Well, we’re finally here. The start of a new year. The start of a new season. The start of a new journey. It feels good doesn’t it?
But just how good does it feel? Does it feel as good as making yourself uncomfortable? I know you’re all confused as to what I am talking about, so let me further explain.
Being uncomfortable makes me think of a few different things. Things like communicating with someone who doesn’t come from the same background as I do, or sitting in a classroom of people who don’t look like me and don’t articulate information in the same way … It also makes me think of that tiny, little bed I stuff myself into every night, but we’re not going to talk about that right now.
The point is, the feeling I’m speaking of is in the moments following that uncomfortable situation. The change that results from the challenge. That gratifying idea of knowing you can be thrown in the fire and push through it without breaking a sweat. I stand before you today to say that I believe in you. Every single one of you. You made it this far, but this is NOT our destination. We’ve risen to this point, but we must raise our bar higher. Not only because we have the ability to, but because we have no choice.
I’ve been facing challenges my entire life, but there was no challenge like coming to this institution with one thing on my brain: sink or swim. So to the kids in this room like me who had nowhere to turn after high school, but were blessed with a second chance, bounce back, change the cycle. Be in my shoes by the time your senior year comes around. Find a group of people as motivated as you are and push each other to be the best you can be.
As I bring this to a close, I leave you with a few challenges.
To the advisers and administrators, I challenge you to hear the voices of our student body and accommodate us the absolute best you can to make our time on this campus times we will cherish for a lifetime.
To the professors, I challenge you to spend extra time with your students and exhaust every option when it comes to passing your knowledge on to our generation.
To my fellow students, do not settle. Put in all the work you need to in order to succeed, and once you’ve done that, put in even more.
And to the ones that come from nothing, break the cycle. Set a new standard. That’s more than just proving the people wrong who said you wouldn’t make it this far. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about staying here when they said you’d come running back home. It’s about that look on your mother’s face when you become the first person in your family to graduate from college. It’s about looking your doubters in their faces and asking, “What can you say now?”
Finally, this challenge is for everyone in the room. It’s no secret that we are in the midst of trying times. Everywhere we turn, we each see our people hurting each other. More focused on what makes us different, than what makes us alike. When does that cycle change? I say it starts with us. In a time when it seems like unity is falling apart, I challenge us to come together. I challenge us not to see color. I challenge us to hear the story of someone who doesn’t look the way we do. I challenge us to choose LOVE over HATE, and let that decision change every one of our lives for the better.
Tyler is a senior majoring in psychology and a captain of the football team.