Faculty, students, family members, and all invited guests. It is a great honor and privilege for me to be here to today to give the commencement speech at this great school, Rumsey Hall, my alma mater.
I would like to start with a HUGE round of applause for the graduating class of 2012 — you did it!
Wow it was 12 years ago, when I was in one of your seats, dressed just like I am today in the graduating class of 2000. Then, I was a skinny 14-year-old senior sporting a fresh mini-afro, with a smile full with braces and ready to move on.
Memories of my Rumsey days are still fresh in my mind, as if it were yesterday. Let me take a little stroll down memory lane and give you an idea of what the world and Rumsey was like when I was here.
NO CELL PHONES – so no texting; No IPODS, and No GPS – I remember we had to use something called ‘a map’ to get here. Yes it was like the Stone Ages! I really don’t know how we managed back then! You guys can’t say that I’m old – I’m only 26 years old.
When I first arrived on campus, I didn’t know what to expect as a first time boarding student. I came as an 8th grader in “New Dorm” and in my senior year, I lived in Hull House. Let’s hear it for Hull House!
I remember all the dorms had only one “pay phone” at the end of the hallways; so when we needed to make a phone call, we had to wait in line for our turn. What an experience that was! But looking back, it was a good learning experience! I definitely learned how to be patience and respect other people’s time whenever I got on the phone.
Here at Rumsey, I was given the opportunity to interact and make friends with students from all over the world. For sports, I played Soccer, Basketball and Tennis. I also had the honor of being elected to “The Senior Committee,” as well as being a Prefect. I was a Red; and no offensive to the Blues, but we the ‘Reds’ always beat the Blues in competition — let’s hear it for the Reds! Cookie Line was one of the highlights of the day. And another highlight was ringing the bell whenever we beat the Indian Mountain School.
Looking around the campus now, I have noticed that so much has changed over the years: The campus has really expanded with lots of new buildings, and has a larger student population. But the one thing that has not changed and will continue to be the same is the nurturing atmosphere of Rumsey Hall. Thank you to the faculty and staff for your hard work and dedication to make Rumsey such a wonderful place every year.
Class of 2012, I want you to think about the day you first got here and how you look now. You’ve definitely grown up physically and you are certainly more mature.
As you leave Rumsey, you are going to be starting new chapters in your life and going in different directions. Before you leave here today, I want to tell you a few things that I know will help you in your journey of life.
Now, if you’re falling asleep or just wishing for me to hurry up with my speech so you can go grab some cookies at the reception lunch, please WAKE UP. Lend me your ears for a few more minutes so I can share with you a story about what happened to me.
Here is my story…
After I left Rumsey, I started lagging behind academically and not pulling my weight as expected of me in high school. In fact, it was quite frustrating to my parents, teachers and professors who knew I had great potential to succeed. I went from being considered one of the best students in my classes to an underachiever. I took things for granted and didn’t take my studies seriously.
I was like the Hare, from the familiar story, “The Tortoise and the Hare”. (I’m sure you all know this story) The Hare, who was ahead of the race decided to take a nap on the way. He thought the tortoise would never catch up with him. The Hare overslept and the tortoise ended up winning the race. Fortunately for me, and unlike the Hare, I woke up from my “slumber”, started to pull my weight and managed to get into college.
College days were pretty good, and I was doing alright until disaster struck in my family. In 2005, one early October morning, my mother called and told me to come home to see my father who had suddenly fallen ill. I immediately rushed home from school and found my dad in intensive care in a coma and on a respirator. He had suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed. His condition was so severe that he was not able speak, move or eat. He was in a vegetative state with a feeding tube in his stomach. At 19 years old, that was very difficult for me to deal with.
For 2 ½ years I watched my dad go through this condition. His illness bothered me so much that my grades began to slip again and I thought about giving up in school. Unfortunately my dad’s condition never improved, and in March of my last semester in college, I got the heartbreaking news that my father had passed away.
Though I was devastated, I told myself I had to finish college on a strong note. I thought about Rumsey Hall and core values I learned here: Effort, Attitude and Respect. I bounced back. I put in the effort, studied hard, and as a result, I finished that last semester with high honors by achieving a 3.7 on a 4.0 scale;. - the highest GPA I attained in college.
I graduated from Temple University that May with a degree in Engineering. That same year I was fortunate enough to be employed by Johnson Controls Inc. as a Project Engineer and recently been promoted to Regional Account Executive.
So why am I telling you my story? I have shared this story because I want it to instill confidence in you and encourage you to achieve your goals and dreams. There are times you will face challenges and obstacles, and when you do encounter them, don’t give up and don’t forget Rumsey’s core values.
Here are some words of wisdom that I have been able to draw upon that have helped me. The words are: “Effort” – “Attitude” and “Respect”. In that order it is E A R spells EAR.
The first is “E” for “Effort” –As you know, Effort” has been the motto at Rumsey and is stressed and monitored on a daily basis. Did you make the effort list? This question is not always about the grade you made, but about the energy and push behind what you have done. I want you remember that – EFFORT is the MASTER key that unlocks or opens all doors. You may even want to put in extra effort by doing volunteer work - Why? – Because I believe volunteering your time is a great way to give back to the community. In volunteering, you learn a lot about yourself and learn from other people while doing so.
2nd is “A” for Attitude - How do you start your day? Do you have the right attitude? Having the right attitude is another key that opens doors for you. A positive attitude helps you deal with the difficulties in your life no matter what the circumstance may be. With a positive attitude you can turn your adversities into opportunities. I came across this quote by Lou Holtz, a hall of fame football coach from the University of Notre Dame, who said “Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." Therefore, when you have a positive attitude, you can become a winner. Referring back to the same story; “The Hare and the Tortoise”, the tortoise, though a slow animal by nature, kept a positive attitude and kept on going until he overtook the hare and won the race. So my advice is for you is to be humble and have a positive attitude, towards everything you do in life.
3rd is “R” for Respect – Today for me, in the professional world, when someone new comes into a room I still stand up and greet him or her with a handshake; just like we were taught here at Rumsey. Being on time is another form of respect. I remember not liking the punishments associated with lateness here at Rumsey. Yes, I had a few work details too – and they weren’t fun at all! However, I learned from them and have learned to be punctual. So remember to be courteous and respectful in everything that you do.
So my friends, Class of 2012, these are my words of wisdom for you. Effort. Attitude. Respect. With these ingredients you have a good recipe for success.
Congratulations! Have fun, enjoy your journey to great success in life and remember Rumsey!
Thank You and Good Luck!