Annual programs

Senior Capstone Program 2007

Sam Donsky's speech

Perhaps the one thing that, over the years, has been most difficult for me to cohere into the idea-space surrounding the creation of Art, or at least the creation of Art with a capital A, is the notion that a lot of awful people are capable of being quite thrilling at it. Mean artists, as one could call them (though surely there are other words I might use was my Grandmother not in attendance today), do not only exist, but all-too-often seem to exist under the pretense that their two traits work mutually to define one another: their meanness confirming their Art, and their Art excusing or even validating their meanness. It is, of course, a false pretenseómaybe the falsest one there is; for not only does this attitude marginalize Art, but, even more unfortunately, revises its communal range: lowers its ceilings and raises its floors, until Art become but for its own sakeówithout an audience, without a human identity, and, finally, without a point.

I would continue with my figurative language, but anyone who has spent any time here, in this room, or in this house, or with these people, knows exactly where I'm going, and at what I'm gesturing: Which is to say that the Writers House blows the concept of The Jerk so totally, completely, and passionately out of the water, that if you spent your time only here, and nowhere else, you'd probably, in all seriousness, have no idea what I'm talking about.

Nevertheless, for those of us who have been exposed to these contrasts, the Writers House is, has been, and will continue to be a sanctuary of almost impossibly perfect proportions: Not from non-writers, but rather from the dangerous and misguided notion that a love for one's own writing and a love for writing, period are one and the same.

This, as far as I have been able tell in my four years at Penn, is Al's ultimate trick: Creating a House of Writers, but just as crucially, a house of readers; building a community of amazing people with amazing things to say, but just as necessarily, a community of people with the urge to listen, genuinely and constantly, and on the warmest of terms and with the friendliest of ears.

It is said that a structure truly works only when there is an equilibrium present between its give and its take. I believe that the Kelly Writers House works because its give and its take are precisely the same thing: and that is the simple interaction that takes place between good people and other good people, when they have something fundamentally good to talk about.

A few weeks ago, as I walked into the House for the Hub's end-of-the-year party, Al and I -- he was sitting on the green couch talking to Greg -- made accidental eye contact. He smiled, and said, rather loudly but to no one in particular, "Alright, the party can start now. Sam Donsky's here." Of course, he was joking. And 99% of me knew that he was joking. But the real magic of the Writers Houseóthe reason it will endure, and will continue to thriveóis the 1% of me who sort of thought that Al, in overstating my essential role in the party's occurrence, was telling the truth. In the end, as I graduate from Penn, this, above all else, is the final impression that I will have of the Kelly Writers House: A place of brilliant minds, huge hearts, and transcendently great people. A place that everyone, myself included, will forever remain 1% convinced wasn't quite a party until they got there, and, in so many words, was built just for them.