Portrait Project


Each year we ask our classmates a straightforward, simple question taken from the last lines of a poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Mary Oliver. We share with you intimate and candid responses to this question, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean -
the one who has flung herself
  out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out
  of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and
  forth instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her
  enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and
  thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open,
  and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
  how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down
  in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how
  to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Send Comments/Questions.
Read people's comments about the Portrait Project.

Class of 2004

Omar A. Abou-Sayed

"Omar, in life you have been given every gift, have opened every door you could ever hope for," I was told recently by a friend I have know half my life, during an uncharacteristic crisis of confidence.

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Rahul Advani

I want to live in the moment while striving to make tomorrow's moments more promising.

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Deena D. Bahri

Energy is my currency of choice.

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Jennifer Keedy Banks

The phrase "women can't have it all" frustrates me.

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Kenna Wyllie Baudin

To start, I intend to feel energized each morning – not grouchy, not stressed, not depressed.

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Myoung Cha

To be changed by the world around me.

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Christine Cuoco

I remember sitting in my grandmother's Brooklyn kitchen as a kid while she prepared little-meatball soup and stuffed artichokes and told me stories of her childhood in Agropoli, Italy.

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Lina Fares

I wasn't ready. I never will be ready. Her laughter, her smiling eyes, her wit, her warmth, her strength; I wasn't ready to live without them. When I lost my mother I felt a huge vacuum in my life.

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Hysam Galal

Liar, is who I'll be if I answered this question!!

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Dan Gertsacov

My grandmother is 103, and she is always quick to remind me, "it's not about having what you want; it's about wanting what you have."

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Samantha Gray

I want to stretch my heart to the breaking as a wife, a lover, a mother.

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Emily Hoffman

Growing up, my Dad asked me not to be ordinary.

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Molli Hourihan

Bring worlds together through food. Create brands that brighten lunch boxes and delight grocery aisles. Produce advertising and labels that tell the truth.

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Ningfeng Hu

I still remember how depressed I was when studying China Modern History in the middle school.

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Shibani Joshi

I grew up as the eldest child of immigrant parents who chose to live out the American dream in the oddest of places, Oklahoma City.

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Abbas A. Kanji

I hope my life develops like my squash game.

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Cabin Kim

Sometimes I'm just ordinary.

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Una Kim

I will be daring.

I will dare the world...

    to change the way it sees itself

        and its fringes.

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Gordon C. Liao

i want to create wealth
through poetry, passion and performance
fulfill decades of unfilled entrepreneurial dreams of inner city tenants
build success for descendants of slaves, laborers, refugee immigrants

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Mamongae Mahlare

Allocate time and energy to initiatives for the primary benefit of my beloved South Africa

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M. Monique McCloud-Manley

Leave a lasting impression on someone that has doubted the capabilities of people that look like me.

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Patrick J. McGinnis

Seven years ago, I traveled from Bogotá to Buenos Aires, mostly by land.

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Anne Morriss

Clarice Lispector used the occasion of New Year's Day, 1968 to remind an adoring Brazilian public that "salvation is achieved by taking risks, without which life is worthless."

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Denis B. Pedreira

"Denis, there's no free lunch"! I was quite disappointed when I heard that motto from my FIN prof.

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Alice Prager

I want to be as frightened as Jack and the Beanstalk

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Carolyn Pyles

Let me be in that place where I am able to be.

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Kurt Scherer

I want to keep the sparkle in the eyes of my three glorious children. And others.

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Cindy Thanh Tran

My memory of childhood is filled with carrots - relatively cheap, good for eyesight.

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Sylvie Tran

In an isolated, desolate leper village in Vietnam, I observed a small child.

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Michael Worosz

It took a moment of profound despair for me to grasp what Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "in our youth our hearts were touched with fire... given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing."

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Polina Yampolska

Ten years ago, sitting in a cramped, unheated kitchen in my family's apartment on the outskirts of Kiev, I wrote the closing paragraph of my college application essay: "I like to be a small part in a huge machine that is called human civilization, a part with a great potential that may someday change the entire principle of its functioning."

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Siddhartha Yog

Touch the lives of others; stand shoulder to shoulder with my brothers
battle for which I believe; be determined to achieve
outwit and outpace; but with dignity and grace
never waver from what is right (and get to sleep well at night).

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