Commencement Speech by Agnes Congrad '12

To the Class of 2012,

We have a wonderful graduation speaker here today with us. But for some reason they did not merely invite  UN representatives or NASA executives or a world-famous professor to speak to us today; to inspire us and drive us into the future. We could have had so many people speaking here right now instead, for example, of us three student speakers…wow. Pressure.

At almost any other university on earth, I would be standing here speaking on behalf of hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who I spent four years with but never met. This isn’t the case. Regardless, it is exceedingly difficult to pack four years, and more than a hundred people, and 11 countries into a three minute speech. But if you know me, you know I love telling stories, so I’d like to tell one that I think we can all relate to.

While leafing through my memories a few months ago, I chanced upon an entry that was so useless it demanded deletion. It was a day like all other days; a pointless list of monotonous daily events that I penciled into my mental notebook for no particular reason. 

“During winter break last year I reached home and had a fairly meaningless day:

I took my shoes off at the door.
I took a shower and turned the water off between cycles of shampoo and conditioner. 
I went to visit my best friend. 
I returned home and read a book.”

This memory came to my mind suddenly, but as the daughter of a professor of literature, I couldn’t let it go without overanalyzing it. 
So I reread my memory.

“During winter break last year I reached home and lived a day of unbelievable significance; a true testament to how deeply SUA has changed my life:
I took my shoes off at the door because Taeko, my roommate freshman year, was from Japan.
I took a shower and turned the water off between cycles of shampoo and conditioner because there was no showerhead during the month I spent with Ariel in Nepal.
I went to visit my best friend and spoke Spanish with his mother for the first time.
I returned home and read a book on Tibet that would soon be the topic of my capstone.”

Each one of us has a day like this. Maybe it wasn’t last month or yesterday. Maybe it’s not tomorrow, or not for another ten years. But that day is coming and there’s not a single person on this stage who has not been profoundly affected, even in the most subtle of ways, by their time and experiences here.

This is a special day 2012. No matter how panicked, unhappy, numb, or sad we feel, when we look back on today, 10, 20, 30 years from now, we’re going to see this moment for what it is. We’re going to realize that there were NASA executives, prolific authors, famous scientists and UN representatives at our graduation. They were sitting right beside us, to our left and our right.

Even if we cannot see it clearly now, today, my beautiful octopi…

…who were first class of recruited athletes, who were almost put into triples junior year, who held a wedding during core, who started nerf wars, who were the first class to receive grants to travel abroad for learning cluster, whose laptops were recalled, who brought cheerleading, bhangra, basketball, informal classes, physical fitness, and student center parties to SUA, who held the first student play, who are going on to graduate school, internships, jobs, into medicine, law, social work, whose grass didn’t grow and whose fish were confiscated at the border, who have our own DJ, who struggled… who waited until the last minute to plan every performance but somehow always pulled through.

Today, my beautiful octopi, is just the beginning.

To infinity and beyond.