Commencement: Your First Post-Graduation Mentorship Moment|
To the newly-graduating Class of 2012, I offer my congratulations.
This upcoming Sunday-May 6, 2012- will mark the sixth anniversary of my college graduation. News anchor Kathleen Cunningham Matthews was our commencement speaker. Ms. Matthews emphasized to the Class of 2006 the importance of charity and community. For me, the most memorable part of her address was to take “the road less traveled” and to “go for it.”
Be proud of what you have accomplished, regardless of what others may say.
Sitting there with my classmates, my red fishnet stockings and black Doc Marten boots peeking out from under my black commencement gown (yes, I was one of those college kids), I felt a sudden rush that has since rarely been duplicated. I genuinely felt that I could accomplish each and every goal I had set for myself. I could be a celebrated writer. I could change the world.
To inspire is the absolute modus operandi of any commencement speaker, and Ms. Matthews was, at least in my opinion, highly successful. Graduating with a B.A. in English was not an easy task, and by that I am not speaking of the coursework, the deadlines, or the mountains 20+ page papers. I am referring to the naysayers, those who accused me of wasting a golden opportunity to earn a valuable degree. There were even those who asked how I would decorate the cardboard box in which I was sure to inhabit. I began to question my decision to pursue a degree in English, and whether all of my hard work would ever amount to anything. Thank you, Ms. Matthews, for your inspiring words that, to this day, lighten the negativity to which most new liberal arts graduates are subjected.
Remember that it is your hard work that led you to walk across that stage.
I had not attended a college graduation since my own in 2006. Recently, though, I attended the ceremony at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. Emory Shaw Campbell, former Director of Penn Center on St. Helena Island (and advocate of the preservation of the culture and legacy of the Gullah people), was the commencement speaker for the Class of 2012.
Campbell encouraged graduates to be receptive to diverse cultural values and to utilize what they had acquired during their college career to better serve their community and the world. He inspired excitement and pride as he detailed the changes that have occurred both locally and globally, and how this year’s graduates are such an intricate part of those changes.
Whomever your commencement speaker is, give him or her your undivided attention.
Sitting in the audience, I began to grow nostalgic for my own college years. I silently began to reminisce at how those years helped me evolve into the woman I am today. Ms. Matthews’ words echoed in my head, as they often have when I find myself a little less than satisfied with the path on which I have been traveling for the past six years.
Then, it hit me: I’ve done pretty well for myself since graduation. I have continued to evolve, seek new opportunities and find new ways to help others. I am proud of what I have accomplished and am eager to take on the challenges which lay ahead. So to all graduating in the upcoming weeks, I say this:
Hang on every word at your Commencement. Let the moments speak to you. And when, after graduation, you come across obstacles that seem too difficult, let the words of your speaker come back to you. Be inspired.
Ashley Hamm is a natural-born writer. Born and raised in Beaufort, SC, Ashley studied English and Writing at University of South Carolina. She has been a full-time litigation paralegal ever since, and also contributes to Eat Sleep Play Beaufort.