Good morning, Class of 2012, proud families, friends, and honorable guests to our 2012 Commencement celebration!
Graduates, it is an honor to stand with you today as we reflect on how we have transformed each other, Providence College, and our global community since 2008. We have made countless memories together, many of which we made during our Senior Week. During this time, we also remember all those who could not be with us physically today, especially, two of our classmates, Brendan Frail and Joshua Wildenhain. May their spirits be present and let us remember the mark that they have left on our hearts and on our community. Let us please have a moment of silence.
Given the fast-paced world which we live in, rarely do we have time to reflect on our accomplishments. This is our time to do so.
Our education and time at Providence College has been a privilege. It is one that many people in the world do not have the opportunity to attain. Nor do they have the opportunity to celebrate in the fashion which we do.
I would like to preface this speech by sharing with you how challenging it has been for me to write it. We have each had such different and unique experiences at Providence College that it is difficult to come up with the right few words that capture what we are each feeling right now. However, as I gave myself time to think and reflect — I realized that “change” is the one word that describes what each of us is facing at this moment. Change is also considered to be one of the most exciting and frightening words to comprehend at the same time because, in an ideal world, we each would like to have control and plan out what our next course of action is going to be.
This year we have been asked time and time again that wonderful question, “Do you have any plans after graduation?” and whether we had plans or not, have diplomatically responded, “Yes, I have a number of options, I could work for a year or two then go back to school, study for my MBA, pursue law school, or med school," or my favorite, "I have applied for a few positions and am waiting to hear back.” Regardless of what each of our answers has been, we are each embarking on a new chapter; and despite its varying definition, change is one thing that will remain constant for the rest of our lives.
But change has a synonym — transformation.
For a moment, think back to your first day at Providence College. Some of us participated in Urban Action together, others met at Orientation, and some were late bloomers (but Friars at heart) and called PC home after transferring from another institution. Either way, we each said goodbye to the comfort of our homes, and hugged our families (and if you’re like me, teared up as they left the Huxley gates) and clung to a new group of people — your PC family and new support system. We may not sit in Ray with the same people we did during our first few weeks of school today, but we each experienced this transformation from something familiar (our homes and high schools) to something new and unknown — Providence College.
Together we cheered on our sports teams and successfully completed two years of the Development of Western Civilization and learned about Dante’s Inferno, the Greek hero Odysseus, Aristotle who he himself said, “Change in all things is sweet,” and St. Thomas Aquinas, who said, “Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not in hand.”
Together we watched our campus transform physically and took an active role in designing our new student center, and have worked to develop plans to make our campus more handicap-accessible.
Above all else, our Class of 2012 has not confined its learning to the classroom. We are a generation of global thinkers, activists, and ambassadors. Together we have supported one another, served in Kenya, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and India, and have been first responders to help those suffering as a result of natural disasters in Haiti, Japan, the United States — in New Orleans, and on Apache reservations in Arizona.
Many of us have been blessed with the opportunity to represent Providence College abroad. We have raised the bar for future generations. Our relationships have evolved and we have learned to accept and embrace our personal, cultural, political, and religious differences … and as a result, have increased our circle of friends, developed memories, and built bonds that we will carry in our hearts forever.
We have also had the privilege of being a part of historical transformations in our society.
Since 2008 to 2012 we have elected our first African-American President, seen the rise of social media and its influence on Egypt’s revolution, and Cultural Revolution in North Africa, watched the rescue efforts of miners in Chile after an 8.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the country, witnessed the BP oil spill, watched Spain defeat the Netherlands in a 1-0 World Cup final, lived through an economic recession, witnessed the mobilization of individuals through the Occupy Wall Street protest, have been informed that NASA will no longer be able to send humans into space, and have supported our troops in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have responded to our changing environment and supported efforts to encourage sustainable living. And had it not been for the Department of Residence Life and our 2012 Class Officers during our freshmen year, we would not have had soap come standard in our residence halls to combat the H1N1 scare the following year.
Graduates, we have so much to be proud of on this day. We have been blessed and have had the opportunity to be exposed to professors who are experts in their fields and have built lasting bonds with members of the administration and staff. They have all given us the ability to transfer knowledge and have helped us find ways to be creative, follow our passion, and cultivate the tools that will enable us to achieve bigger and better things in life.
So when asked that question, “What are your plans after graduation,” do not let the thought of “change” alarm you. Remember the road that you have taken to get where you are sitting today. Celebrate this moment and thank all those who have helped you get here.
On a personal note, I would like to thank my Mom. Mom, you have been my rock. Thank you for making me the person who I am today and for always supporting me.
Graduates, I ask that you please take a moment to look around and find where your family is sitting. Our education and accomplishments in life have been a team effort and a result of sacrifices that have been made for our betterment.
Please rise and give your families the standing ovation that they so deserve.
Our futures are filled with changes and transformations. We have transformed ourselves, transformed Providence College, and will continue to transform society. We are Friars forever — and as alums, it is now our duty to pay it forward and give back to the community, which has given us so much to be thankful for.
Congratulations seniors, the future awaits us — let’s transform it together!
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