My fellow graduates, tonight we celebrate the fact that we got what we came here for – an education that would transform our lives and ourselves in ways we could never imagine. We learned more about our academic disciplines than we thought possible, and we learned just as much about life.
Oh yes, we got what we came here for, but you know what, we received so much more than that, didn’t we?
We made life-long friendships and became members of new communities. Some of you got married, or had your first child during your time here. We’ve traveled to new places and met people from all over the country and all over the planet. For those of us not from the Southeastern United States, we had the pleasure of being warmly welcomed into a whole new place.
So yes, we are all here tonight with an abundance of memories that we will cherish for a lifetime. We are also here tonight with the battle scars our hard work, long days, sleepless nights, and the stress and anxiety that we felt as we faced some of the biggest challenges of our lives. And now, here we are celebrating the fact that we overcame the seemingly uncountable number of obstacles that came our way.
But when we reflect on how we made it through these challenges, we don’t think about ourselves, do we?
No, we think about the faculty of this great university. Most notably, our adviser or advisers, who took us under their wing while we were students so very young in our discipline and transformed us into professional academics.
We also think about each other. Our friends and colleagues. The people who helped us when we didn’t understand a homework problem, who taught our classes for us when we were sick, who drove us to the airport when we attended conferences, and who were always there to celebrate our accomplishments with us along the way.
Finally, we think about the people here in the audience tonight, the people watching this event live, and those who are here in spirit. These are the people we needed to have in our lives in order to get to this most precious evening. These are the people who always took the time to listen to our worries over the years and gave us the love and support that we needed to carry onward. Almost everyone seems to agree that in order to succeed one must believe in themself. But some of our challenges were so great that there were times when we just weren’t sure if we could make it through. Everything, of course, turned out okay for us though, because when we didn’t believe in ourselves, we always had someone out there who did.
So if the diplomas that will receive were to tell the whole story of our journey, and not just the ending, we know that they would absolutely have to contain several names and not just our own. Dr. Buskes, Mom, and Dad, your names would without question appear on my diploma, written in letters much larger than mine.