These past few days have been bittersweet. On the one hand, graduating from Bradley University is an incredible accomplishment, and my friends and I are enjoying the celebrations. On the other hand, it marks the end of a life-chapter ... a point in time where friends move away and out into the real world. These bonds that we've formed are now being broken and scattered across the country. To be honest, everything has felt like a blur. Today's commencement ceremony made everything seem so final (which is ironic since the word "commencement" actually means a "beginning"). It's really over. Seriously - I can't believe it.
I arrived at the Peoria Civic Center this morning at 7:15 (which is way to early to get up on a Saturday). I couldn't sleep last night (Was this because of nerves? Or the excessive amounts of dessert I consumed last night? -- I can't decide).
I was honored to be selected as the 2006 student commencement speaker. A student selection committee decides who they will ask to make the address. I have to admit I was surprised -- I'm not a straight "A" student, I'm not the president of the school, nor did I serve on any student government committees. Nonetheless, it was a privilege and an honor.
Many of you requested that the speech be posted up here, so I have done my best to do that. If you have the Macromedia Flash player, you should be able to watch the video below. If you don't have it, you can download the player.
If you can't see the video above, you can read the transcript below:
Dr. Broski, distinguished members of the Board of Trustees, Faculty, Staff, Families, Friends, and my fellow classmates, take a sigh of relief … we are finally here.
It was not long ago that we walked on campus as incoming college students. Our tour guide demonstrated his remarkable ability to walk backwards, looking each of us in the eye as he spoke. The buildings seemed foreign – and although we ourselves may have been uneasy, the spirit on campus was … comfortable, conducive to learning, and somehow it just fit.
Take a moment to reflect on your first move-in-day experience. While cars lined up for hundreds of yards, the seemingly endless array of Greek students approached, saying “Can I help you with that?” I remember feeling unsure as to whether or not I should trust these complete strangers with all of my personal belongings – no – my life, which had so quickly been reduced to a collection of small suitcases and cardboard boxes.
A hug and a kiss to Mom and Dad, and they revealed a parting gift that demonstrated their love … that was extremely protective and hesitant to let go. I eagerly opened the package much to my surprise to find … a “roll-up fire-escape ladder”. The only problem was this: it was a two-story ladder, and I lived on Wyckoff 4. Always prepared, my mom uncovered a second gift – a two-story rope that would allow me and my roommate to repel down the final two floors in case of emergency. I hurried my parents out the door in hopes to begin my new life – free from their protection, and free to make my own decisions.
As the years went by, our college experiences grew. From the “Crisco Carpet Bobsled Championships” in the dorm hall, to countless spontaneous road trips, to late night study sessions and cramming for final exams. One experience however stands above the rest. Let’s call it “The Great Power Outage of 2003.” Campus-wide, everything went black. Time stood still for several hours … no one could do anything: no Internet, no lights, and even in some cases – no bathrooms! It was as if to be a subtle reminder that life exists beyond this these pressures and tight schedules that we so often place upon on ourselves.
Friends – we’ve been through so much together. We’ve seen the renovation of Bradley Hall, installation of wireless Internet throughout campus, and celebrated our men’s basketball journey to the Sweet 16. We’ve gained friendships that will last forever, and mourned the loss of loved ones who are dear to us.
I urge you friends to challenge yourselves as we move forward in this journey … to never stop learning … to realize that there is more to this life than what is so easily seen. Move forward as the holistic beings that Bradley has developed you into: physical, intellectual, and spiritual. Clothe yourselves with compassion – with kindness – with humility – with gentleness – and patience. Always forgive, love, and reach out to those in need. Serve your community with a rigorous and endless passion.
Congratulations and God bless you, Bradley University Class of 2006.