When I was younger, I developed a funny habit. Before I could begin reading a new story, I would first sneak a peak at its final word. It was as if every lesson I was to learn and every emotion I was to feel in reading the text somehow boiled down to that one final thought. And it was only after having discovered where a tale would end, that I could happily begin.
Unfortunately, college just wasn’t that easy. When we first stepped foot on campus four years ago, we could know nothing of this day. And although we were filled with hope, apprehension crept in as well. Many of us had just left home, and everything seemed so very new.
So we began, eager but unsure of our place between these gates, and in those early moments of doubt, we drew upon the strength of those who had prepared us for this adventure. We remembered their sacrifice and felt their continued support, and soon their words of encouragement steadied our hands. We then quickly shed the fears of freshman year and began our own journeys here at Union.
There were those who, seeing an opportunity to make change, gave of themselves to clubs and organizations on and off campus, many of which aimed at bringing Union and the great city in which we live closer together. There were others who, often at their own expense, coordinated community service projects abroad, sharing the light they found at Union with those less fortunate. Still others dedicated themselves to representing our school on athletic and academic teams, doing so with the support of the entire campus community behind them.
And through it all, we realized that our personal stories were always connected. As a class, we have shared each other’s hopes and felt each other’s dreams. We have celebrated our accomplishments together and have picked one another up whenever we fell short of our goals. There were sunny spring days spent in the gardens, and nights we will forever recall. Together, we formed friendships here that will find no end, and today, we must thank each other for that precious gift.
We must also thank all those who helped to put the finishing touches on our rough drafts, the professors, advisors, and coaches who pushed us to be better than we had originally expected of ourselves. These individuals are also here today, smiling at our accomplishments and taking pride in how they helped to show us the way.
To our family members and friends, we thank you for everything that you have done to provide us with this unique experience, and for your continued support as we now move forth from these gates. We hope that we have made you proud over the past four years, and that we have grown to become everything we knew you always saw in us.
There is a little bridge in the gardens where I go to clear my head, and the other morning, as I gazed at the fading initials etched upon its railings and felt the brook that bounds rushing below its planks, I realized that no matter how hard we try to stop it, Time will always slip by us. But know that even as the memory of our presence here begins to fade, we can always delight in having forever left our mark upon this campus. Together, we have written our own chapter in this college’s storied past.
So in formulating our final word here today, take a moment to realize that we will leave this place richer than we inherited it four years ago. Remember that we have lit up this campus with our energy and enthusiasm, that we have awakened it with our dreams. For that is what we have earned here today, a chance to take it all in.
There was once a time in my life when I wanted so desperately to learn a story’s end before it had begun, but now I know better. For it is the tale that we know nothing of that carries us to our most memorable destinations.
So with a fresh page now before us, what will we create? Will we give a voice to the silenced? Will we share our stories with the world? Will we lift others up with our strength? And will we decide, at last, to cast away all our fears and all of our doubts, and fully embrace the lives that we are truly meant to lead?
And as we leave the comforts of these gates behind, realize that we enter an imperfect world, one in need of that same enthusiasm and optimism we brought to this campus just four years ago.
And know that in those times when we feel writer’s block setting in, we will always be able to look back upon this moment and find the strength to carry on. And if ever the road becomes too cluttered, or the light at tunnel’s end seems just too far away, remember that we can always return to the place where our journeys began, remember that we can always come back home.
-Thank you and congratulations to the Class of 2011-