2011 Honors College Commissioning Ceremony
Congratulations to the SMBHC Class of 2011!
The Honors College Commissioning Ceremony was held on Friday, May 13th, at the Gertrude Ford Center. Speeches from the ceremony are included below.
Christin Gates’ Welcome
Chancellor Jones, Associate Provost Noel Wilkin, Dean Sullivan-González, faculty, staff, family, and friends, welcome to the Commissioning Ceremony for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. I truly consider it a blessing and an honor to stand before you today on this momentous occasion.
My classmates, four years ago we all sat in these same seats, frantically asking each other all one question. “Did you read this?” Yes, I still have In the Moment of Greatest Calamity and I hate to admit, like many of you, no, I still haven’t read this book.
From that day, we continued to ask questions about ourselves and others. We “ventured out” all over the United States to ask, “When is it ok to disobey?” Junior year, we asked each other, “Are you staying? Are you doing a thesis?” During this school year, we often asked each other, “How is the thesis going?” We would even reply with a question. “What the heck was I thinking?”
Despite long hours of reading, writing, stressing, and yes the occasional melt downs in the lab, we have made it to this ceremony receiving our medallions. At this moment there is no question of how we have arrived. It is the people sitting behind me, faculty and staff, those sitting behind you, our family and friends, and those sitting beside you, each other. This moment is a celebration not only for ourselves, but those who have supported us throughout the years.
As the Class of 2011, we have proven ourselves at the University. We have been servant leaders transforming our environment. We are the largest class to ever walk this stage. We are nationally recognized scholars, and our work is already being used for lobbyist, nonprofits, and lucrative businesses. Despite these achievements, today, we are once again, asking each other more questions – questions echoed even in popular culture “is greatness what we are on the brink of?”
As we reflect on our years in the honors college, the answer should be clear. As long as we continue to chase our passions, not positions, nor prestige—Our Greatness is sure to come.
Matthew Henry’s Address
Friends, Family, Faculty,
Thank you for all being here this afternoon. I feel like this is the time during TV show finales where a series of cheesy scenes are played from the past four years set to Vitamin C’s Graduation song. TV show endings are always bittersweet. One thing they all have in common is that they always develop some complicated plot device to justify countless flashbacks. Maybe someone develops amnesia and we have to recount the past four years to them in order for them to remember; either that or at the end Dr. Samonds wakes up and the whole thing was a terrible dream where a bunch of students spent all of Jim Barksdale’s money.
Luckily, we do not need such a plot device…we have Facebook. Our generation is unique in that our entire life is captured by this single website. You can debate whether that is good or bad, but it does offer a good way to reflect. That is what television finales strive to do, the ending is not necessarily important; it is all of the events and memories that led up to the end that truly matter.
I have been looking back at all of mine and other photos from the past four years. It seems like college goes by so quickly until you realize just how much you have changed in your four years at Ole Miss. I look back at the shaggy-haired freshman versus the man I am today, and I see a lot of growth. Not physically of course, I was too tall as a freshman and I am too tall today. But as a person I have grown immensely. At the same time, the more things change the more they stay the same. There is a picture from the first time I pulled an all-nighter freshman year and this past week was no different, not much has changed.
Yet, I am a much stronger person today than I was four years ago. I attribute this in part to the Honors College experience and to its hardworking staff. I was thinking recently about that first morning of our Honors Retreat when our entire class was waiting in the lobby of the Honors College. I knew a handful of people from high school or other programs, but it was pretty daunting being thrown into that large of a group without knowing anyone. Fast forward to when we had to decide freshmen venture groups. We were placed into a room and left to figure out how to assign the trips to one another. I initially thought it was strange that the Honors College would give a bunch of kids this much power and that much money without any oversight. The thing was we weren’t kids, by the time we entered as freshmen we were already adults, we just didn’t see it yet.
Even in college, many students are still treated like children. However, the Honors College felt differently. They felt that if you treat someone as an adult they just might act like one. People should be able to make mistakes in order to learn. If the expectations are high, people will try harder.
The Honors College and its staff have enormous faith in its students, and hopefully we still deserve it. You have to have a lot of faith to give a group of students over $50,000 to plan a Sophomore Service trip to Chicago. You have to have a lot of faith in students to leave the building open to them 24/7. And you have to have a lot of faith in honor students to devote and incredible amount of time to their success. It is that faith, I feel, that allows us to truly grow and become better people. The Honors College could easily center on smaller classes and priority registration, but it doesn’t. It pushes us and holds us to a higher standard. It teaches us that good should never be good enough.
At the same time, growing up does not mean growing boring. I still remember a morning last year after one of the Honors College staff meetings DSG hands me a twenty dollar bill and asks me to order something for him. That thing was, of course, an Admiral Ackbar mask, which he proceeded to wear in the Double Decker 5K. I’m not sure if there are many Honors College deans out there who are that committed to being awesome. And there are even fewer who believe so strongly in their students.
I lied earlier; this is not our series finale. This is merely the beginning of the series spinoff. We can reflect, look back fondly on our memories and we can appreciate all that has happened over the past four years. Now is a time for reflection and for memories, but tomorrow is when the show really begins.
We are men and women who will do great things and are accountable for our own actions. We have grown and matured, but we are not done. With the past behind us we look to the near limitless opportunities ahead of us. The Honors College has helped me and everyone else here today see that. And maybe one day we will have the chance to believe in a student, like the Honors College has for us.
As Mr. Feeny from the television show Boy Meets World said in the series finale, “Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.” This is what the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College has shown us.
So thank you DSG and the rest of the Honors College staff for treating us like adults, thank you faculty for challenging us in the classroom, thank you friends and family for supporting us, and thank you Honors students for rising to the occasion. Thank you.
Chelsea Caveny’s Charge
When DSG called me into his office to tell me I was giving the charge, he kindly reminded me that the greatest speech in American history, Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg, was just over two minutes. While I don’t think I’m going to challenge Lincoln today in uniting a nation, I do think what I’m going to say might surprise some of you and since our time is limited, I’ll just get right to it. My charge to the Sally McDonnell Barksdale class of 2011—Get Rich.
That’s right. “Get Rich” just came from the lips of the girl whose senior thesis was about starting a non-profit on a shoestring budget in the Mississippi Delta. I know my parents are sitting in the audience thinking, “Yes! She has finally seen the light and we won’t have to support her for the rest of our lives.” But there are two parts to what I like to see as my personal “get rich quick scheme.”
The first way, just like it sounds. Go into the world and make lots of money. We all sat here a few years ago and heard Thomas Friedman talk about innovation in the American economy and how America would only go green when we learn to make it profitable. Bill Gates saw a similar window of opportunity when he started Microsoft. There is a window of opportunity here and someone in this room is going to capitalize on it. Fred Smith wrote about FedEx in an undergraduate paper and then developed it into a company that is putting the US Postal Service out of business. Someone in this room is going to turn their thesis into a successful global corporation that will change the way we all operate. I’m sure there is a more ethical Bernie Madoff, a more creative JK Rowling, and a more over the top Oprah—all sitting in this room. So capitalize on it. To win big you have to dare big. So do it. Take the jump, and in the end make lots, and lots of money.
That’s the simple part of this “get rich quick scheme.” It might not seem so simple as we all sit trying to figure out how to pay our bills on an entry-level budget and hoping that for graduation our parents will keep paying our health insurance. But we are prepared. We are smart, innovative, and thanks to the Honors College and this University we have been given the lessons necessary to go into the world and make some serious amounts of cash.
But we have learned another lesson here at Ole Miss, a really important lesson about the spirit of people, and our duty as global citizens. This is the second part of the get rich quick scheme. Once we all get rich, we give some of it back. This part, of giving what we can, as often as we can, this is what really defines rich. Let’s take a cue from Jim Barksdale, a man who made a lot and gives even more, and remember that it is up to us to provide a better place for the next generation. Realistically, we might not all win a million on Wheel of Fortune or create the next silly band craze, but we can all have our own riches. We will only be truly rich when we have challenged ourselves to give all that we can.
A native of my hometown, Oseola McCarty, once made a $150,000 donation to another university in the state. The most impressive part, Ms. McCarty worked her entire life cleaning houses and saved up the money from what some would consider pocket change. She gave the university everything she ever had. Oseola McCarty is rich, rich in the spirit of giving.
So let us all go into the world with images of Bill Gates’ fortune and Oseola McCarty’s spirit, and no matter how much money any of us actually make, lets all get rich!