Graduating class speaker Kira-Lynn Reeves, of Brookfield, spoke about how it is not only necessary to look ahead, but also important to pause and reflect on the present at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s morning commencement ceremony May 16 at Kolf Sports Center.
Here is a transcript of her speech:
“Start with what needs to be said, my professor advised. For weeks, I could think only of that sentence. As a communication major, passionate about the power of words, I was speechless.
“What do we need to hear on this celebratory day, even as we peer around it, eyeing an ambiguous future with anxious energy?
“Just as we teeter on the brink of a future both daunting and electric, history reminds us we are not the first to face the unknown. In the spring of 1939, the people of Great Britain, too, teetered on the brink of great uncertainty as they faced the Second World War. A poster campaign commissioned by King George VI included one sign that read, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’
“A simple message from the past that conveys inner stillness and outward courage is essential for us to hear as we head into the storm of an unpredictable world. All of us need to identify what will keep us calm and help us carry on, content with our memories, brimming with passion and equipped with skill.
“Graduates, family and dear friends, let us clear our chaotic minds, set aside our thoughts on the burning world. Let us find calmness by reflecting on the time that has connected us to UW Oshkosh.
“In the serene simplicity of now, what are you remembering? Graduates, what image of this campus on the Fox River will remind you of a calmer time? What will still make you smile when you think of it 20 years from now?
“We will remember how this campus, which bursts with color each spring and fall, unexpectedly came to feel like home. I will treasure these memories most of all: walking along the Fox River. A place that has become just as much a friend as the people I met in the dorms and the professors I will keep in touch with.
“Worried about money or grieving for a lost loved one, I went to the Fox for comfort. The river was always calm and always calming. The water carried on, and so did I.
“We will remember what we are proud of — something we accomplished here that we never expected to. I was a writer who found she could speak, and a swimmer who discovered a zeal for running. Graduates, know that your accomplishments are more than just a line on your resume. How you measure the significance of your degree will not be by the salary you are offered, but by how you gift the world with the courageous and committed thinking of a college-educated person. It will not be measured by how you just survive, but by how you carry on.
“We will remember how we changed — how with each passing semester we grew up a little more, stretched our perspective a little wider. We can be satisfied that our degrees represent our growth, but as I was recently reminded, we do not need to have it all figured out.
“Maybe you’re thinking when you walk across this stage today, you should know what you want to do; you should have that job; you should be certain of who you are. Be calm. Carry on. We do not have all the answers, but we have learned how to ask the right questions.
“Ours is a needy world, and we are the needed. The passionate pursuit of answers will lead us, graduates, to boldly seek the place our hands will help, where our words will have lasting impact, where our compassion is just in time.
“We will keep calm; we will go on to start sentences with “When I was in college…” We will smile and be calmed by the sunlight of these memories.
“We will carry on. Although we graduate today, we are not done accomplishing or changing; we are not done laughing or crying; we are not done making friends or cherishing our loved ones.
“That is the best of it: Family and friends, your faith in us is well-founded; the sacrifices you have made will not be forgotten, but carried on in the lives we will lead and our ever-growing love for you. Although we graduate today, our relationships with you carry on into that unfolding future, both daunting and electric, brimming with passion and equipped with skill.
“Ladies and gentleman, class of 2009, keep calm, carry on, and congratulations.”
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