University of Vermont

Academic Ceremonies - Commencement

Greeting - Kennedy SGA Vice President

Emma E. Kennedy, Vice President of the Student Government Association

emma kennedy

Most of the time, when we talk about “Life Changing Events,” we talk about the “Big Occasions” like the birth of children, the death of a family member or close friend, weddings, and even graduations.  On each of those occasions, something tangible changes in our lives, and we can look back and say, “today this was different in my life, after today I will carry this change with me.” We know these events for what they are, and for how important they are, as they are happening.

But I think we are far more affected by the little unexpected moments whose impact on us is unpredictable and under-appreciated until well after they have happened.

If you stop and think about why you are who you are now and what shaped you into that particular person with those particular beliefs and desires, chances are good you’ll find yourself thinking about a series of seemingly innocuous experiences.

Despite all the planning we do to put ourselves down a certain path, we become who we are not purely by our own design, but in part due to happenstance—a series of uncontrollable encounters that change our ways of thinking, our aspirations, and our motivations. 

No matter how carefully we draw the roadmap to our own personal vision of success, we will never be able to account for these experiences. 

Unfortunately, many of us feel trapped in the consequences of our previous decisions, and we become reluctant to deviate from the familiar in favor of a new path. If we aren’t careful, we can tend to take comfort in the familiar and rigidly adhere to our habits. 

We need to resist that temptation.  As people who have demonstrated a profound love of learning, we more than most have been continually exposed to new ideas and perspectives.  By now, it should be second nature to us to be open to embracing change.

As we move forward after today, proudly bearing our hard-earned degrees, we should remember how we got to be who we are in the first place…and how much of that was not part of a plan. 

We should take comfort in acknowledging the malleability of our futures because the decisions we make now will not dictate the circumstances of the rest of our lives.

We always have choices.  We can always change.  My wish for everyone here today is that we all have the courage to let ourselves respond to the impact of the unexpected encounters in life, and to let ourselves deviate from the set course…even if it means feeling directionless for a little while.

Last modified May 25 2009 09:05 AM

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