Chancellor Kline, President King, Faculty, Board, Corporation, Alumni, Family, and Friends.
I love Shakespeare. I love math. I don’t like bio labs that involve watching termites. I am scared to death of public speaking.
So why am I standing here right now? I have been asking myself why I wanted to give this speech. The answer is because it scares me. Many things that I have done in my life have scared me. Going to college in a different country was one of the hardest and best decisions I have made. When I told my grandparents that I was coming to Bryn Athyn, they seemed almost more excited for me than I was. My Opa (my grandfather) told me that college would be the best years of my life. Since then that sentiment has been repeated by many different people. College will be the best years of your life! Honestly, I hope they are wrong. It is depressing to think that it can only get worse from here.
Think about homework! Tests! 8 o’clock morning classes after staying up all night to finish the assignments that you forgot about last week. I really hope that is not the best part of my life. So why are we told that it is?
After high school I took a year off to work, and also to figure out what I wanted to do. In that time my entire life consisted of my job. Wake up, go to work, survive the day, come back, and sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Basically I was on autopilot. Then I came here. And I came back to life. I came back to life because I was being challenged intellectually. We were constantly learning new and fascinating things. Unfortunately this knowledge tended to come with assignments attached. But even though we constantly complained about school—much to our teachers chagrin—I cannot begin to count the number of fascinating conversations that started in the dining hall because of a random fact or idea someone heard in class. Whether or not we agreed is a different story, but part of the fun was arguing with each other.
I discovered that there is a difference between simply memorizing something, and actually learning it. Memorization is simply remembering a fact and its uses. Learning, real learning, involves the desire for knowledge. It inspires you to continue the journey. It is not simply memorizing a square piece of knowledge, it is a path, fluid, continuous, and constantly branching and expanding. It stretches who we are, and helps us to grow.
And really, isn’t growing the main theme of college? During this time, not only are we learning in a classroom, but we are also continuing to discover who we want to be, and receiving advice from our family and friends. While this advice can be obnoxious sometimes, personally, I really do need the help. And looking back on the past few years, I can see that the words of wisdom I have received have helped me make my life decisions.
Such as the decision to be giving this speech right now. I thought it would be hard. I was right. But I have grown from this experience. In my years at Bryn Athyn I have started many assignments that I disliked. By the time they were finished I still hated most of them, but every now and then I would find that I started enjoying myself. It is a very strange experience, but I have learned that just because something is hard, or you really don’t want to do it, doesn’t mean that you should not try. Occasionally you end up discovering that you actually enjoy it.
I think that is why we are told that college will be the best years of our life: it is the time where we are constantly growing, being challenged to discover different aspects of ourselves, and feeding our intellectual curiosity. I think sometimes, when we are busy with our responsibilities, we forget this. We forget to learn. Memory is infinite. There is always room for more. I think we need to remember that, I think we need to remember that knowledge is fascinating, and to keep learning.
So, I would like to thank the faculty of Bryn Athyn College, and all of our friends and family for helping us these last few years, and I would like to challenge my fellow graduates to draw on what we have learned from the past few years to make sure that these are not the best years of our life. I want to challenge you to continue to do difficult things, to continue to learn, and to try to make each year better than your last.