Valedictorian's Address - Class of 2008
May 17, 2008
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of my fellow undergraduate peers, graduate students, Continuing Education students, and everyone here today who will be receiving recognition for their outstanding achievements here at Assumption College. Getting here today means that you have overcome many challenges and hurdles—ones that I am sure have helped you grow and mature, into well-rounded adults ready to take on the world.
I sincerely hope all of you are as excited as I am about officially becoming alumni of the Class of 2008. As I was preparing this speech, it became apparent to me that being part of this class is unique, in that we all have a group of shared experiences that other classes may never have. This one is my personal favorite.
In being part of the Class of 2008, we may be the only ones to say that that we witnessed the Red Sox break the curse and win not one, but two World Series Championships while in college. If you can’t remember, go to YouTube to find the video of our class, almost 4 years ago, stampeding the President’s house, where President Plough yells “Who’s Your Daddy Now?” We also witnessed the New England Patriots win 2 Superbowls in our time here.
While at Assumption, we also had the opportunity to see many changes to the campus, such as the chapel, Kennedy, and the new state-of-the-art football field (the one without the track). We have seen a campus-wide surge to promote multiculturalism and diversity here on campus, which is quickly becoming a driving force in many companies and corporations nationwide. In fact, we are currently witnessing something truly inspiring and groundbreaking in our country’s presidential campaign, where an African-American and a woman are two serious contenders in the Democratic Party for taking leadership in our nation.
Because of leadership stemming from Assumption College, especially through Karen Mansen and Mark Bilotta, the Worcester Consortium has been greatly strengthened, which has worked to unite the many colleges and universities in the Worcester area. We have experienced the transition of hiring a new college President, who seeks to more deeply instill Catholic values into the liberal arts education here at Assumption College.
I also want to acknowledge those experiences in the last four years that may not have been shared by everyone. As you look to your classmates, there are some of you that have experienced great personal loss or sacrifice. It may be coping with divorce. Maybe one of your classmates had a parent pass away. Maybe one of your classmates has been discriminated against in some way because of differences in race, culture, or sexual orientation, for example. On the other hand, some of your classmates may have had received some graces while here at Assumption. These experiences have been positive and unique to our time here at Assumption.
But let us take a moment to remember other events as well. As members of the Class of 2008, we have witnessed devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. We have witnessed death with the shootings at Virginia Tech. We have witnessed loss with the death of Pope John Paul II. As we sit here today, we are witnessing turmoil with the war in Iraq. Everyday we seem to hear on the News about the increasing number of deceased U.S. soldiers and the pains suffered by their families and friends. We are also witnessing struggle with the sub-prime loan crisis, where rising oil prices and an eroded housing market continue to threaten our economy with recession. All of these events and experiences are shared by everyone here today.
All of these experiences, both common and personal, have created our class chemistry. Our class is intelligent, passionate, supportive, and most of all, outgoing. We have stampeded the campus roads with Red Sox pride. We have banned pig roasts. We have definitely financed Lietrim’s Pub this year, and we even witnessed a chicken fight a gorilla in 6-men.
We have surely had many great experiences here together that have created lasting memories, but now it is necessary for us to move beyond the walls of Assumption and to think about the future. You may not feel ready. Maybe you are afraid of change. Some of you are asking “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” Will I keep in contact with my friends? How am I going to pay back all this student debt?” Believe me, I have asked myself all these questions countless times. In living a graceful life after you leave Assumption, I urge you all to consider this advice that was given to me:
Learn from the past. Live in the present. Let go of the future. Keep God in your heart.
As you embark on your life beyond Assumption remember to first learn from the past. I encourage you all to take risks. Try new things. Most importantly, make mistakes. A passage from the Gospel of John reads:
“He who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”.
Often taking risks and making mistakes will leave you in a state of darkness. Your vision will be blurred and limited. In that darkness you will not be able to see the answers in front of you. My advice is that you trust that God will provide you the light—the flashlight if you will—needed to give you the confidence to take those risks.
While here at Assumption, we have all been given the opportunity to take risks. We took a risk coming to Assumption College. We took risks in the classroom. Maybe you challenged a professor or classmate at some point. We took risks in the living areas. Maybe you dealt with a roommate conflict. Maybe you took a risk by joining a student leader group on campus. Maybe you went up to someone you never met before and introduced yourself. All of these types of encounters have been risks that you have taken.
Maybe that person you introduced yourself to became your best friend. Maybe not. Maybe taking that student leader position bolstered your confidence. Maybe it didn’t. Maybe you resolved that roommate conflict. Maybe not. What is important is that we all learned something from taking those risks. I want you all to think of a risk you took here at Assumption and then ask yourself “What did I learn from it?” I ask that you take that knowledge and apply it to encounters you may experience in the future. And always remember that God wanted you to take that risk or make that mistake for a reason.
Next, I encourage you all to live in the present. Trust that what you learned in the past will serve you when it is needed. Do not dwell on past mistakes. And just as important, do not boast on past success. Take every opportunity you can to live gracefully in each and every moment. You never know how many moments you will have left.
Next, let go of the future. Remember that the present is the only time you can have an impact and make choices. The past is done with; it consists of pages already written that cannot be erased. The future is unpredictable and non-existent; it consists of blank pages that have no words or markings. But as you live each day in the moment, you continuously write one page at a time. You can add any characters you want. You can change the scene. You can add any twists and turns you may desire. As one of the philosophy majors will tell you, you are graced with free will and choice. The million-dollar question is “What do you want the next word to be?” or, in another way, you are asking yourself “How do I want to live my life?”
You see, God has already provided us with a solution:
“He who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”.
“He who follows Me” is all there is to it. God calls each of us to live our lives as Disciples of Christ. In doing this, we must become servants to those in need and put others before ourselves, as well as take lesson from those who have lived gracefully. To paraphrase Matthew 5, we must live our lives and approach relationships in such a way that we serve the poor in Spirit, such as those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger for righteousness. We should bless those around us who show mercy and those who make peace. More simply, we should serve those with weak hearts and learn from those with pure ones.
As Disciples we are called to follow Jesus and serve. I was always told when I was young “A leader never follows and always speaks loudly”. But in my view, the greatest attribute of a leader is to become a great follower of strong conviction, and is to always take time to step back and listen. When we live our lives in such a way, we are fulfilling the highest potential we have as human beings, or Disciples of Christ.
I would like to conclude by wishing the best of luck to all of you. Although we may be heading off in different directions, I ask that you all remember the common experiences that define the Class of 2008. Remember to keep God’s light in your heart, especially when darkness seems to surround you. Use that flashlight to find your direction, and always keep a spare set of batteries close by. I ask that you remember this community that has served in providing you with the values that a Catholic liberal arts education instills. This community has prepared you to be a well-rounded, educated individual who is different than other graduates.
Many others will have acquired a liberal arts education, but Assumption has instilled an education is us that embodies the human person and faith at its core. And that is something that has infinite value and knows no limits. Because of that, I encourage you all to remember and serve the Assumption Community in the future, even if only though a small donation.
I also want us all to thank the people that have been so supportive of us in being here today. This would include faculty, administration, and staff here at Assumption, as well as friends and relatives. But most importantly, I would like to thank all of the parents, with whom this day would not be possible for many of us if not for their love and support. I wish you all luck in your future endeavors.
Keep your flashlight close and remember Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”