Eamon Bencivengo '11 Speech - Commencement 2011
May 22, 2011
It can be highly volatile when a group of young men become restless in a confined space. Take for instance an event which occurred during my freshman year. Late on a Saturday night several of my friends and I were goofing around in the hallway of our dorm. Before long a wrestling match broke out and one fellow was pushed through the hallway wall. After pulling him out, we all could not help but notice the rather large gaping hole that now existed. Now, instead of simply passing off our mistake to a custodian we took responsibility for our immature act and resolved to repair the wall ourselves. The next night we used recently purchased spackle, dry wall, and kitchen knives to make some repairs. I can remember the next morning passing by a janitor who was staring intently at the obviously repaired wall, amazed that such a group of young men would go through the trouble of attempting to spackle over their mistake.
Now this story does not garner importance because it proves that I am an accomplice in successfully damaging Stonehill property. Rather, it derives importance by serving as the graduation in which I earned my degree in responsibility.
Certainly, this statement appears to be paradoxical. How can we have more than one graduation at Stonehill? Today is of course officially graduation day. It is the day that we place indefinably shaped hats on our heads and smile as our parents take for too many photos of us. It is also a day filled with academic recognition. We are applauded for the completion of the requirements necessary to obtain a B.A. or B.S. from Stonehill College. While most of us have earned our degrees in four years by either living on campus or commuting, others have demonstrated true perseverance by earning degrees as part-time students. Furthermore, this is a day ripe with symbolism. The descent down the Donahue steps is symbolic of the end of our Stonehill journey. Certainly, graduation sends shockwaves of pride through our parents and serves as a magical fundraising opportunity for the Alumni Fund. Yet, if this day is merely a pleasant collegiate memory clothed in recognition and symbolism, why should we, the graduates, bother attending? The answer I think is this: receiving the diploma on this day stands as a physical reminder of all the graduations we have had at Stonehill prior to this moment and all the graduations we will have in the future.
Unlike today, the awarding of my degree in responsibility was absent of any formal ceremony in which I was handed a physical diploma. In fact, I was only aware that I had such a degree long after spackling that wall. Yet, after experiencing those events I was profoundly changed forever. I have obtained many other degrees which have had similar impacts on me throughout my time at Stonehill. It was during my sophomore year that I was awarded a degree in human diversity while volunteering to deliver furniture to a needy family in nearby Brockton. I was apprehensive to approach this family's front door, for a group of young men were standing on the sidewalk in this rough neighborhood. Yet, as I walked closer, instead of seeing mean looks, I saw broad smiles on the faces of these men as they greeted warmly me and praised the work that I was doing. I realized at that moment that they did not judge me on my appearance, but only the merit of my actions.
This past year, I acquired my degree in courage as I along with 6 of my closest friends, wearing scantily clad women's clothing danced in a skit on the stage of Mr. Stonehill in front of roughly the entire school. Just a few months ago, I earned a degree in human resilience when I had the privilege of shaking the hand of a Holocaust Survivor. Engaging him in conversation revealed to me even that the gravest of circumstances cannot extinguish the fire of the human spirit.
I'm sure that all of you can think back to the various graduations that you have had during your short time at Stonehill. During these moments, devoid of any ceremonies, we experience profound moments of learning, which give us intangible, yet invaluable degrees. While it is difficult to leave this campus today, do not burden yourself with thoughts of the unpredictable future. Rather, reflect upon the moments that make this day worthy of a celebration: the sacrifices and support of your family, the times shared with friends, and the many degrees you have earned. Reflecting upon these moments, especially your degrees, will grant you the confidence and ambition to achieve that which we will aim to do: infuse success and purpose into our future endeavors. Thus, as you receive your diploma today remember that it officially represents only one degree out of dozens more. Your Stonehill diploma therefore will become more than just an accolade to be mentioned on a resume, but a testament to the depth of your character.
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