chances. Be brave, and you’ll have the time of your life.”
The final speech of the night belonged to Grisham, who began by candidly admitting that she never wrote anything on her candle her first year at Brandeis, and didn’t even hold onto it for more than three minutes. Her Light the Night ceremony, mirroring Freedberg’s, unfolded virtually as she sat in her bed looking at the rest of her peers.
Grisham’s speech resonated with encouragement, advocating for students to dive wholeheartedly into new experiences, to not be afraid to join clubs or get involved, and to take every opportunity that comes your way. According to Grisham, these were the keys to a fulfilled Brandeis journey.
Students then got to light up their candles and hold them up in the air while a Brandeis Core member shouted, “Okay Brandeis, let’s light up the night!” Students began cheering and waving their candles around, as they braced themselves for the next four years of their lives.