The following is the speech I wrote and read to the Winter 2017 graduates from Union County College on Thursday, January 12th at 6 pm in Rahway, NJ. The speech was intended for my fellow classmates–however, I believe it holds a message for anyone who has ever felt like giving up but knew they had what it took to keep going. Regardless of how long it takes, or the difficulties you will inevitably face–I challenge you to keep fighting, and striving for excellence no matter what.
I hope this message inspires you.
When I was invited to speak today as a Student Representative for all of you—I thought to myself, who am I to speak on behalf of everyone else?
I thought that maybe I could tell you how easy it was to finish my associate’s degree. However, that would not be the complete truth. It is far easier to find student parking on Cranford’s campus.
When I look back at my last five semesters, I become aware of this present moment that I had not yet known was possible. It was not always easy, but we all made decisions over these last few years that led us successfully to where we are today. We made sacrifices because we believed our lives would flourish when we chose to be intentional about where we wanted to go.
For some of us, especially me, the decision to invest in our own success took an extraordinary amount of time. We were often not ready when life came knocking at our doors. We held on too tightly to comfortable things. We aggressively fought losing battles against time. We allowed the idea of taking a necessary risk—to knock us off our feet.
Sometimes, some of us gave up too easily.
Today we claim victory and achieve excellence for our families and ourselves. We made it to this significant checkpoint in part because of our individual efforts—but also with the support of everyone in this room. Let us take a moment now to applaud all of the faculty and staff, as well as our friends, family and loved ones who encouraged and walked with us through this journey. [Applause.]
You may not realize your strength, or the power you possess—but I look out at all of you and I can see the fruits of your determined perseverance. The fact that you are here today is the ultimate sign that you are doing more than just passing each test. So hold fast to what is good, positive, and true. Take a deep breath, dwell in this sweet moment now, and let go of any thoughts that make you feel doubtful or weak. Do not let anything hold you captive below the full range of your talents and capabilities.
Keep fighting to make your unique mark on the world.
You are all brilliant sparks just waiting to light up the sky.
But you have to keep going. There is still so much farther you can go.