First off, welcome to all the students, faculty, family (especially mothers, happy mothers day!) and our honored guest, Vera Rubin, for joining us here this afternoon. That being said, PREPARE FOR THE MOST EXCITING TWO HOURS OF YOUR LIFE!!! Joking aside, this is a big day for all of us. We’ve passed one of the biggest cornerstones of our lives. So, in typical tortured Lit. major/artist form, I believe it is time for some reflection…
What have I learned at American University? Well…how to make friends (and keep them), that it’s OK to want to be a film professor (even if I will be in school for another eight to ten years), and (unfortunately) that the distance from the sink to the dishwasher for college students is apparently a lot farther than one would think (that is, it’s hard to live with messy people even if they’re your friends). To say that AU has prepared me for the rest of my life would be an understatement. All of us graduating today have probably experienced one of the most uplifting moments of our lives during our time at AU ( Namely, the I CAN ACTUALLY WRITE A TEN PAGE PAPER AND SOUND INTELLIGENT?!?! moment). But, on the other hand, we probably have also lived through the most embarrassing and horrifying moments too (sloppy 21st birthday anyone?). What is important to realize is that this interplay between great moments and not so great ones is the blueprint for almost anyone’s life. AU’s microcosm of the real world (for most of us) has provided an excellent place to try out who we are and explore the plethora of possibilities that will turn into our lives.
I’ve always had trouble being myself. Treating movies and books like friends doesn’t exactly lead to a booming social life. What I’ve learned at AU, though, is that everyone feels as uncomfortable with themselves as I do. In fact, this discomfort is a necessary part of the college experience. We are not only trying to decide what we might be doing for the rest of our lives, but who we are going to be too. There are numerous clichéd lines about “finding” yourself during college, but I think more of us have benefited from losing ourselves; shirking the fear of not being accepted and realizing that everyone can have a purpose and has something intelligent to say. If there is anything that I will take away from my time at AU, it is that I have learned to accept things. Not just other people, but myself and my idiosyncrasies too. We all have learned to use what makes us different as our strengths and to recognize and value those strengths in other people. We haven’t just learned that George Eliot is actually a woman, or that biology is actually pretty interesting, or even that theater people are a lot more…”different” than the rest of us (I know from experience…they rarely keep their drama on the stage); what AU has taught us is who we are and that is one of the best things that any university can give us (besides a diploma and job options, which, to be fair, are pretty scarce right now).
So, tomorrow as we begin our lives in earnest (and start getting calls from the AU phone-a-thon) most of us will look back on our time at AU not only as one of the better sequences of our lives, but also the most existentially satisfying. Tomorrow we are not Lit majors, or Chem. majors or History majors or…unemployed, but real people with something to offer the world. Although this revelation is scary, it is also satisfying (weird how those two things often go hand in hand in college). American University has given us the opportunity to shine as who we are, and that (besides knowledge) is the best gift it could give us.