Welcome, friends, family, students, faculty and staff, alumni, members of the board and bored members of the audience.
You’ve all gathered at this football stadium for one reason on this hot and windy Saturday, and that is to honor the hard work of this bunch of students.
No, you’ve really all gathered here for the free food afterward. But we’re doing the ceremony now, and they gave me the microphone.
This day has been 17 years in the making for us. We’ve essayed, hypothesized, calculated, theorized, researched, experimented and dissected our way to these seats. We’ve suffered late nights, early mornings, hot coffee, cold pizza, exhaustive lecture notes and vague study guides. And through it all, this is the moment we’ve impatiently waited for.
Yet, I can’t help but feel like the fish from P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.
You know, the aquarium occupants in the Pixar movie “Finding Nemo.”
They bided their time, waiting to for a chance to escape to the open waters of the open sea. Finally the day came when the dentist put them into little individual baggies to clean the tank, and they rolled themselves out the window, across the street and into the ocean.
The movie ends with the colorful fish stuck in their baggies, floating aimlessly over the harbor.
“Now what?” one asks.
Like the fish, we’ve dreamed of this day for as long as we can remember. But now it’s reality that we have to leave the protected environment of school, where mistakes and second chances are a necessary part of life, if not encouraged.
In elementary school our teachers told us they were preparing us for the big halls of middle school. Middle school teachers told us they were preparing us for the wide open range of high school. High school teachers told us they were preparing us for the independence of college.
Then we got to college, and all they have to say is, “Buy this pointy hat and we’ll give us a piece of paper in return.”
Sure, most of us have plans. We have jobs lined up, service trips waiting, maybe some graduate work down the road. We have our degrees, and it’s time to move on.
We’re supposed to go to work every day, be contributing members of society and not get summers off. Reality is kicking in.
The day of freedom we’ve been waiting for is here, but reality of the rest of our lives seems daunting.
At least it does to me.
So now what?
I’m sure the hamburgers and potato salad back at your graduation party are getting stale, I’ll keep it short.
First, it’s now our responsibility to teach ourselves.
If we’re going to succeed, we must always be willing to see our lives from new perspectives. Look for opportunities to grow and stretch. Learn something new every day.
The upside to being your own teacher? Now you can grade your own tests.
Second, it’s also our responsibility to teach those following in our footsteps.
Society sees us as college graduates now. We’re wearing gowns. The band played “Pomp and Circumstance” for us—and took the repeat at section C five times because it took forever for us to get to our seats from across the field.
As a result, younger students are going to look to us as an example of success. Let’s not let them down.
And finally, slow down to enjoy life.
For me, my time in college seemed to last significantly less than the rest of my schooling. Maybe I was too intent on getting to the end result that I didn’t savor this last section of my life enough.
But we each have a lot more life ahead of us. Let’s enjoy every moment.
That’s it. That’s all I have to say. We’ve completed our mission, handed in our assignments and managed to all show up on time for this ceremony.
Now let’s shake the hands of these important people up here on stage, flip our tassels and head for the potato salad.