2012 Honors College Commissioning Ceremony
Congratulations to the SMBHC Class of 2012!
The Honors College Commissioning Ceremony was held on Friday, May 11th, at the Gertrude Ford Center. To see more photographs from the event, click here. Speeches from the ceremony are included below.
Mariel Parman’s Welcome Speech
Good Afternoon. It is my pleasure to welcome all of the parents, friends, faculty, staff, and my fellow honors students to the 2012 Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Commissioning Ceremony. I want to begin by thanking all of the family members and faculty for their support through the years. We would not have reached this momentous day with out y’all’s help and guidance.
It’s quite surreal that this day is finally here. Ever since freshman year I have secretly been counting down the time until graduation. Of course now that it is finally here, I only want time to stop. But here we are, ready or not. I have been a mixed bag of emotions the past few weeks as graduation neared; I’ve felt excitement, apprehension, elation, and nostalgia, particularly as graduation came even closer. While I can’t make time stop, I can try to truly appreciate specific things about the University and Oxford that I love, whether it’s watching Oxford awaken on my morning runs, or taking in the beauty of the grove on a spring afternoon.
One quote by Gilda Radner has been my consolation this past year, particularly on those days when I think I can’t handle the uncertainty of the job search or leaving Oxford. She states, “Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” No matter where you are headed after this day, I hope you can find solace and possible inspiration in the unknown and unexpected.
I will finish with some thoughtful words from clinical psychologist Meg Jay in her book entitled “The Defining Decade”: “So claim your adulthood. Be intentional…Make your own certainty. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You are deciding your life right now.” But for now, let us celebrate this great achievement: our graduation from the Honors College. Congratulations class of 2012! We finally, finally made it!!!
Taylor McGraw’s Keynote Address
From our position at Herald Square in Manhattan, there is a very clear route that you take to get to the famous Katz’s Delicatessan on the Lower East Side. After swiping in at the 34th street Metro station, you take the downtown D to Broadway-Lafayette, walk a few blocks east on Houston, and voilà. But as we honors students waited on that downtown D train – some of you may remember this – a B train rolled into station across the platform. And Cary Robbins, tired of waiting on the D, walked straight onto that B train, hollering over his shoulder, “I’ll see y’all there.” Just before the doors closed, I mouthed, “you’re an idiot.” He faced us and shrugged his shoulders as the train zipped off in the wrong direction.
One of my biggest pet peeves is the excuse of our generation, “Sorry, I don’t have time.” We don’t mean it literally, of course. What we mean to say is, “Sorry, I have other priorities. Too much else to do, too much else to worry about.” William Deresiewicz, the scholar who spoke at our fall honors convocation, talked about this overburdened feeling, this never-ending ladder of honors societies and extracurricular activities that students like ourselves ascend, rung by rung, for the sake of improving our stock in the eyes of admissions counselors, parents, professors, peers. Rung by rung, we aim to please everyone – everyone, it seems, but ourselves. Concerning this ladder, Deresiewicz gave a single piece of advice: jump off. Pursue your passion. Do things because you want to do them, not because you’re told to do them.
And now is our chance, as we prepare to go pursue our own dreams, fulfill our own ambitions. Many of us already have a plan. We know where we would like to end up, and in most cases we know – or think we know – how to get there. We are no doubt a talented group of young people, probably somewhere in the top 5% of all young people in the country. Based on our current position, we have a much greater chance of becoming rich than becoming poor. We also have a great potential to do good for others. And I hope that, as we begin our careers, in finance, law, medicine, I hope that we never sacrifice doing well for doing good, doing what we love.
This is the dilemma of my friend Youssef Kalad, a graduating senior from the University of Chicago. He came from humble beginnings and has dreams of founding and running a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged kids like himself graduate from college and live out the American Dream. He also has an offer to work for Goldman Sachs. In the short-term, he must choose between doing good or doing well.
To an extent, we all face this dilemma. We want a comfortable future, in which we are able to start families, move into a nice home, and give regularly to the Honors College endowment. And there is nothing wrong with working toward that six-figure job unless it diminishes your present – unless it causes you to often tell friends, “Sorry, I don’t have time.” Because the present is a terrible thing to sacrifice.
In high school, my favorite teacher wrote three words on the white board our first day of class and left them there the entire year. The words were, “Be here now.” It seems simple doesn’t it? Be here now. But often in our lives we weren’t there then. We were somewhere else. We were so worried about climbing that next rung that we missed opportunities right before us; we lost sight of the big picture.
Which brings me back to Cary Robbins at the 34th street metro station in Manhattan. When he hopped on the wrong train that evening, he wasn’t sure how long it would take him to get to Katz’s or if he’d even get there at all. And this was Katz’s, the famous delicatessen that we’d seen in movies, been salivating over, been planning our entire day around. As it turns out, Cary did get there – before we did. He hadn’t gotten on the wrong train – the B and the D ran along the same track. Cary didn’t follow the route he was supposed to take, according to us. He followed his own. And once at Katz’s we soon discovered, as Cary had suspected, that the line was long, the sandwiches were overpriced, and the roast beef was a bit dry.
These four years have been a great privilege. Thank you all.
Kely Markley’s Charge
Good afternoon, everyone. First off, I want to extend thanks to the Honors College administration as well as faculty. This has been an amazing four years, and what you have done for these students sitting in front of us, is just phenomenal. You have extended our minds and have brought us out of our comfort zones. I think back to Honors 101 and 102 classes, and I think of how far we have come. And it is just amazing. So class of 2012 this is for you.
I thought about you guys last night when I was chatting with a guy on the square. We started talking about the state of the world, and the more we talked the more I was thinking, “This seems a little like Maurice Sendak’s land in Where the Wild Things Are”. It’s as if we were talking about terrible beasts in the world, and how they are roaring their terrible roars, and they are mashing their terrible teeth, and they are rolling their terrible eyes, and they are showing their terrible claws. Then I thought back to you guys. I thought back to my Honors 101 and 102 classes, and I thought, “You know what – I still have hope”. I thought of all of these students sitting before me and knew that all this negativity and all this fear can be overcome. Because sitting in front of us, ladies and gentlemen, are the kings and queens of the Wild Things. And like Max we have the tools to go out there
and to tame the injustice and indifference, the fear and disillusionment thanks to the lessons this honors college experience has taught us. So I will keep this short, I’ll just say Class of 2012, let the Wild Rumpus start.