Graduating from college is an exciting and sometimes even scary time. You have worked hard for several years, turned in all of your papers, met and re-met with your advisors, taken tests, given presentations, and still tried to maintain some sort of respectable social life. You have gone through the cycle of worry, stress, acceptance, and back to stress when an assignment has crept its way through your calendar and suddenly become due the next class period. Now that this moment of accomplishment is here, your family and friends have come to watch you strut across stage with your head held high, shake the hand of your University’s president, grab your diploma, and possibly make one last youthful gesture to the throngs of people watching all of this take place. And they came here for you. To celebrate your great achievement. To tell you “great job,” “we’re so proud of you,” and “I bet you’re glad that’s finally over.” But the one thing they probably will not tell you is, “This is not about you.”
Your graduation is not about you. Your degree that you worked so hard for is not about you. All of the awards, lessons, papers, presentations, late nights, cram sessions, and stressful times, were not about you. Don’t get me wrong. Graduating from college is a great accomplishment, and I congratulate you and welcome you to the educated masses with all of my heart. But this is not about you.
Graduation, or commencement exercises, are just the beginning of something wonderful.
Graduation, or commencement exercises, are just the beginning of something wonderful. It is just the beginning of a lifetime of change and growth. If you have been properly prepared in college, you will no longer be a stammering student, struggling to find your way through tests and assignments. You will become an inquisitive member of society, able to see the subtle connections between everything around you, and realizing that you do not have all the answers. You will become a person who understands that they are part of a greater whole, and that every skill you have learned and developed should be used to contribute to that whole. You are now an individual of higher learning and critical thinking. Able to understand and develop complex thought and channel that into the world around you.
Being a person of higher learning comes with responsibility. A responsibility to the society and people around you, educated debate, and to not just “take someone’s word for it.” You have a responsibility to continue pursuing the benefit of all people while impacting and educating everyone you come in contact with. You have the responsibility to represent your institution, educators, classmates, and fellow alumni with respect and admiration. You have a responsibility to work with other individuals of higher learning to never settle and pursue greatness on your own terms.
So, while your commencement exercises may be about you, your fellow classmates, and all that you have achieved so far, you graduation is not about you. It is about everyone around you. Now, how will you use your graduation, everything you have learned, and the person you have become to make a difference?