Graduating class speaker Micah Swanson, of Fond du Lac, spoke of facing the “tough stuff” at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s midyear commencement ceremony Dec. 19 at Kolf Sports Center.
Here is a transcript of his speech:
“Good afternoon, Provost, Chancellor, faculty, family, friends and, especially, my fellow graduates.
“This day has been a long time coming. Four and a half years ago, I sat right over there for New Student Orientation. The speaker welcomed us, saying, ‘One day some of you will cross this stage and some of you will not.’
“Well, it’s taken four or five years, maybe more … but we are here.
“A friend told me as a new freshman, ‘Leaving college in four years is like leaving a party at 10 o’clock.’ I’m sure we’re all ready to move on to the next party.
“This place is filled with family and friends and faculty who have helped us achieve. Thank you for serving us.
“This moment is filled with celebration, tremendous pride and anticipation for the future.
“These people sitting in front of me, the December 2009 graduates of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh — these people are filled with potential, equipped with a college education that readies us for the challenges we will face.
“How do I know you are ready for these new challenges? You have met each of the demands of achieving a college education. Even in the final weeks leading up to this moment — finishing classes, internships, clinicals, student teaching, handing in that final undergraduate paper or taking that last final exam.
“The conclusion of college has been tough, but we did it. An important educational experience for me was completing the capstone of the army ROTC training program — a requirement for me to make it to this graduation moment.
“There was an evaluating officer; a character who was completely impossible to please. You may know the type. I did my best and then prepared to be grilled about everything I could have done better.
“You may have had a similar experience in a performance review or clinical evaluation. We have all met many expectations so that we could take this walk today.
“On that day, I wasn’t sure what my evaluating officer would say, but his challenge still echoes in my mind. After he concluded his initial evaluation, he pulled me aside, and he sat me down. I was extremely nervous, waiting to hear his words, and this is what he said, ‘Cadet Swanson, you are a lot better than you think you are. This is tough stuff but you can do it.’
“Each of us wearing the cap and gown today has already faced some tough stuff. It really wasn’t one big party, was it? This was tough stuff, and you did it. You will also face tough stuff once you leave this place ….so tough you can barely even imagine it right now.
“I hope to become an army chaplain. With that calling to service come the challenges of providing support to tough people in tough situations at tough times. I feel in no way ready for the extreme challenges, nor do I feel able to meet them, but I have a desire to do everything I can to overcome those challenges. That desire started at the critical moment when that officer dared me to believe I could do it.
“And today, I want to dare you to remember that you, too, are tougher than you think you are.
“You are all going to use your education to serve … and as you serve, tough challenges will come.
“You, too, may not feel ready, but your college education has prepared you. What you need now is to believe you are tough enough for these kinds of challenges.
“As business professionals, you will need to make choices, choices that have permanent impact on profits and people.
“As nurses, you will need to provide hope, even when little or none can be found.
“As teachers, you will need to persevere even when you’re told a child cannot learn.
“And all of us will need to face the challenge of our own expectations, expectations that are either unrealistic or too limiting.
“Maybe you were thinking that all the hurdles had been leaped, that this graduation ceremony would be the long-awaited finish line. Guess what? This is the beginning, not the end. This is commencement — the start, the beginning of applying our education and realizing our potential.
“No one, not even you, knows how far you can go, what you can do and what challenges you will be asked to meet as you serve.
“Now, I do know it’s not going to be one big party. Graduates, when you hit that first major challenge and find yourself wondering if you have what it takes, please remember the words of encouragement that my evaluating officer told me and that I will be telling my future fellow soldiers: ‘You’re a lot better then you think you are. This is tough stuff, but you can do it.’
“But right now, it is time for that party, so enjoy this moment. With gratitude to family, to friends, to faculty … and especially to my evaluating officer, I offer congratulations to us all.”
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