A Closer Conversation with Claire

Thanksgiving speaker Claire Hoffman discusses her speech, spicy Uno, Harry Styles, and keeping perspective.


photo from WILLIAM BARTNETT ’18

On November 21, Claire Hoffman ‘18 gave this year’s Thanksgiving Assembly speech. Her main message was not to lose perspective in life, and The World reached out to her to talk about any additional anecdotes or pieces of advice that didn’t make it into the seven-minute speech.

After discovering she was this year’s speaker, Hoffman’s initial surprise and disbelief turned into “total and utter panic” when thinking of a speech “worthy of that Tuesday not being a late day.” She jokes that one of her classmates predicted she would be chosen as the speaker because “they always pick someone with a sad life.” Hoffman’s lighthearted nature was evident in her speech.

When brainstorming ideas, Hoffman knew she had to mention Harry Styles. She says, “If I’m given an opportunity to speak freely, [Styles] will be discussed.” On a more serious note, though, she says she took Ms. Yetter’s advice to “think about what [she] wanted this audience to hear,” and immediately thought of the importance of not losing perspective.

One main anecdote that fueled Hoffman’s writing process was when an assistant to her physical therapist called her a brat. She was learning to walk again after a neurological condition left her paralyzed, and an assistant dared to belittle her. However, Hoffman acknowledges that the comment was not only well deserved, but necessary in her recovery process.

She believes this anecdote shows how sometimes, we all need someone to pull us back to Earth when we lose sight of what really matters. That being said, it was also the assistant’s last day at the hospital, and the two haven’t seen each other since. Hoffman was “not sad about that fact.”

In addition to the previous anecdote, Hoffman remembers experiences that most Burroughs students can relate to, like when she almost had a panic attack after not being able to turn in her term paper before school. The actual situation was not as dire as she imagined, and admitted she is “highly skilled at blowing things out of proportion,” like most of her JBS classmates.

For Thanksgiving, Hoffman, enjoyed her family’s “fairly strange”  tradition of going to White Castle for lunch before the large dinner. The tradition started a few years ago when, after going to the Botanical Garden, the Hoffman family struggled to find an open restaurant. Now, Hoffman says, “no one in my family denies that it’s gross, but it just feels right.”

Hoffman was also in charge of making desserts for Thanksgiving, and, in addition to baking her favorite apple pie, also made a pumpkin pie and caramel pecan cheesecake. She left feeling accomplished, noting that “Gordon Ramsay would be proud.”

Regarding her life in general, Hoffman is thinking about studying history or political science, although her bioethics class has inspired an interest in philosophy. She says, “I’ve always found great pleasure in giving people advice (solicited or not), and I feel like philosophy is just a more intellectual way of doing that.”

When asked about advice she had for the JBS community, Hoffman’s advised to first learn how to play “spicy Uno.” After that, she recommends that Burroughs make good on its promises of inclusivity.

Hoffman notes the difference between the school’s message of welcoming and openness as opposed to its accommodations for people with physical disabilities. She says, “The campus can in no way be seen as handicap-friendly, and this is true even for the new buildings [such as Haertter Hall] that have no excuse for not being properly-equipped… If the school wants to promote this idea of inclusivity, it should be willing to take the steps to make it a reality.”

Sometimes, student life, filled with tall workloads, extracurriculars, and late nights, can feel like trying to cut down a forest of sturdy oaks tree by tree using a dull hatchet. Through inviting the Burroughs community to laugh with her and forcing it to laugh at itself, Claire Hoffman illustrated just how vital it can be to zoom out and see the forest, not just the trees.