|Prof. Schreiber toasts Toni Morrison (seated, at left) at her birthday celebration at the Library of Congress last week.|
|Leftovers of Morrison’s amazing cake were consumed in the English Department lounge!|
Professor Morrison, tonight we have come from all over the world to celebrate your birthday and the community that you have created through your works. Thank you for enabling us “to pass on” to our students compelling histories and complex emotions, providing each generation with a vision of their past, insight into the present, and a guide to the future.
Your work teaches us what it means to be human, to recognize our limitations, and to carry on despite them. To believe in the power of love, family, and community and to verbalize our personal and communal pain as well as our triumphs. We thank you for your generosity: you share, you nurture, you listen. Your works profoundly affect the lives of your readers. To read Toni Morrison is to be altered forever: you “remake” us as readers and as human beings. You teach us how to “nourish the soil so that seeds can grow,” to not settle for a “secondhand” self, to “name and claim” ourselves, to recognize our “templates” and to rejoice in them, to “feel our way” and see what “certain kind” of people we can be, to allow us to “hum,” to “fly,” to be “Complete,” and to be our “own best thing.” We eagerly await your work to come.
I asked my students what I should say to you in this toast and they wanted you to know that you have given them something that no amount of therapy ever could—the ability to embrace personal history as something to celebrate and to appreciate what makes them unique. Thank you for helping us sift through the voices of our culture to find our own healing voices. Thank you for the academic, personal, and psychic home that you provide.
On your birthday and always, know that you are loved as you “have loved us all.”