Drew Rosensweig, a Film and Media Arts major, delivers a commencement address at the 2009 American University School of Communication Commencement ceremony.
I had hoped that there’d be a gigantic banner with the words “Mission Accomplished” behind me, but I’ll take the near, luminous presence of Dr. Neil Kerwin. As I stand before you, as an educated man of letters and numbers, I realize that we are all here for a united purpose: to extend our collegiate life for just a few more hours. So please settle in while I read aloud a few of my favorite Babysitters Club novels.
When I first thought of what to say to you, my peers, I was at a loss for words, a fact that must really depress my parents, who raided their retirement fund to further their son’s education in communication. But then I reminisced about all the ways I’ve developed in the past four years— how I’ve expanded my perception of the world, how I’ve learned various ways stories can be conveyed, how I hit puberty midway through junior year— and realized it would be best to focus on everything being a student in the School of Communication has afforded me, besides the life-affirming chance to meet George Clooney’s father.
Communication. It is our true currency, its value immutable, and the one thing that Bernie Madoff can’t scam away from us. The way we communicate is malleable, much like our fates. Information is being processed in a manner never imagined, at a rate quicker than previously conceived. Right now, my aunt is on her iPhone, Tweeting about how her nephew’s speech is putting her to sleep. We’ll likely be remembered as the Facebook generation, a fact that you should take in now and cry about after our ceremony— don’t worry, your relatives will think they are tears of elation.
Technology has allowed us many things in this new century, none worse than letting my mother have Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy" as her ringtone for almost three years now. The past gave us newspapers, now we have blogs. The past gave us film, now we have Blu-Ray. The past gave us Ugly Betty, and now we have Ugly Betty in HD. But although much has changed, the purpose of communication is still the same - to connect humans with one another, to weave a web of mutual understanding, and to invoke a wide palette of emotions.
Change is all around us. We have a new president. There’s a new Pepsi logo. It seems fitting that each of our lives is about to be altered, because stagnation is so 2006. And our ability to adapt has no doubt been enhanced by our time at American.
I’ve been granted wonderful opportunities by American University. I’ve shot films in Prague and in Monterrey, Mexico, and, more importantly, forged bonds with people from all around the world. We studied at an institution that provided us with magnificent opportunities, but also entrusted us to take advantage of them.
The guidance I’ve received from the faculty here at AU is something I’ll never undervalue. I’ll always remember my various film professors telling me time after time, “Drew, you can’t just remake How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” I once defended journalism professor John Watson in a pick-up basketball game, and watched as he scored sixteen unanswered points— at one point I think he even used my lower back as a springboard to slam-dunk. And although I’ve never taken a public communication class, I’m sure that each professor present is internally grading my public speaking skills. Please keep in mind that I couldn’t correctly pronounce my Ls and Rs until three months ago.
When we graduated high school, we believed there was an aura of invincibility around us. Anything seemed possible as we left our homes, be they in north, south, or even central New Jersey, and entered the world of higher education. Now, on the cusp of graduation, we feel vulnerable. We are unsure of what is to come, uneasy about our futures. Yet this feeling, perhaps replicated among all of you listening today, is not a bad sentiment. No, it keeps us human and allows us to relate to one another, further highlighting the importance of communication.
I won’t lie to you: the current job market, by all reports, seems to be bleak. Seemingly, the economy decided it wouldn’t be hard enough for a film major like me to find a job. In all likelihood, the next time you enter a Jack in the Box, I’ll be the one taking your order of two Sourdough Jacks with extra Jack Sauce.
But that’s okay: because the real truth is that as long we don’t forget what we are striving for, no matter our disparate hopes, no job will be too difficult, no fate too crushing. We should never worry about being ridiculed in pursuit of a passion; for, as author Thomas Bernhard once said, “Everything is ridiculous if one thinks of death.” I can only believe that when he made this statement, he had my post-graduate career in mind.
So thank you to my friends (who’ve voluntarily dealt with my pretension), to my classmates (who’ve involuntarily dealt with my pretension), to my professors (who’ve often graded my pretension adequately), and most of all, to American University (who will eternally ask me to donate any wealth my pretension helps to accrue.)
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2009, we’re no longer in college. On the count of three, deal with it.
Drew Rosensweig has written, directed and produced five short films while at American University. Additionally, he worked as Music Editor at the school's newspaper, The Eagle, and spent four years as a DJ at WVAU, the student-run radio station. He also produced an eleven-minute documentary on the life of opera singer Marian Anderson for the Washington National Opera, which was shown in DC public high schools in recognition of Black History Month. During his junior year, Drew studied at the world-renowned film institute FAMU, in Prague, Czech Republic, and was chosen as one of fifty participants to attend the 35th Telluride Film Festival Student Symposium in Fall 2008.