Ladies and Gentlemen of the graduating Classes of 2002, President Gearan, Provost Stranahan, Trustees of the Colleges, Deans of the Colleges, members of the faculty and staff, honorable guests, all those who have helped make this day possible, family and friends.
We are gathered here, today, in the presence of a divine creator, and Agayentah, to witness the blessing of the union of two very special entities: student and diploma. If any person here should know of any reason why these two entities should not be joined let him or her take it up with the registrar's office, or forever else hold his or her tongue. Otherwise, we shall continue.
When I first set foot on this campus, as an entering first-year, I was twelve years old. I do not mean that I was actually twelve. Rather, I felt like I was twelve years old, in many ways. I became very self-conscious. I was concerned with how I would appear to other people, with what other people would think of my personality, my ideas, what they would think of me. I had no idea how to go about finding a niche in this frogpond, or finding a seat in the lunchroom. I projected my insecurities of years past to the present and mysteriously found myself in Hobart William Smith phys. ed. class, where they made me swim laps in front of the girls, and my shorts came unstrung somewhere in the deep end I was forced to make a rather cheeky exit as I scampered away. This is all a metaphor, of course, for how exposed I felt. For the first time, I had to come to terms with who I was, and where I wanted to go. I am sure that my experience was not entirely unlike many of yours.
As time went by, I began to see this place change around me. Faces that used to be unfamiliar became familiar, and this frogpond was becoming ours. The lines that distinguished faculty and student began to blur and we began to learn in ways we had not anticipated. Things were changing around us. We acquired a new president. Our academic calendar was changed. Things were exciting and happening very quickly. Some of us whisked ourselves away to foreign (and not-so-foreign) ports of call. We began pushing the boundaries of ourselves. We got involved. We got upset. We held an opinion and held office. Someone wrote for the Herald and someone else was moved by a guest-lecturer. We surprised ourselves.
In his role as Colonel Troutman, actor Richard Crenna tells John Rambo the story of a sculptor who retrieved a large block of granite from the woods, took it home, and worked on the large stone for weeks and weeks. When the sculptor had finished his work, his friends remarked that he had created a great statue. The sculptor said "I haven't created anything; the statue was always there, I just chipped away the rough pieces."
I see the same thing all around me, in the faces of the students who have helped make this campus what it is. Inside each stranger was a friend waiting to be revealed. Inside each of there was a leader, a coworker, an artist, a teammate, a performer, a scholar, a survivor, a listener, and an activist. Coming together in this place has helped to bring those things out.
Four years later, I have grown beyond that twelve year old. In four years I have come a long way, in directions that I would not have dreamed of. I yearn for a world of greater equality than what we live in now, and I better understand why we have not yet achieved it. I possess a deeper understanding of the complexities of human relationships, both personal and professional, and continue to be surprised, grateful, excited, and even sorrowful by what I am learning about our developing human nature. We have gotten a glimpse of our own humanity, and the priceless lesson of friendship. And we are still surprising ourselves.
But I know I am not done growing. None of us has completed his or her growth potential. In a collection of his personal essays, Charles Ludlam writes, "it's good to be untypical; it's always refreshing to be unlike yourself." The unspoken component of our education has been, in part, realizing that our notion of self, the boundaries beyond which we dare not cross, are very elastic, and we actually have so much of ourselves, and the world, yet to discover.
I still feel young, and the world still feels new and exciting. And I hope that we all feel that same inquisitive, resilient spirit for all of our lives.
I love you all very much, and I know I will miss you terribly, terribly, terribly.
Thank you, and good luck!
"Big Shoes, Tiny Feet"
Shay Fitzpatrick ?02, Hobart Senior Speaker
May 12, 2002