John Freeman smiling behind a podium

2024 Commencement Salutatio by John Freeman (Latin and English)

The salutatory address is the University’s oldest student honor and is traditionally given in Latin. In the days when the entire Commencement ceremony was conducted in Latin, the salutatio was a formal, serious address. It has evolved to become a farewell to Princeton campus life with humorous tributes and recollections.

In English

Given in the Academic Assembly of Princeton University on the 28th of May
In the year 2024
In the 277th Year of the University

It is truly a great honor to me, Great Class of 2024, not only to speak before you, but also in Latin. I shall speak briefly, since I know most of you do not know this language. While I was contemplating how to begin this speech, behold, the Muses suddenly appeared to me and breathed a joke into me about our first beginnings at college. That may seem a little too obvious, but whoever has studied mythology in the illustrious Department of Classics at Princeton knows that it is not only bad to disobey professors, but even more gods and goddesses. Therefore: “It is miraculous to see that you all are not just heads!”

But seriously, we should acknowledge that our path had a difficult start. While we were scattered across land and sea, we were supposed to be making friends and exploring this campus. By Hercules, some of us even had to climb the highest mountain while at home. Everything was lifeless when we came here, and our meeting place was Wawa. We lost our first year to COVID, but as much as we know what it is like to not have gatherings and performances, the more we now enjoy this place, which we have called home.

This is not to say that our time here has not been difficult. Nay, this place has burdened us with work to no end. What more? We are still here. We survived late nights and terrifying deadlines. We finished and defended our theses. Sisyphus, on the contrary, had to keep pushing his rock uphill without end. We surely have reached the top, and now is the time to rejoice in our great achievements. Our glory shall be as sweet as the labor was hard. I remember that line in Vergil, “It pleases to indulge in a cruel labor.” Even now after two thousand years, these words are well-suited to us, joyfully celebrating the fruits of our labor on this day.

So, cheers, Great Class of 2024 and last generation of the coronavirus at Princeton! To say in the words of Julius Caesar: “We came, we saw, we conquered!”

In Latin

Habita in Comitiis Academicis Princetoniae ante diem quintum Kalendas Iunias
Anno Academiae CCLXXVII

Vere mihi magno honori est hodie coram vos, magna cohors anni MMXXIV, non solum loqui sed etiam latine. Breviter dicam quia scio plurimos vestrum hanc linguam nescire.  Cum cogitarem quomodo hanc orationem inciperem, ecce Musae improviso mihi apparuerunt et iocum de nostris primordiis academiae inspiraverunt. Nimis perspicuum id videatur, sed quicumque illustri in institutione studiorum antiquorum Princetoniae mythologiam didicit, scit: malum esse non solum magistris sed potius dis deabusque non oboedire. Ergo: “mirabile est visu vos non esse sola capita!” 

Sed serio, agnoscamus viam nostram difficile initium habuisse. Terra marique dispersi amicos invenire et campum explorare debebamus. Mehercule, quibusdam nostrum mons altissimus domi ascendendus fuit!  Cum huc venimus omnia inanimata et forum nostrum erat Wawawum.  Amisimus primum annum nostrum propter plagam coronae, sed tanto scimus quale sit conventus et spectacula non habere, quanto magis hoc loco quem domicilium appellabamus nunc fruimur.

Hoc non est dicere tempus nostrum hic non difficile fuisse. Immo hic locus laboribus nos sine fine oneravit. Quid plura? Adhuc supersunt. Superfuimus noctibus seris terribilibusque terminis. Finivimus et defendimus nostra pensa.  Sisypho e contrario lapis suus sine fine volvendus erat.  Ad verticem usque pervenimus et nunc tempus est rebus bene gestis gaudendi! Gloria nostra tam dulcis sit quam labor erat difficilis. Memoro illud Vergilii, “insano iuvat indulgere labori.” Etiam nunc post duo milia annorum haec verba nobis magnos fructus hodie laetis carpentibus bene conveniunt.

Propinemus magna cohors anni MMXXIV et ultima viri coronae aetas Princetoniae! Dicere cum Iulio Caesare: venimus, vidimus, vicimus! 

Commencement 2024