Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My Graduation Speech

In light of impending finals and tomorrow's graduation ceremony, I'll take this moment to quickly address my college years: I loved every minute, every challenge, every chance for failure here at this institution, and I know that success would not have come had I not picked myself up after hitting rock bottom time after time. There is no stopping someone that can survive Cal.

I wrote the following as a speech addressed to my peers at graduation, but it was considered too traditional and subsequently nixed from the event. I certainly hope you are not offended by its appearance here, as its author might be of the traditional variety:

Good afternoon! I would like to take a quick moment to dedicate this speech to those who have had a lasting impact on my life: to Mom, to Dad, my sisters, Tata, the rest of my friends and family,

And to you. To all of you, sitting here before me, behind me, above me. All of you.

Seniors, this is our graduation. As some will say, this is the end of our time together; this is where our lives begin. On the verge of this new frontier, let us stop and ask ourselves, is this really the end?

Let us ask ourselves, why are we all here today?

It’s not just because we earned enough units to declare candidacy. It’s not just because we want to shake the Dean’s hand, although he is a great guy and all.

Seniors, we are here because we have grown—spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, entirely. We are all, in nearly every aspect, different from our freshman counterparts a few years ago, and we have everyone here to thank.

In the time we have remaining before we each strut across this stage, I want you to think of all the people you ought to thank. Start now. Make a mental note of any person that has made a difference in your life. Think of all of the important character-defining interactions you’ve had in your college career, and pinpoint the person responsible. As you continue with this mental exercise—and don’t worry, it’s not graded— you might miss quite a few names from your list. Also ask for the names of every person sitting in your row, the girl across from you, the guy 3 seats behind you, and every other capped and gowned smiling student along with those close to them, as you’ll need to include all of them in your list, too.

Seniors, all of us sitting here are sitting here as Berkeley’s Class of 2007. Though our college careers have spanned multiple semesters of work and more work, we may not all know each other, and we may assume that the strangers we sit near are insignificant in our lives, but feel confident in each of your abilities to influence the growth of others around you. We each have created a tangled web of interactions with those who are close to us, and they in turn have done the same with others. We are all connected to one another, like a supportive web that threads through each of us. That’s how we have matured.

Through every problem set that had us collaborating together into all hours of the night, using books as study tools and pillows, where we all wore the same bags under our eyes in class the next day, that’s how we have matured.

Through every botched exam where we grieved with friends and family, and where they rescued us with enough kind words to make our grades seem like distant relics of the past, that’s how we have matured.

Through every moment that sparked any whim of competition between us, to nab that sweet summer job, to attain that elusive grade, that’s how we have matured.

By adapting to our environment and our situations, we in turn influence each other to adapt to us, and to learn from us. You all are in one way or another, directly or indirectly, the reason that I could develop enough composure and confidence over the years to address you today. And I am in one way or another the reason that you all are still paying attention to this speech. Hopefully.

Because I feel it of utmost importance to dissipate this rumor that with graduation comes the end of our time together. There is literally nothing final about today! We are here celebrating our class connection and how we have grown from it, and we must recognize that we would not be here as we are today were it not for all of us. We will always have our memories and our relations close at hand and heart, even if in the years ahead we forget who our old friends and acquaintances were. Whether we keep in touch or not does not change the fact that we have each made an indelible mark on ourselves, by merely experiencing life together. There is no justification to call this a conclusion, because these years of memories will continue to shape our lives forever.

We are here because we have grown together. We are here to celebrate our relations. We are here to recognize how significant these impressions have been.

And lastly, we leave here knowing that we shared our lives with the brightest minds of our generation. We must realize that this provides us with much responsibility for our society, responsibility for catalyzing the change we want to see in our world.

We must create a lasting impact on our future communities in the same way that we have done for each other, to share with others what we have experienced here.

Congratulations Graduates, and Thank You! Go Bears!

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