Select Page

travisThe following is the text of the full University of Wisconsin Oshkosh of the Jan. 21 commencement speech delivered by Travis Cardarella, of De Forest. He graduates with a major in communication studies and an emphasis in organizational communication.

“Chancellor Leavitt, Provost Earns, members of administration, professors, graduates, alumni, family, and friends, welcome!

“As we have joined together on this day, many of us have begun this early morning by looking back at all that’s been accomplished with our time here. One moment I specifically look back on is a moment I had within a course entitled ‘Communication and Nonprofit Organizations.’ At the beginning of the course, we were challenged to examine what value a mission statement had within organizations. It was here when I came across a mission statement especially unique to all of us graduating today. Within the mission of the UW System, it states a goal to ‘serve and stimulate society by developing in students heightened intellectual, cultural, and humane sensitivities, scientific, professional and technological expertise, and a sense of purpose.’

“Purpose. A word so familiar to many of us as we’ve chased after it since the very first days we began our journeys with UW Oshkosh. Traveling down this pathway was met with struggle and hardships but today we are reminded that those struggles did not bar us from arriving to this moment here.

“When I had discussed with friends about their struggles or defining moments during this journey, it usually revolved around one issue. Pressure. Pressure from society. Pressure from friend groups. Pressure from family or academics. Moments of ‘Do this, do that.’ ‘Be this, be that.’

“It was a moment when I watched my friend, who we’ll call Amber, become pressured by underage drinking, which led to her almost facing academic probation her second semester of college. I met a guy who we can call Brian when volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. He struggled with parents who had threatened to cut him off if he didn’t continue for a degree in the sciences to later lead to a career in the medical field.

“Pressure from society with a young man named Travis when he didn’t fit the norm. A young man who in the past feared stepping foot into his high school every morning knowing he would continuously have to defend his identity. These were Titans who could of succumbed to these pressures. Stories of those who could have given up on their purpose.

“What Amber, Brian, Travis and even you sitting here today all have in common is that they overcame those pressures and breaking points to allow for this moment to be what defines our purposes. Amber realized that this was an institution that offered opportunity for success and came back to now be graduating on the Honor’s list. Brian met with our financial aid office to seek assistance in attending school here while seeking a degree in his new major, art.

“And then there’s Travis. He chose to show his true identity and was embraced with open arms by you, his campus community. One who can stand proudly on this very stage and say ‘I am gay’ and finally have no sense of shame in himself when doing so.

“The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has lived up to and taught us the very skills necessary in achieving the UW system’s mission. They have introduced us to courses, professors, as well as quality majors and minors that have to their very core heightened our ‘intellectual, cultural, and human sensitivities,’ as well as our ‘scientific, professional and technological expertise.’

“Our university has been a home meeting new friends. Friends who are maybe of different races, religious affiliations, sexual orientations, political backgrounds, or family upbringings than you. It is safe haven and opportunity for clubs and organizations such as SOL (Student Organization of Latinos), Psychology Club, or The Millennials Club to connect like minded individuals. It has taught us that new pressures, problems, and injustices will surface but we can take what we have learned and seek to liberate others in hope that one day they too will uncover their ‘purpose.’

“Because when there are those that try advocating to build up walls and deplete diversity, we remind them of the melting pot are nation is in fact home to. When we encounter people with first languages or cultural upbringing that are different than our own, we bring them in with messages of curiosity rather than deter them away with messages of hate. When our LGBTQ+ brothers, sisters, and allies are attacked in a nightclub or by state bathroom laws, we come back to say that no label will define ourselves more than does “human being.”

“The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is an institution that has provided us with an opportunity not only met with but defined with excellence. It is a university that has assisted us in arriving to this moment here. We have crafted ourselves to identify as titans and after we cross this stage, role models.

“We cross this stage as a class that will not succumb to those outside pressures but instead be the champion to overcome them. We will cross this stage and seek to find new opportunities and take on new challenges to instill the values of the UW’s mission into a broader society. We are the class that will cross this stage and seek to continuously revitalize our sense of ‘purpose.’ Together, we cross this stage as the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s winter class of 2017. Thank you and congratulations!”

Read more: