My remarks as prepared for delivery to the 2016 graduating class of the University of St. Thomas:
Dr. Ivany, members of the board, esteemed guests, my fellow graduates:
We made it. The culmination of years of effort. Commencement! This joyous day has been long in coming. Achievements and accomplishments of this significance do not come easily. It has taken hard work, sacrifice, the help of family and friends, prayer, divine intervention and most of all, a significant amount of resources – as all worthwhile investments do.
Congratulations. You’ve reached the mountaintop. It only gets harder from here. Studying, papers, and exams will seem easy and more manageable by comparison when you encounter the challenges of a career, family and the future. But in spite of the variety of these imposing trials, almost nothing will have prepared you more than your education at the University of St. Thomas. In a very real way, receiving an education here is the equivalent of training for a mountain climbing expedition.
There’s a reason we distinguish mountains from hills. Moses didn’t climb a hill to receive the 10 commandments. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t say “I may not get to the hilltop…” Sir Edmund Hillary wasn’t interested in climbing Everest Hill. Mountains are distinguished by their sheer size and elevation. They capture our imagination and they define our geography. They are irresistible challenges. Likewise, our own limitations, our own fears, our own insecurities were the biggest challenges we overcame. We rose above ourselves to become people capable of achieving the needed level of success. Being here has made us better.
Some of you started at UST as freshmen – newly-minted high school graduates. Some, as graduates with freshly-printed degrees. But some of you took the long way round, with false starts, detours and stops along the way, and broke through the vellum ceiling, even while working and running a business, with a spouse and children like me. Some of you may even have had to wait until your own children finished their schooling before you could begin your academic careers. In any case, whichever road you took to get here, you did so by following your heart, by working hard, by applying yourself and by pursuing your vision of success and achievement.
The lessons we take away from school as we go out into the world will serve to lay the groundwork for future successes. As graduates of the University of St. Thomas, perhaps the most valuable life-changing things we have gained are the courage and confidence to know that there is no challenge we cannot overcome and no mountain we cannot conquer.
For many of you, long into the future your children and grandchildren will look back with pride and say “my father, my grandmother was the first to graduate from college and I follow in their footsteps.” You are blazing a trail that will be followed for generations to come.
Being here has proven to us that the formation of our character and the values we personify far outweigh any academic instruction we could ever receive. The University of St. Thomas accepts nothing less for its students than graduating them as leaders. No matter what you finally become, no matter where you finally end up, you carry that passion and that legacy within you; a legacy that becomes the key to unlocking your true destiny. Doing so requires honesty, candor, and a faithful and true gaze into the core of our being. Doing so requires that we stand and be counted.
So I ask you to stand up in your classes and your homes, stand up in your churches; stand up with your family. Stand up and make a difference. Stand up and be the difference. We are the University of St. Thomas – that is what we do.
We stand on the frontier, the sandy shore of a new and undiscovered country, ready to be shaped and molded by the courageous and those bold enough to seize it. A frontier full of potential and promise, where dreams can come true… The Future. Step ashore. Plant your flag and claim it. Take it; it’s yours.
Thank you, God bless you and may God continue to bless the University of St. Thomas.