John Hanawalt Commencement Speech
May 23, 2010
I am extremely honored today to be addressing our esteemed faculty, our beloved family and friends, and you the graduating class of 2010. I would like to start by expressing gratitude to the people without whom we would not be standing here today, and I would like to ask your indulgence so that I may thank one very special person directly. Hi mom.
My mother works here at Stonehill. Though our college years will come to be defined by the relationships we've built with Professors and fellow students, they have also been shaped by Stonehill employees like my mother-adminstrative, support, and facilities staff- who keep this school running outside of the classroom. While we come here today to mark our academic achievements, we should never forget that we are the beneficiaries of other people's love and generosity, so please join me in thanking the people who have made this day possible. The professors who have shaped our educations, our fellow students who have shared the trials of academia with us, the families who continue to nurture and support us, and the people like my mother who have helped us in ways we may never know about.
At Stonehill, our education has been guided by the mantra "Many Minds, One Purpose." My personal mantra during college has been more like a guttural scream; but I've been thinking a lot about what "Many Minds, One Purpose" might mean to those of us graduating under its banner.
As we prepare to graduate, the next stage of our lives is approaching quickly, apparently out of nowhere. Though today was years in the making, to me it feels like someone put me in the trunk of their car and drove me to adulthood against my will. I'm standing in front of you all wondering, what am I doing here?
What am I doing next? Who am I next, now that I am not an undergrad. The answer for each of us will be different as we forge ahead into graduate degrees, years of service, careers, or extended backpacking trips; and finding our purpose may weigh heavy on our minds.
I don't imagine it's ever easy to make a transition like this; but the world into which we graduate today is especially daunting. Every day, progress seems to lose a little ground to worry, fear, and hatred. People are still losing their homes. People are still sick without access to care. People still die every day from HIV, malaria, and countless other diseases that are, if not curable, treatable. How do we make room in our hearts for the suffering of the world while facing troubles of our own?
First, we have to realize there's no difference between the two. My neighbor's hardship is my own. Illness in my country is bad for my health. The denigration and oppression of women overseas is an insult to my mother, my sister, and myself.
Rather than buckle under the weight of powerlessness, we have to live as though the world's problems can be solved in our lifetime. We can live to see the last of the starving fed. We can make sure that all children who need vaccinations receive them and not just our own. We can work to end poverty while working towards material comfort for those we love.
We do not have to resign ourselves to being the most recent graduating class at Stonehill College. We can commit here and now to being the next generation of breakthrough researchers, committed educators, and dedicated humanitarians. We can be the business men and women who bring integrity to industry. We can be the artists to articulate the next transformative vision of the future. That can be our one purpose.
We are not many minds in service of one mission, body politic, or ideology. We are the commitment to one purpose made possible by many minds-a plurality of backgrounds, passions, and talents. Our one purpose will not make us the same, it will be achieved collectively through the strength in the diversity of the human experience. And so moving forward, we must give everyone the chance to achieve their full potential irrespective of class. Stand in unity with others in dire times no matter their color or country. And support every human being's right to dignity regardless of gender.
Such a bold commitment will not be easy to honor; but, how easy was it to get here today? What's important as we face the challenges ahead is to not waste time and energy resisting them. Though times of great transition are trying, it's then that true character, friendships, and resolve are forged. While we should all take today to look back at our accomplishments, let us also look forward to the accomplishments of tomorrow. We have come so far and today we celebrate our potential to go much farther still.
Thank you and congratulations Class of 2010.
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