Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Commencement Speech I Would Give

I was sitting at my desk at work yesterday and my mind started to wander, as it typically does. It wandered to the speeches that were given at my High School graduation, and the speeches I've seen at other graduations. It wandered to the speeches given last year at AUC's graduation and then it arrived on if I were to give a speech at graduation what would I say? That thought mixed with reflecting on my time in college came up with this:

Lessons Learned

In my time at Atlantic Union College, I have said more than once, “I can’t wait to graduate”. Alright, to be honest, I have said that more times than I can actually count. When struggling through professor Lugenbeal’s Greek class: I cannot wait to graduate! When procrastinating in Dean Francis’ statistics class: I cannot wait to graduate! When attempting to understand the theological and apocalyptic implications of the interpretation of the different horses in the sixth chapter, verses 1 through 8, of the book of Revelation and the symbolism behind their coloring in Doctor Davis’ course on Revelation, (and surprise Dean Davis, I was paying attention), I may have uttered a couple hundred times, “I can’t wait to graduate!” From the day, I was accepted to graduate school, my mantra has been “I cannot wait to graduate!” 

And yet here I stand, mere moments from graduating from college, and I begin to reflect on my time here. I think of the things learned in the classroom but truly, it is the things learned outside of the classroom that stick out the most. There were the times I left class completely confused and it was not until studying with friends that things began to click. It was outside of class where I learned valuable things, like which toiletry bottles are best for holding open a window. (Turns out that a can of hairspray works best FYI). It was outside of class where I learned one of life’s most valuable lessons: It does not matter if you are white and have no rhythm whatsoever, get your butt out on the dance floor and enjoy yourself. It was outside of class where I learned that if you manage to go to sleep at 9:00 PM and wake up at 3:30 AM you will have amazing amounts of energy and actually manage to get work done. At that same time, I realized that no one is in the girls’ dorm computer lab at 3:30 AM so the only distraction from your work is yourself. 

It was outside of classes that I learned what a mystery substance known as stripples are. One of the greatest lessons I have learned during my nearly four years at Atlantic Union College was not learned in a classroom, it was not part of an assignment, and it was not during a chapel. The greatest thing I learned was something I learned from a fellow student this past semester. The greatest thing I learned was positive thinking. If you put yourself down that means, everyone else can. If you think you are beaten, you are. If you do not challenge yourself, no one ever will. A friend, whom I wish I had met earlier in my academic career, taught me this and I do not exaggerate when I say that it was her annoying little goal to drill it into my head over the course of the semester. 

In my time at Atlantic Union College, I have met amazing people. There have been professors who have guided us along the way. The first one that comes to mind is Rick Trott, who I have mentally referred to as Trottikins in my time here. Most of us have a professor that has given us extra help or has made our time here worth it. We have made friends here. Some of those friends we might never see after May 15, others we will stay in touch with via Facebook or email, and then there are those others...those that you have met in your time at AUC who have become family. I know for me at least, there are people I am graduating alongside that are like brothers and sisters to me, who I will not be losing contact with whether they like it or not. 
In my time at AUC, I have learned how to parse Greek verbs, how to find the standard deviation, how to counsel people, how to preach a sermon, how to be a pastor, how to be a friend, how to introduce myself in Spanish at a church, and how to develop my ideas in order to win an argument. Adam Ingano’s Radicals & Reformers, Rick Trott’s Christian Ethics, Andrew Francis’ Computer classes, Francy Duran’s History of Christianity, Gidget Keech’s Group Counseling, Roger Bothwell’s Introduction to Psychology, and Adam Ingano’s American National Government, these are some of the classes that have taught me lessons and provided me with experiences that I will keep with me after I leave this place, this campus, this town. 

In my time at Atlantic Union College, I have learned how to defend my beliefs and I have learned who I am. These are two of the most vital lessons a person can learn in life and I have Atlantic Union College to thank for that. Now that college is done, I intend to sleep for a week. I have to catch up for all of those all-nighters we have pulled this semester. I leave you with the memorable words of our former president, George W. Bush, “To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you too may one day be president of the United States.” 

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