2013 Senior Class Speaker

Alex Uzarowicz

June 08, 2013

Knox College Commencement

To the Class of 2013 -- We made it! Congratulations! I can see a lot of happy faces and all of them well-earned. We are definitely surrounded with joy from parents, friends, faculty, and loved ones. It's a big day, no doubt. It's a day to be proud of and one that we will remember for the rest of our lives. It's a day to be thankful to our dear faculty, to all of our friends that helped us along the way, and our dearest parents and relatives that helped many of us make this education possible. I would like to personally thank some individuals that helped me so much in these years at Knox. First off, the obvious one, Class of 2013.

I'm humbled and honored to have been picked for this occasion. Even though I came in with the Class of 2014, I feel overwhelmed with the friendship and support that I've gotten from so many of you. Thank you. I also want to thank Professor Lane Sunderland who has been a phenomenal mentor, advisor, and a wonderful friend. I would want to take this opportunity to thank all of my brothers from Sigma Chi -- I will miss you all. And a shout to my own my family here and abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in Polish (I know....my biography is a little hectic): Kocham was bardzo! And, last but not least, I would not have done it without His grace and love. God's awesome presence in my life gives me a lot of motivation in my day to day. Faith keeps me going.

This a day to be thankful ... but also of introspection.

This is a day that makes us think seriously about our own individual lives. How far we've come. I'm sure you can't stop thinking about what's next. What is life going to throw at me? How am I going to get a job? How long will it take me to pay off my loans? Am I going to have to live with mom and dad until I can start making a living? These are tough questions and ones that require a lot of thinking. Stop. Take a deep breath.

I think we should look at today in a different way. Let's look at our past. My favorite political thinker Edmund Burke once said, "Those who don't know history are bound to repeat it." I would apply it to today, that those who don't know their past and haven't learned from it are bound to repeat it. These last four years shaped who we are today and what we are heading towards.

Obviously, start with the positives like Flunk Day (newsflash to everyone out there, it doesn't exist), studying abroad, cool Union Board events, the Senior meetings/Senior week, a long chat with a professor and then those not so positive events, a death in our community like that of Tundun Lawani who was struck by a drunk driver....a heart-breaking event, perhaps a loss of a family member during the four years and struggling to keep up with the course work on top of all that, or a significantly weak grade in a course where you put your 110 percent and didn't get the grade you wanted. These years at Knox shaped our lives; changed our lives and all of these things both good and bad are meant for a reason. A reason to become better members of this country and ultimately this world.

Knox is part of many reasons. I see Knox as part of our plan. My own being a plan of public service that Knox helped me grow by committing to community service around the area and working together with students to spread political activism and even with those across the aisle. It introduced me to my Peace Corps ambitions for 2014.

But I've had my own share of obstacles, for sure though. Life is not always pretty. Being an immigrant was no easy task. I came to the United States in February 2003 from Buenos Aires, Argentina; a country that fell into deep crisis in 2001 where people ransacked supermarkets because they couldn't afford to eat. The government hurt many people and encouraged families like my own to leave the country and leave our loved ones behind. But this happened for a reason. It got me into a mindset that you have to help those in need and to try to make a difference in the world.

Knox is right. We have the "Freedom to Flourish" in order to connect our own dots, our own life experiences, and reach for our own goals. It was great seeing a campus so diverse with honor students writing papers as long as dissertations and seeing them also join the Terpsichore Dance program or the Frisbee team. Knox gave us the chance to do what we wanted while reaching for our own goals. That's what flourishing means -- to have the ability to do what our hearts and minds keep telling us what to do.

And I wanted to take advantage of this day, and let you guys into a secret. For those who don't know, I founded the Knox Conservatives group -- yes we do exist. I have written conservative columns for the last three years for The Knox Student and two years with The College Conservative. But I need to be honest with you all. It took me this long, but I feel the need to come clean. I've flourished, I'm a liberal. Ladies and gentlemen, I've seen the light. I've finally subscribed to The New York Times, added An Inconvenient Truth to my list of favorite movies, I listen to NPR everyday, and no, President Reagan did not win the Cold War, sorry to my conservative friend, Professor Hulett. And yes, I even voted for Obama. This has all been a farce. I know, shocking. And I'm sorry to have misled you.

No. Jokes aside, I'm still a conservative -- sorry for getting your hopes up. But there is merit to this. We've all grown as individuals. Take a look at your own personal experience. Close your eyes....and think of your first day here at Knox. I had the long hippie hair, a beard (that's what I called it), and knew no one here, and didn't know myself.

I'm looking at this crowd now and WOW. I know that I'm surrounded by so many friends -- faculty, students, and now my fellow alumni. We've changed and we've grown. I've learned, for example, that dissent matures and strengthens personal values and in doing so made me grow within my own perspectives. I can say that we've matured in this institution. We understand that the way you come in as a freshman is not the same as a graduating alumni. The fact is we understand the need to change. The more we change, the better we are at realizing that we need to adapt to what life throws at us. That's college's greatest lesson: figuring out the need to change.

That brings us to what's next. How should we use our experience here at Knox in the future? We need to be able to change our attitudes to improve the lives of others. One in six Americans live in poverty. We should be able to adapt ourselves and promote social justice. We have a world in climate change. We should be able to practice more environmentally sustainable life choices. We have a society embroiled in violence. We should be able to stand for peace and justice in our country.

We have a personal responsibility. The time to delegate others to do and do what we've been doing because that's the way it's been done, that's over. As pollster and political junkie Nate Silver said it very well in his own commencement speech (just so that I don't get Honor Boarded), "Don't do what the previous generation did, do better. Take their failures and turn it into your opportunity." Knox gave us the tools necessary in our fields of study to exceed wherever we go. Our society is facing many issues, but these issues are our opportunities. We must use our own life experience for the benefit of others. I have full confidence we will.

Congratulations Class of 2013, not because of what we've done, but because of what we are going to do!

Thank you.