commencement speech 2017

So here is where I’m supposed to tell you something deep and share wisdom, to inspire you and make you remember this commencement, be funny, maybe a bit sentimental. And maybe I will say some of these things; but I want to start with something that is bigger than all of us; a sense of responsibility to something outside ourselves and to those less fortunate than us.

You are graduating in challenging times. This past academic year, we have lived through the end of an election and the beginning of a presidency that have been like no others; and I don’t mean this in a good way. Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, where you come from and what you believe in, there are lessons we can learn and actions we can take.

So what are these? Look around ourselves and effect change in your environment. Reject the tenor of our current political discourse, the hateful language and the normalization of behaviors that are not and should never be commonplace. Continue to champion science and facts, and use your hard-earned knowledge and skills to impact our society for the better. Build a community you can be proud of and hold each other responsible for it. Treat each other with respect regardless of where you come from, the color of your skin, your gender or sexual orientation. Listen to each other and work to make our community better.

Recognize we don’t live in a vacuum. None of you made it to today by yourself. Look around you. You are surrounded by your loved ones who listened when you were overwhelmed, who babied you when you needed it, who had to agree with you when you said professors are out to get you. You are surrounded by your friends who helped you keep your sanity through homeworks, exams, projects, deadlines, late nights, chocolate cravings, meltdowns, and every other college student problem you might have encountered. You are surrounded by us, your teachers, who helped you learn something new, expand your minds, and, most importantly, challenge yourselves. You are surrounded by all those like Janet and Vickie and Nesli and Jillian and Nathan and Stephanie and Bari and Brittany, and many, many others, who were there to lend a hand, give you a “de-stress with ECE” kit, and listen to you. You are surrounded by people who will be there, no matter how many more you meet later, for the rest of your lives.

Give back. To your family and friends, but also to your larger community. Get involved at work, in grad school if that is when some of you end up, in local schools, or anywhere else where your heart leads you and where you can make an impact. Use your work to make a difference; you are the lucky ones, you worked hard and will be able to do what you love and will have choices. Strive to leave a mark on someone or something bigger than yourself; one child will do.

I promised I would be brief, so I end here before the awarding of the diplomas. CMU ECE Class of 2017, go out there and make us proud: Go be inspired and inspire someone else. Be involved citizens of the world and help others get involved. Be passionate and now go share that passion!

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