Saturday, September 3, 2011

More in the College Theme

Just because I feel bad for neglecting you all, and because I'm pretty proud of this recent free-lance assignment I had, here is a speech I wrote for a former colleague to give as his convocation address. He made changes to it to make it his own, but this is the version I sent him.

Feel free to share with anyone in your life going off to college:

You are about to embark on an amazing journey. And it’s easy for me to stand up here and tell you that because I’ve been where you are now. But I’m asking you to trust me. To listen to me. If you only listen to one thing I say over the next four years, listen to this.

Simply put – this is what you should aspire to be and to do over the next four years.

Be yourself. And reinvent yourself. 

Inspire. And be inspired. 

Learn. And teach.



How will you do this? Right here, right now, you have no idea what to expect of the next four years. And the great thing about that is you can control what the next four years are for you. They are a blank canvas. A canvas in which only you can fill.

This is your chance to write your own story. You can sit back and watch your college years fly by, being a casual observer. Or you can take charge. How do you want to look back on these four years?

Be yourself. Be the person your family raised you to be. Make them proud. Listen to and trust your instincts. Make yourself proud. Judy Garland once said, “it’s always better to be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

That being said, it is okay to reinvent yourself. Be the person you want to be. If you were shy in high school, you can be outgoing here. If you were labeled or stereotyped within one clique or another, no one here knows that. You can take risks...and break myths.

Inspire. By Christmas, there will be seven billion people on our planet. Each of you has a responsibility to make this world a better place. How will you do that?

That may seem like a daunting task. But it’s not. You can make a difference. Get involved with something that interests you, with something that matters to you.

Do you want to work with children? Or the elderly? Do you want to clean up the environment? Or do you want to fight poverty and homelessness?

You can find a community organization or a student organization. And if one doesn’t exist, you can create your own.

Be inspired. Associate yourselves with classmates who are different and smarter than you. You will be amazed by what you learn from them. You can expand your view on the world by surrounding yourself with people who are different from you, by surrounding yourself with people who you are not used to knowing.

Learn. Reach out to your faculty and get to know them. They will become great allies as you navigate through life in your next four years. Discover their backgrounds, learn what inspires them. Get to know them as people, not just professors, and you will learn so much more than just their classroom expertise. It will give you a greater insight into the world.

Teach. Being life-long learners also means sharing what you know with others. Your faculty and classmates will learn from you just as you will learn from them. You have a unique perspective on the world that only you can share. We’re all learners here. That’s why your professors became professors, and that’s why you came to college.

Appreciate. Appreciate what it took to get you here. And I don’t mean just the financial aspect. Think about your high school teacher who worked with you after school, or your guidance counselor who helped you choose a major. Your parents or family member who helped you with your college application. Appreciate everyone you come in contact with and the smallest way they affect your life.

Laugh. Don’t take things too seriously. Have balance in your life. Studying is important, but it’s not the only thing you should do in college. Go out. Socialize. And yes, even party. Make sure you have fun.

I hope you have listened to what I’ve said. I hope you have not only listened but that you will act on my words. I promise you…you won't regret it.

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