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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

2014 Senior Class Speaker

Ángeles Garduño

June 07, 2014

Parents, family, friends, esteemed faculty and staff, my name is Ángeles Garduño, and today it's my honor and privilege to welcome you on behalf of the graduating Class of 2014. Since I have your attention for the next three minutes -- not the length of my speech, but an average of attention spans at graduations -- I wanted to take the time to thank my parents, Perfecto and Hermelinda, and the rest of my family for their immense support.

Los agradezco tanto que están aquí. Ustedes son la razón que me graduó hoy.  

If you didn't understand that, I encourage you to pursue studies in Spanish. But to everyone else joining us here today, know you are part of the reason that we are willing to dress in all black on this lovely day.  

To my fellow classmates, congratulations. We've not only survived senioritis and Flunk Day, but, after today, we are finally going to embrace the true meaning of "freedom to flourish." If you're like me, you've probably tried to decipher the meaning of this simplistically complicated term in between Gizmo dates, all nighters, work, naps, parties, and, of course, classes. In the last four years, I've postulated that "freedom to flourish" is actually an arbitrary, non-sensical term that has been embedded into Knox culture because, well, it looks great on the website. Luckily, I have since come up with a more flattering definition.

About five weeks ago, like most of you have done in one form or another, I found myself studying with a group of friends when our honest efforts to get all of our work done at a reasonable hour morphed into this vivid and intellectually stimulating conversation. We voiced our concerns about slaving over work for a measly piece of paper that seems to cost thousands of dollars to print off. Conventionally, this piece of paper is known as a college degree. And it was during this fully fledged procrastination session that I had a moment of clarity.  I realize that every experience at Knox -- good and bad -- has helped me shape the person I've become. At that moment I could finally embrace the true meaning of our motto.

I'll start by explaining what "freedom to flourish" is not. I, like you, would love to believe that "freedom to flourish" is to automatically power Knox graduates to a well paying job after graduation or ensure their ability to repay their loans while following their dreams, but it doesn't. And it won't. Not on its own anyway.  "Freedom to flourish" does not guarantee the support and comfort we expect when we express our individuality, because we already stick out like sore thumbs in this world. "Freedom to flourish" does not mean Knox has always fostered an environment in which we've been able to prosper happily and easily, but what it does mean is simple. Our motto lets us know that while at Knox, we've honed and developed an invaluable skill set. One we will need for the rest of our lives to survive and make it on our own.  

At some point in the future you will probably find yourself in a pointless conversation with a boss, a friend, maybe even a spouse. I urge you to tap into the patience you developed during Freshman Preceptorial. This is probably the first time you ever had to face a group of diverse and strongly opinionated strangers. You learn that "think outside the box" doesn't even begin to describe the complicated process of thinking that Knox College students employ on a day-to-day basis. It's more like stomp the box to the ground until it's no longer a box and then begin to question its relation to what you were thinking about in the first place.  

This process, ladies and gentlemen, has allowed us to view the world through a different lense. We enjoy fact-checking, correcting, and challenging other's opinions, but I know that we are a very understanding class. So, in the future, remember that these seemingly pointless conversations aren't pointless at all. Though you may forget there is some value in hearing what others have to say.

 Another example of how our liberal arts education has helped mold us into well-rounded individuals can be explained by snowpocalypse. For those of you who missed out, here is a brief recap. It snowed. A lot. And as underclassmen we were barricaded in the quads without electricity. Classes were cancelled so ... some students took the weather advisory seriously and stayed indoors. Others took it upon themselves to create their own version of Flunk Day. The moral of this story is that we are survivors.  The weather will probably never stand in our way of making the most out of this life. Two rained out Flunk Days is proof of that. At times you may probably feel unprepared for the multiple challenges that lie ahead. I'd like to take this moment to remind you that you can do it.  

The loss of Tundin Luwani -- though painful and tragic -- is testament that Knox students are resilient. We didn't face this challenge alone and, if you look to all of the remarkable individuals sitting next to you in graduation gowns, remember you will never have to. The relationships you've established at Knox with faculty, staff, and your peers will serve you well today and in the future. No matter what adversity can't and won't stand in your way.  

If your dream job hasn't landed in your laps, that's alright. You're more than qualified, but nothing in this world comes easy so keep working. I hope after Knox, no one chooses to conform, because our differences are what made this institution what it is today. You are Knox ... whether you like it or not. And I'm sure the real world will be able to tell anyway, but never forget that. It's alright to have questioned our trimester system. It's alright to have questioned our administration. And it's alright to have questioned the value of our degree. Because that was our way of ensuring this experience would be a valuable investment.  

Knox is a place like no other. As you commence the rest of your life remember that everyone -- and I do mean everyone -- has been afforded the opportunity to freely chase their dreams and flourish in their own way. We made it. We are the graduating Class of 2014.

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