7 Months ago I was going to audition to be the speaker at WCU’s winter graduation. 7 months ago on the audition night, I had work…(The thought of auditioning for anything also gave me stomach cramps but that’s neither here nor there)…The following is the speech I would have given, had I been chosen.
I didn’t even want to go to West Chester. It was my back-up school…no, it was my double back up, last choice, throw a temper tantrum if I ended up…well, you get the point.
Never, did I imagine that I would vie for an opportunity to speak at my commencement in front of my classmates, fellow graduates and professors. I never imagined that I would look forward to the hundreds of dollars I would spend on alumni sweatshirts and baseball caps. I certainly never imagined proudly boasting that I am a golden ram.
But that’s the magic of this university- it grows on you. It grows on you like the fungus grows in the dorm showers, like the Starbuck’s line grows between classes or the ivy grows up the castle at Phillips. It produces this understated grandeur that just makes you feel proud to walk through the quad from class to class, proud to wear a university sweatshirt at home and for all to see, proud to tell people when they ask, “I go to West Chester.”
I spent my first weeks at this campus spitefully arrogant, as if the campus were lucky that I was here. It took me too long to realize that I was the lucky one-lucky to share classrooms with so many like-minded individuals, to share the same air as so many brilliant professors and lucky to have made the friends I did. I don’t have a stunning GPA, I didn’t participate in that many clubs, but I did have a life-changing experience here on campus. The truth is, West Chester not only gave me an excellent education- it saved my life. It introduced me to people who helped me through the roughest times in my life and helped me celebrate during the best. It gave me people who drove me to pick up my car when it got towed from the residence hall lot, people who let me use their meals when I was out for the week, people who waited in line at 3 in the morning for Wiz tickets and people who eventually became my people, my friends, my family.
Maybe not all of us enjoy going to the Sev after a night out in town, or waiting in line at Riggtown at 2:30 in the morning, wanting nothing more than a piece of their honey mustard chicken pizza. Maybe you enjoyed staying in and playing your guitar, going to Key Club meetings or football practice, but those wouldn’t have been the same without your friends listening, your friends attending or your friends practicing with you.
Our school has this overwhelming sense of comradery amongst the students, an overwhelming sense of friendship. We all hate going to class in the rain, we all hate having a fourth floor class in Anderson and we all REALLY hate the parking situation. But it’s not the hate that brings us together…it’s the love. The love of the quad on a sunny spring or early autumn day, the love of taco Tuesdays at Sykes, the love we feel cashing our refund checks, but most importantly the love we feel when we wear purple and gold.
So let’s love today too. It’s the end of a lot of things, but it’s the beginning of more. You are saying goodbye to a lot of people, but you’re saying “See you later” to the people who truly matter. So thank you Mom, Dad and Alex for being my support system when I needed, for giving me this opportunity. And thank you West Chester for making sure I’ll miss this place. A. A. Milne says it best, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”
Class of 2013, as my favorite educator once said “Believe in yourselves, dream, try, do good.”
And from now on, do not grieve but rejoice in no longer saying “I go to West Chester”, but instead boasting proudly “I graduated from THE West Chester University”.