Monday, 18 November 2013

An Open Letter to the Graduating Class of Fall 2013

Dear Graduands,

We all have a desire to change the world. To do something so meaningful and profound that it improves the lives of others, liberates the oppressed from their oppressors, ignites legislative action or alters the way that we think about things like transportation, nutrition or gender. This almost universal experience is in part cultivated during our university careers. We are persistently exposed to the lives of phenomenal leaders, innovators and scholars and are always encouraged to break past the boundaries of mediocrity and conformity. We are encouraged to go against the grain and to prevail when others are betting against us. 

It is during our collegiate journey that we’ve come to realize that we can make an impact on those around us. It’s not because we vow to end global warming or to discover a cure for cancer, it’s because we learn to do things that we truly love and are passionate about, something that we’ll explain to anyone who’ll listen. After being constantly told what to do with our lives, this university has given us choice and has allowed us to be our own decision makers. Even when we are drowning in deadlines, readings, assignments and exams we must remember how much we have achieved and how much we can still accomplish.

During my nearly two years of university education I’ve come to realize that there’s absolutely nowhere else I’d rather be and  nothing else I’d rather do than learn. I think we all come to university for our own reasons, some of us to get a good job with a decent pay and others to fuel their love of education. However, I hope that when we graduate we can all walk away with the notion that we have been handed the opportunity to become the bearers of knowledge; we’ve been granted the chance to learn about the topics and ideas that we are wholeheartedly interested in, and it is up to us to share what we’ve learned and to inspire others to do the same.

Graduands, when you reminisce about the weeks spent cramming in Rutherford or the hours spent writing term papers and memorizing biology concepts, I hope that you can dig past the instances of stress and frustration and that you can remember how lucky you have been to have attended university, to study something that has sparked your curiosity and that has made you wiser, stronger, and happier. 

And when you venture into the world with this unquenchable urge to make a difference, remember that the greatest gift given to you was the option to choose your own direction. Whether you are planning to be a teacher, nurse, doctor, lawyer, artist, scholar or environmental engineer never forget to inspire others to choose their own trajectory, to carve their own path and to pursue their interests.

Although you might not get your dream job or the credentials that you seek right away, never lose that passion that surged through you when you sat in class discussing women’s oppression in Afghanistan or the physical properties of organic compounds or effective marketing strategies. If we lose sight of our goals and settle for mediocrity our inherent pursuit of excellence becomes irrelevant.

You can actually change the world, but first you have to change your own life by looking beyond your limitations and by challenging the structures and systems that reinforce them. You may not compel others to adopt a progressive and inclusive worldview, but you do have the capacity to instill in others what your university education has instilled in you. You may not always be the best at everything, but you can be your best self. You will each do amazing things in your own unique ways and I hope you encourage others to do the same.



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More Convocation Stories and Resources

Fall Convocation 2013 #UAlberta13


About the Author

Hey! My name’s Billy – a second year arts student still scavenging through the course catalog for that perfect major. I’ve recently developed a passion for journalism, professional writing and communications and hope to grow along with the team at YouAlberta. If I’m not engrossed in the latest episode of Big Brother you’ll probably find me being too emotionally invested in The Amazing Race or laughing at inappropriate jokes on the Internet.

When not feeding my reality TV addiction or scurrying to finish my latest assigned reading, I’ll be searching our campus for the most intriguing stories about diversity, academic success and the quirks that make our university the gem that it is. As a student communicator I hope to foster a stronger sense of community and belonging by sharing sentimental and inclusive stories to tap into the shared sense of pride we all uphold – I hope you join me!


1 comment

  1. That was a wonderful open letter! Really, really great stuff! I love your point about mediocrity and how we should strive to look beyond our limitations. U of A is an awesome place.


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