Recently, Brenda Mayr graduated with her second paralegal degree from Globe University. The below is from her commencement speech (edited for length).
I am honored, proud and humbled to represent Globe University-Wausau and our graduating class. I have been on campus since the doors opened in the spring of 2010, so I guess that means the longest-enrolled student must give a graduation speech.
Pop quiz — the last one of your college career — do you know what it means to be consciously present in the moment? Conscious presence is a heightened awareness of one’s surroundings, and in our busy and hurried lives, we often fail to be consciously present, and we miss out on the little things in life that could bring meaning and happiness to us. Today is obviously an exceptional day for all the graduates. You deserve to celebrate, you deserve to be proud; and you deserve all the congratulations that you will receive today. Be sure to give yourself a few moments to take it all in. The day will go by quickly; make sure to hold this snapshot in time so you will have a vivid memory of this day.
What we learned during our college career was far more than what was printed in our text books, the tests we took, or the discussion boards we were a part of. We also learned lessons in humanity. For example, one of my first classes was a business communications class with Mr. Carlson. It was the time when the story broke of the miners in Chile who were trapped for 69 days 2,300 feet underground. Our class followed the news story and on the night when the rescue operation went into full swing, the class did a little cheer each time a miner was brought to the surface.
So what did this event have to do with a business communications class? Leadership, for one … and we learned a lesson in compassion. A few of our classmates continually asked why did we care so much about the miners half a world away and I simply responded “because they are human.” One cannot walk through this life on this earth without experiencing the human element; remember the old saying that “no man is an island.”
We also learned that there are some pretty good authors among us. Lynda Pilot, whose love for her students is surpassed only by her love of literature, brought out the hidden writing abilities many of us had no idea we had.
These are lessons that you cannot put a price tag on. That being said, do not ever minimize what a privilege college is. Many people who are capable to be where you are can’t get here for a variety of reasons. Always respect your opportunities.
This past May, the world lost a truly remarkable poet and educator … in the death of Maya Angelou. When the tributes began rolling in … there was one that struck a chord with me. Oprah Winfrey was reminiscing about an encounter she had with Ms. Angelou, when the two were speaking to each other about their somewhat traumatic childhoods and adolescences … Winfrey was explaining to Angelou the burden of grief and guilt she continued to carry as she feared her poor decisions had harmed others. Ms. Angelou responded with this message, “We do better when we know better.” What a profound lesson in a few simple words. …
Society now places a higher standard on those graduating today. We are expected to do better because we have been formally educated to know better. What does this mean? Up to this point, the dream of a college degree, the journey you took to get here and graduation day have been singular. It has been up to you and you alone to take the entrance exams, apply for financial aid, attend class, complete assignments, projects and finals, and prepare for graduation. But today, that scope changes. We are now tasked with not only preserving the knowledge we have been given, but also sharing it with others. What meaning would these diplomas hold if we took them to our graves, never sharing our experience, knowledge, passion for learning, or all the ideas that are just waiting to be put into motion?
Nearly four years ago to this very day, our campus held its grand opening. I was honored to be chosen to deliver a speech; and in the closing of that speech, I read an excerpt from a book by Dr. Seuss entitled Oh, the Places You Will Go. I have been told that the mark of a good speaker is the ability to circle back around to an initial thought or emotion. In that spirit, I would like to recite that passage:
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one (sic) who’ll decide where to go. …
My fellow graduates, go forward from this day, knowing better and doing better. Create. Innovate. Inspire. Encourage. Be dynamic. Never give up. Pay it forward. And let your legacy be that you shared the knowledge.