In the two years and two days that have passed since, I have grown up more than I can even believe. I've lived in four states, worked at three different theatres, and figured out how to be an adult (sort of). But no matter how old I get, I'll always remember my four years in Harrisonburg with incredible joy. I won't say they were "the best years of my life" because I'm sure there are wonderful years yet to come.. but they were special, that's for sure.
This year, I have only a few friends left at JMU, but for them, I want to share the same words of wisdom I gave my fellow graduates 732 days ago, when I was blessed with the amazing opportunity to be the senior speaker at graduation.
Congratulations to the JMU class of 2010! I'm proud of you all!
“Ardent desire for rank, fame, or power, desire to achieve a particular end, desire for activity or exertion.”
As I look out on the sea of purple that makes up my graduating class, JMU’s Centennial Class, It’s all I see.
I see it in fellow theatre majors who’ve spent hours in an old turkey hatchery directing and designing, building and rehearsing their shows. In tour guides who will walk backwards through driving rain just so that one prospective student can have the best possible visit to JMU.
I see it a nursing major who spent more of her senior year driving to and from a hospital in Charlottesville than she did in her own apartment. In roommates who stayed in on weekends to write lesson plans, case studies, and theses. In friends who’ve poured their last year of college into fundraising and planning, working together to build a school in Uganda.
You are ambitious people. Not only dreamers, but movers and shakers too. If I can be really cliché for a moment, I’ll even say that you “are the change.”
However, as I’ve pondered what the future might hold for us ambitious folks, I’ve found a surprising new definition.
Since, next to a cheesy dictionary definition, every graduation speech needs an inspirational quote, bear with me as I read you a bit of wisdom I recently stumbled upon. A mantra, if you will.
“Make it your ambition to live a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, so that your daily life will win the respect of outsiders”
You who know me are already laughing. The last word anyone would use to describe me is “quiet.” If you don’t know me… You’ve probably heard me. Whether screaming the fight song at football games or standing by Chip’s, harassing cars to “honk for Choices” … I can get a bit loud. I was barely allowed to walk at my last graduation after a suspension for “inciting a riot” And yes, I was that girl dressed like Britney Spears on the commons a few months ago asking random strangers, “Y’all seen Sean Preston??”
A “quiet life” has never really been my goal.
Yet this quote says it should be my Ambition.
“Desire for rank, fame, power.” The original Greek used here is Philotimeomai. Love of Honor.
This we pursue with quietness? Is anyone else confused?
I recently finished a book called Velvet Elvis, weird title, I know, but an inspiring work nonetheless. Anyway, after recalling the story of a woman who moved into the inner city & bit by bit fed and clothed her new neighbors, the author, Rob Bell, makes a great point:
“It is the quiet, humble, stealth acts that change things,” he says, “The kinds of people who change the world… they improvise & adapt & innovate… they don’t make a lot of noise and they don’t draw attention to themselves”
Class of 2008. I challenge you. Be these kind of people. Let’s stop talking about change and live it with “quiet lives” of great significance.
Some of you are going on to graduate programs, some have jobs lined up, others plan to travel, see the world. If you’re a theatre major like me, you have no idea what’s next. I leave you all with a word of caution: as you set off with your huge dreams and plans, your high hopes for worldwide change, don’t forget about the smaller world around you.
You may never get out of suburban America.
Wherever you end up: whether it’s New York or London; Uganda, Africa, or Harrisonburg, Virginia. Change your world.
Love your neighbors. Your co-workers. Your family. Work hard at whatever you do and look for opportunities to quietly fight injustice whenever you see it. Live a quiet life. A life of humility, service, and love, and you will see change.
Thank you. And go get ‘em, Dukes!