May 16, 2012
|Photo by David Woods|
Good morning graduates,
faculty, administration, parents, and guests. When I was asked to speak today,
I was honored to represent our class, but this commencement is about much more
than the speakers, my co-valedictorian, or myself. Today is recognition of our
collective achievement, a celebration of the Rollins College Class of 2012!
The clichés of valedictorian speeches abound, and yes, I, too, will begin with a quote. As an art history major with a deep appreciation for French art gained through courses, conversations, and scholarship with my advisor, professor, and mentor, Dr. Susan Libby, the words of Claude Monet seem aptly appropriate. He once said, “C’est à force d’observation, de réflexion que l’on trouve.” Or, in English: “It is on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way.” This line, copied and pasted more times than I can count into my law school personal statements, gained much more meaning within the context of our graduation. As first and foremost a celebration of our achievements at Rollins and soon-to-be-acquired alumni status, commencement provided a chance not only to embark upon the reflection Monet describes but also my fellow members of the Rollins College community.
Graduation is something profound and commendable that we will forever share together, yet also something we now share with every class that graduated before us as well as those that will graduate in years to come. As you look around, however, we are each reminded that there is also someone else with whom we share today. Whether a parent, a friend, or even a professor, there is someone who has been with each of us along the college journey. For me, I see my best friends in the rows before me, my parents and brother behind them, and know that my grandad is watching with my family in England. This is the true breadth of the Rollins community. We graduate today as individuals, but our experience here and the personal worth of graduation spreads far beyond those of us adorned in black robes and cords. Graduation holds meanings as diverse and unique as the individuals filling this room. More than just starting with the expected quote, I want to share quotes with you from our fellow members of the Rollins community – our friends, our peers, our parents, and our professors – because today is about more than just you or me, it is about us, the Rollins community.
The selected words that follow are the thoughts and reflections of our fellow community members on what graduation means to them.
From a dear friend whom I met in Scotland—Lacy J.V. Goodwyn ’11:
The dictionary defines a graduate as “a person who has received a degree or diploma on completing a course of study.” However, I find the term to mean much more than that. It something to be proud of but also to be valued.
To call oneself a graduate means that you have been granted a wonderful opportunity, one that many people around the world cannot afford to experience. It also means that you have not taken this privilege for granted and you have worked hard to earn the title. It is moment you will look back on for the rest of your life.
I know this because I only graduated a year ago and I am constantly looking back wishing I could relive that moment. As a college graduate, you are closing one door but are prepared to open the endless amount that lie before you. You have the world at your feet, so go out there and get it.
From one of my best friends with whom I share a passion for art, travel, and most of all good food—Danielle Guimarães ’12:
There is an expression in Portuguese that best symbolizes graduation to me. It's “fechar com chave de ouro,” and it literally means “to lock [something] with a golden key.” Graduation, the golden key, represents the end of four great years at Rollins. With it, I lock my dear memories of friends and professors who became my family and extraordinary academic experiences in a very special place in my mind, keeping them close with me as I begin a new journey.
I would like to conclude with the advice of a man I deeply respect, Ralph Luongo, father of Andrea Luongo ’13:
“Perhaps with one huge exception, every beginning marks the end of something else.”
“Don’t be afraid to embrace all that has mercifully ended.”
“Endings are not only inevitable, they’re often good. I hope, for instance, that this day marks the end of fear–fear of the unknown; fear of failure; fear, even, of success. You have all just proved to yourselves that you are fully capable of entering a world unlike any that you had previously known–college–negotiating it, and ultimately mastering it.”
“Yes, you have all succeeded to get to this place and this moment. But I hope these years have taught you to put an end to looking for success on the floor on which you stand. Memo to the Class of 2012: success, like the future, is in the direction of the ceiling.”
Congratulations, Class of 2012!
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