Anthony Miller, a communication major with a speech emphasis and a minor in African American Studies, spoke to his peers during the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s 9 a.m. Commencement ceremony.
Here is a transcript of his speech:
“Thank you Chancellor Wells, Provost Earns, Faculty, Staff, Family and friends for lending me your ears for this wonderful occasion.
“I would like to say congratulations to all of the graduating students that are here in this morning.
“We made it
“…4 years of hard work…for some 5…for those of you who enjoyed your experience here so much six maybe seven years.
“Nonetheless…. You Did it!
“You survived the freshman 15…. all-nighters,exams and sometimes made it to 8 a.m. classes.
“You even memorized your key board on your cell phone to the point that you can tweet, Facebook and Instagram and still appear to pay full attention to a lecture.
“Some of you have mastered the art of procrastination, making it seem as if being assigned a project 2 weeks prior to its due date is too much time, or studying a week before an exam seems like a bad idea when you can cram a day or 2 beforehand.
“This is my first time giving a speech of this magnitude to an audience of this size so while attempting to come up with a speech topic I began to think about what graduating from this great University means.
“Sure it means the opportunity to make more money to pay off student loans but it also means lifelong friendships and countless memories.
“Graduating and earning your degree is something special… it sets you apart. You all should be proud of yourselves, you beat the odds. Nationwide, 1 out of 3 freshmen don’t return for their sophomore year of college but you did.
“I am also familiar with beating odds. I grew up in the inner city of Milwaukee. I attended one of the worst schools in the Milwaukee Public school system. Students from my neighborhood were not expected to finish high school, be accepted into a University, and certainly not expected to graduate from one. Great things are not really expected from young black men from my zip code.
“Expectations for young black men across America are not very high and after losing four childhood friends to gun violence in the last year; Marshall Jonakin, Chris Gillium, Lenier Johnson and Jordan Crawley, I understand that graduating and standing on this stage is truly a privilege. I beat the odds.
“I know many of you who are graduating today beat some kind of odds – first in your family to graduate, single parenthood, learning disabilities, transitioning from the military to campus or maybe financial challenges.
“I am here today to encourage all of you to continue to beat odds.
“Sometimes as college students we hear that the economy is bad or we won’t make any money with that degree or it’s hard to find jobs. When someone tells you this – look them in the face and say hard doesn’t make things impossible, hard means hard, hard is simply an odd waiting to be beat. When they say you can’t tell them you can. When they say you won’t tell them you will.
“If you have your sights on starting your own business or nonprofit organization DO IT. If you want to go to medical school to be a doctor or law school to be a lawyer, DO IT.
If you have a passion to educate our youth and impact a child’s life do it. If you see something that needs to be changed that may bring you profit but is important to your morals and your values DO IT.
“You have to realize that your dreams can become reality and that your goals are obtainable.
“You have proven to everyone in this room that you have the capability to do deal with all the challenges life has tossed your way. The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has equipped you with the skills to adapt to any situation. And earning your college degree from this University has been a stepping stone that will catapult you into greatness.
“When you walk out of that door today remember life is a race - not a sprint but a marathon and along the way there will be obstacles, but as long as you work hard and believe in yourself, those obstacles that you are faced with will be nothing to hurdle.
“Before I return to my seat I would like to leave you all with some words of encouragement.
“Be Faithful in all the things that you do — those big dreams that you have – continue to pursue. Don’t be scared of the option of failure because you could miss out on the opportunity to win – dig deep with the crevices of yo’ soul because truth be told you could die 80 years young or 22 years old.
“A wise man once told me never give up even if I do slip and get tripped up and always remember that a saint is merely a sinner who got back up.”
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