2010 Honors College Commissioning Ceremony
Congratulations to the SMBHC Class of 2010!
The Honors College Commissioning Ceremony Speeches for the graduating Class of 2010 are included below.
Erin Callahan’s Welcome Speech
Good afternoon, everybody! Hello!
I am so delighted to welcome friends and family who have traveled here today to witness the commencement ceremony for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College class of 2010, as well as all the faculty and staff of the Honors College and the University. I would especially like to thank Chancellor Jones for his support, as well as DSG, Dr. Samonds, Dr. Young, Mrs. Penny Leeton, Mrs. Rachel Coleman, and everyone else at the SMBHC!
We could not have accomplished anything without your amazing help. I know all too well from personal experience that your students come to you with some pretty crazy ideas, and while you may have laughed, a little, sometimes, you have never shot us down point blank, and have constantly encouraged us to take initiative, to not settle for the status quo, and to never limit our education to the classroom. You have taught us the meaning of community, and the importance of being an active part of one.
To Mr. Jim Barksdale I would also like to say, thank you so much!!!!! This Honors College would be nothing without you. You have enriched the lives and education of every student who has been a part of it. We go to school in a small town in Mississippi, but you have allowed us to have a world class education.
We made it! We survived thesis! And four years of work! We have accomplished some wonderful things these past four years, and I am grateful that I got to see it happen.
The Honors College is such a special place—a haven of learning, free trips, free brain food, long train rides to Chicago in mid-January, amazing professors and classes…I could list a lot more but I only have two minutes. But when I think about what I love most about the Honors College, I don’t think of any of these things. I just get a kind of warm fuzzy feeling inside. That is because the best thing about the honors college is not the institution itself, but the people inside it, people who have become my family and closest friends over the past four years. And so, on behalf of each and every one of us, I would like to thank my fellow classmates for being here. You guys are all remarkable people, and I am so proud to be a part of this class.
Welcome to your commencement! I cannot wait to come visit you in far-flung regions of the world. Or maybe we can cook up a new alumni trip to DC! Sound good to you, DSG? Welcome, and good luck!
Dennis Pickens’ Keynote Address
Good Evening! It is indeed an honor to represent the SMBHC Class of 2010. This institution is the crown jewel of higher education in this state and one of the most promising honors colleges in the nation. We are members of the Honors College not because of DSG’s slick style and marvelous sales pitch or Dr. Young’s sultry voice or Dr. Samonds’ charm. Those were lesser factors in our decision to join. We are members of the Honors College because at no other institution could we have as much intellectual freedom to explore the world and have as much fun doing it as we could here.
When searching for the words to describe our collective experience as a class, I initially reached for that word that seems to explain so much with such little explanation: luck. Some would say that we are a lucky class. After all, we have accomplishments that would make the Queen of England blush.
The Class of 2010 has tangled with the likes of former U.S. Attorney General Albert Gonzales. We showed Thomas Friedman that he is right. The world is both flat and round. And yes, we set the stage for the first 2008 presidential debate, a platform that made it possible to elect the nation’s first African-American President. How else do you explain such good fortune without luck?
Well, to be honest, luck is a very ambiguous word. It is a word that describes a gamble, a roll of the dice, or a good shuffle of the cards. Luck, or bad luck, is even a word that explains catastrophes. No, I am sorry, but the last four years have not been a gamble. Luck has absolutely nothing to do with our success. Let me say that again: luck has absolutely nothing to do with our success!!!
In the words of Henry Hartman, “Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.” Over the course of twenty plus years, our hard work, support from our family and faith in a God who will never put more on us than we can bear has prepared us to take hold of the opportunities that life has presented us with. For example, it was years of working alongside a grandmother who cared for others in a halfway house that gave an honor student from Stringer, Mississippi, the ambitions to pursue microfinance as a way of helping others. It was years of working to restore hope in Africa that allowed a young man from Arkansas to use the Honors College Barskdale Award to start a NPO for orphans in Uganda. These stories are a common occurrence among our class. They are common for two reasons. First, they are common because the Honors College has provided a springboard for our ambitions. Secondly, at every turn we have been willing to put in the work and capitalize off our opportunities.
From now until perpetuity, the formula for success will always be the same. While others will look at our success and call it luck, we know the truth. It is all about hard work. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains success with what he calls the “10,000-Hour Rule”. He claims that the key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a task or skill for a minimum of 10,000 hours. Bill Gates spent years in his teens practicing programming before starting Microsoft. The Beatles spent years polishing their skills in clubs in England before taking the United States by storm. Barack Obama spent years honing his oratory skills as a community organizer on the Southside of Chicago before becoming Commander and Chief. Look at any successful icon and the rule holds true. The same rule of hard work and preparation applies to us and our success.
In closing, I will leave you with a quote from one of history’s most quoted figures, Abraham Lincoln: “I will study and get ready and perhaps my chance will come.” Class of 2010, we have studied, the Lord knows that, and prepared and now our chance has come. Thank you all and God bless.
Brent Caldwell’s Charge
Ladies, gentleman, honored guests, fellow graduates,
I have been quite befuddled about what to say to y’all today. When I asked one of my friends, Will, for advice, he said “speak of greatness.” Ha. I’m still trying to puzzle that one out for myself. I know little more about greatness than what I have read in books or been lucky to witness. I can not today tell you how to get there. I do, though, think I can warn you against something that will surely prevent you from achieving it.
Perhaps you are out there in the audience tonight thinking “I know that I always told myself that after college I would take some time to backpack Europe or write that book. But I have this job offer and I have to take it because that’s the fast track, that’s what’s needed to get to the top and, well, that’s just the way it is.”
Or, maybe you will find yourself in the future as a teacher or a lawyer or a public servant thinking “If only I could tutor this student…” or “if only I could do this case pro bono” or “if only I could stand to this special interest” and then saying “but it would be hard to fit into my schedule or it would cost me a lot of time or it would hurt my chances to advance” and concluding “So I guess that’s just the way it is.”
Or, as an Honors graduate, you may find yourself believing “I know I have this doctorate or medical degree or JD or MBA and I have always loved Mississippi. I grew up here, went to school here, but unfortunately the South is not as developed so if I go to New York or Chicago or LA I could make twice as much as I would staying home. So, hey, that’s just the way it is.”
But to express this sentiment is to express a lie.
For Providence has seen fit to grant us a freedom that is far greater than many of us have the courage to take advantage of. And if we fail to exercise this freedom we begin to see the world as set in stone. It is then only natural, conforming to a falsehood, that we become as and display hearts of stone.
I have a strong suspicion that the difference between a life worth while and any other is not a few epic moments but a thousand of these small defeats, of thinking that you are not worthy of standing to the challenge at hand, of saying to yourself “that’s just the way it is.”
Watch out. This idea can creep into your life and cause you to become a person that you never thought you would allow yourself to be.
So, if I have anything that I want to share with you today, it is to warn you that it is only when we shed this resignation, this excuse, that we can begin to live our lives with the optimism and proactive nature that they truly deserve.
And if there is something that I want to share you with it is this: take time to build a will that matches your intellect. Your presence here today shows that one of these is already great. If you can get the other to compare, then perhaps one day you will be here, speaking of greatness, telling us how you got there.
Thank you and God bless.