Today I was very honored to be the faculty speaker at our students' graduation. It is something that I have wanted to do for a very long time. The whole ceremony went well. I have a lot I could say about it but instead I have copied the content of my speech below. It pretty much sums up anything I add here.
Welcome Graduates, Family and Friends, and Colleagues,
Graduation is one of those unique events in a persons life where people are inspired to take a moment and reflect on the events that have led them to where they are now and what might be waiting for them in the months and years ahead. You have all come from different backgrounds and life experiences. Some of you find yourselves right on track, moving toward a larger goal. Some of you find yourselves at a crossroads, with many choices ahead. All of us, have shared this time together and we are proud to see so many of you reaching your goals, working hard, and ready to move on to the next part of your lives.
In 2007 I sat in my first graduation here as a faculty member and one of the speakers that day got up and said, “This College is a part of your journey, it is not a destination.” An important thing to remember, as you look toward the future, a sad thing for us here, who have gotten to know you, and will miss you when the fall semester rolls around again.
I thought then of what I might say to my own students as they graduated and what I would have said to myself as I sat, like you are today, at the end of one journey and at the beginning of the next. Little did I know that day was just around the corner.
Graduates, what I would like to share with you today is this. There is nothing you cannot do. We have grown up together as spectators, watching people be successful, change the world, and make a difference. I am here today to tell you that you are those people. Do not be persuaded into thinking that success and happiness is something that happens to people. It is something that you make happen.
A mentor of mine once said to me, “Michelle, it is not the brilliant people who make a difference and are successful, it is the ones who are the most doggedly determined.”
I have had the pleasure of having so many of you in my classes and I can safely say that determination is not something that any of you lack.
Many of you harbor dreams that seem so big and fantastic that you might feel they are outside the realm of possibility. They are not. Many of you are, right now, reaping the reward of taking steps toward making that dream a reality for yourself and I cannot congratulate you enough. Some of you may be unsure of what your next steps are. If you are unsure, step forward with gusto. Dream big. Do not sell yourself short. This is your life, and you are the one who will live it.
Steve Jobs, one of the most innovative businessmen of our century insists that, “the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
It is easy enough to sit back and say to yourself. “People like me aren’t poets, aren’t inventors, aren’t CEO’s, aren’t famous, aren’t the type of people who change things, create things, who improve things.” I am here to tell you today, that that is exactly who you are.
Today is a day of celebration, but as you move into tomorrow and the months ahead, don’t let this feeling fade. Keep it. Nurture it. Pass it on to the people in your life. Dreams are one of our greatest natural resources. William Butler Yates said “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” It is now your job to move out into the world and share what you have learned and what you will learn, with the people you meet and don’t forget to come back here and share it with us as well. Don’t let your education or your dreams end here. Your parents are watching. Your brothers and sisters are watching. Your children are watching. Now is your time to show them the rewards of following your dreams. That hard work is a gift you give yourself. That you can achieve the things you once thought impossible.
I would like to leave you today with one of my favorite quotes. It is one I return to often when I get discouraged on my own path to realizing my own dreams.
“You're in the midst of a war: a battle between the limits of a crowd seeking the surrender of your dreams, and the power of your true vision to create and contribute. It is a fight between those who will tell you what you cannot do, and that part of you that knows / and has always known / that we are more than our environment; and that a dream, backed by an unrelenting will to attain it, is truly a reality with an imminent arrival.”
Congratulations Graduates. We are all very proud of you!
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