June 02, 2012
On behalf of the class, I'd like all the family, friends, distinguished faculty, staff, and visitors for joining us on this special day. But I'm here to address my fellow Knoxians, Prairie Fire-ers, Lords and Ladies of the Flunk, Class of 2012, and, most importantly, my friends.
I don’t necessarily think of myself as a man capable of offering valuable life lessons on the road ahead, which is why I considered lifting large, uncited sections of Steve Jobs' 2005 Commencement address at Stanford. But after thinking about that a little more, I realized two things: number one, that would violate the Honor Code, and, number two, it would make everyone wonder how a 22-year-old could talk so authoritatively and in the first-person about the computer industry in the 1980s. And then you'd be distracted. So, as a result, I'm afraid I have to try and be somewhat original.
Coincidentally, the first person I saw when I arrived at Knox was my roommate, Sam Bernstein, who will always bleed purple and yellow. We had sufficiently stalked each other enough on Facebook over the course of the summer that we were pretty sure we knew what the other one looked like. We cautiously approached each other on the sidewalk between CFA and the baseball field, making eyes you would when meeting a blind date. "Sam," I said. "Greg," he replied. And rejecting my extended hand in the spirit of Chris Farley from Tommy Boy said something along the lines of "Roommates can't shake hands. Roommates gotta hug." And like that, we were best friends. Though simultaneously breaking out into Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl" while unpacking helped, too.
I bring that up because I think it shows what Knox is all about in a scene. And I don't mean socially awkward behavior, though, as we all know, that's a large part of life here. This is a community unlike any other, and it's because of the people that comprise it. The mere fact that an association with this institution serves as a foundation for life-long personal connections attest to the uniqueness and the depth of Knox's character.
It's the people, you, my classmates, that made Knox the experience it was for me. I hope I didn’t realize too late in my time here that the phrase "wasting time" is extremely relative. Sure, I have wasted time watching Always Sunny [in Philadelphia] reruns with my friends instead of writing papers. But I have also wasted time writing papers instead of spending time with people that are important to me. So the question we need to ask ourselves is "did we waste the right amount of time here?"
And now that our time here is done, what next? The majority of us probably can’t answer that question right now, but that shouldn't concern us. Yes, big challenges are ahead, but think of the challenges we've already faced collectively: 16 weeks of work in 10 weeks' time; four Galesburg winters; morning class the day after Flunk Day (maybe you faced that one). The point is that we faced things we once thought were insurmountable only to find that they weren’t. So moving forward there is no reason that will stop being true. Just being where we are today is a huge testament to our work ethic, dedication, resilience, creativity, and durability. The things we've learned together and the things we've experienced together help set the stage for what we'll do together after Knox.
I'm sure I'm not the only one to have been intimidated by some of the things our alumni have done. Their accomplishments are truly amazing. But at one point they were sitting where we are right now. They were studying somewhere in the libray. Drinking cheap beer in a dark frat basement. Crawling out of bed for Flunk Day scares. And doing all the things we should, and maybe shouldn’t, have done with our time here. And they all survived.
It’s so cliché, Class of 2012, but I have a challenge for us. Go do the amazing things Knox alumni do. Those that came before us set the bar quite high. It is our job to make sure it remains there. Keep loving life, this school, and each other. Twenty years from now I hope we all will have accomplished things sufficiently intimidating to current students. But at the same time, I hope we inspire them. I hope we befriend them. And then I hope we hire them.
We may be leaving this unbelievably special place, but we cannot let it leave us. We've been here so long and invested so much that, like it or not, the Admission office is right -- we are Knox. And we will always be Knox, no matter where we are or what we do. Yes, it's time to move on, but it is not time to forget. Centuries from now, let no man say the spirit of Flunk did not burn eternal in the Class of 2012. Together, we move onward. Congratulations to all of you.