At every graduation, there are numerous speeches that congratulate the new graduates on everything they have done in the past several years and motivate them to do great things in the future. Each year, one graduate from each ceremony at StFX is chosen to be the senior class graduate speaker. I nominated myself for this position because I felt I had something to share with the senior class, and my friends encouraged me through heart-warming letters of nomination to include in the package I submitted. I met with a committee, and they interviewed me on the theme I would be speaking about. I chose the theme of home, inspired by the lyrics of the song “To Build a Home” by Cinematic Orchestra. Unfortunately, I was not chosen as a candidate to run before the senior class as their Grad speaker. I would like at this point to congratulate all of the candidates on their selection and I know that all of you would have done a fantastic job had you won. To Cameron, I look forward to hearing your words of encouragement as I experience the joys and sorrows of convocation alongside the lifelong friends I made here at StFX.
My desire to share my own words was not extinguished upon hearing that I was no longer in the running for the position. I was bitterly disappointed, and looked for excuses as to why I was not viewed as able to deliver this address. I went back to the committee to ask for feedback, and was told that it wasn’t my ability to speak, but rather the message I chose to speak about that limited this opportunity for me. They urged me to not be discouraged by this outcome, instead to think about it as “deking left instead of right.” I reflected on this feedback, and looked forward to find a way alleviate this disappointment. My grandfather says “if you don’t stand tall enough, you won’t see far enough” and this quote has inspired me so much that I had part of it engraved on my X-Ring. My interpretation is that you can never forget why it was that you started and what motivated you to put your hat in the ring in the first place. You will face adversity along the way, but you must stand tall and keep sight of your goals. My goal was to share words of congratulation, inspiration, and expectation with my graduating class, and although the platform of convocation is not available to me, I have the privilege of another avenue to spread my message. This avenue strips me of my ability to hide behind presentation skills, and forces me to focus purely on the message I was told would not resonate with my graduating class. To those of you reading this, I hope you find meaning in the words. This is the convocation speech I won’t get to make (at convocation).
“There is a house built out of stone, wooden floors, walls, and window sills. Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust. This is a place where I don’t feel alone. This is a place I feel at home.” Graduating class, parents, faculty, staff, and administration, welcome to our graduation ceremony. After years of work, we gather here today to celebrate perseverance, growth, and success. We come together as a community, to reflect on the chapter of our lives that is coming to a close, and to look forward to the exciting journey each of us will embark on. A short time ago, before we experienced this campus and understood exactly what it meant to be a Xaverian, we were explorers seeking out our next adventure. We were leaving our old homes with the values taught to us there by our families and friends in our hearts, and venturing into a new world. In this world, we would find new friends, new passions, and build new homes. Each of us brought our own values here, and shared them with each other. One of the magical things about this place is its ability to bring people together in ways it is difficult to explain. This sets the foundation of what we have created during our time here. Every passing hello, class discussion, and late night debate strengthened the floors, walls, and roof. This is a place where I don’t feel alone. This is a place where I feel at home. Home means something different to each of us. It could mean the quiet buzz of the Angus L. MacDonald Library as you study or pretend to study, the softness of a Students’ Union Building couch for a mid-afternoon nap, or the comfort of a Schwartz bathroom. With our exams behind us and nothing but the world in front of us, we can turn around and admire everything we have accomplished. These homes that we leave behind have everything we brought with us when we began, and now include everything we have shared with each other. Like every home, there are countless memories we look back on with happiness. But we can also see the imperfections born of missed opportunities and regretted decisions. It is our duty to learn from all of this, and as we walk into our futures to carry those lessons and use them as we build our next homes. No matter where we end up, the values we brought, learned, and carry with us will be forever intertwined into the homes we build for ourselves and the ones we care about. On behalf of the graduating class, thank you to everyone who has contributed to our growth, we hope you grew with us as well. To the graduating class, thank you for sharing your values with each other and with me. We have built magnificent things here, and we should be so proud of ourselves. We made it, and as we leave this home behind with our steps, we keep it close in our hearts and our hands, and we will build something even greater with these lessons in our heads. Congratulations to the graduating class, may we go forward and build places where we do not feel alone, and create a future where we can all feel at home.