Good afternoon classmates, professors, friends, former awkward hookups, losers I kicked out of rush, and family. We’re gathered here today to celebrate the end of an era.
For many of you, the years past have been a deeply rewarding scholastic endeavor that both broadened your mind and moralistic spirit. Through countless hours of academic turmoil, you strove through the tribulations and emerged as a valued member of society, clutching that shiny piece of paper tightly in hand as it boasts of your superior knowledge in a professionally irrelevant field.
From your first steps on this immaculate campus, you corralled yourselves through public residences and public transportation day after day, hoping to find some sense and meaning in life beyond that which your Bachelor of History provides. While your search may have been fruitless, you enter the real world hoping to find someone out there who can see value in your ability to accurately convey the exact composition of George Washington’s artificial teeth.
For those of us here who went Greek, it was an entirely different story. The past four-plus years could best be described as a senseless liver-blasting blur, highlighted by questionable sexual decisions, regular disturbances of the peace, and enough high-proof alcohol to make Gary Busey seem like a pretty cool dude.
While the independents among you spent many a night slaving over a given subject, hoping to grasp deeper levels of enlightenment, we spent our hungover mornings blatantly copying off the exams of the socially retarded. While you slaved over hundreds of pages of material, all we had to do was get in touch with an older member of our organization to get an in-depth rundown of exactly what to expect on the exam. 95% of my college career, I didn’t even have to tie my own fucking shoes if I didn’t want to.
Some may argue that by going Greek I somehow sacrificed my own capacity for independence. By joining a rigidly structured and admittedly homogenized system, it’s easy to understand why the uninformed might have this view. In reality, this is one of the most common misconceptions the world of the GDI attempts to stamp upon every Greek they encounter. Just because a group wears similar brands of clothing, and tends to frequent the same social functions, does not mean that we somehow are just a mass of faceless alcoholic drones with no motivation other than chasing the next buzz.
Sure, I’ve spent a good chunk of my college career falling into the “alcoholic drone” category. I’m no engineer, so there isn’t a better way to justify the extra year capturing my degree required. However, enjoying the occasional shit-show/light random shit on fire kind of night does not speak for my character in the way many of you probably assume.
The commonly recurring mistake here lies in people’s inability to see college for what it truly is. There are plenty of skill-based degrees available at our fine university, but most students choose instead to follow a broader field of specialization. Each and every one of us spends our four years pursuing this subject, and most of us are eventually rewarded with a certificate proving we know a shit-ton about something that clearly does not arrive packaged with a convenient post-grad job offer.
So why do we do it? If any student can skim by just taking hilariously worthless classes like “The Films of Steven Spielberg,” and “Bugs and People,” then can one truly say the value of college lies solely around the information you gather? Maybe that college degree means a little more than “Hey! This little paper proves I’m qualified to become a Political Scientist!”
The clear conclusion lies in the fact that college is simply not just an exercise in fact gathering. College is an entire experience, where we break free from the bonds of our hometown and parents for the first time in our lives. Just a few years ago we all gathered here in droves, clueless and functionally retarded, with little to no understanding of the basic principles of collegiate life. By building relationships with each other, and subsequently making mistakes that varied from hilarious to tragic, we cement our personal identities into something far more than High School could ever have created.
So maybe when that potential job ad you find online leads off with a big, bold “Bachelor’s Degree Required” header, it isn’t just about proving you can regurgitate useless knowledge at a professor’s whim. Maybe it’s more of a “Hey, you aren’t a socially inept idiot who never left his home town after high school.” By proving that we can go headfirst into the tempestuous whirlwind of college and emerge from the other side with nothing but a few battle scars and a minor recurring hangover, we have ironically somehow proven our value to the world.
All college is, has been, and ever will be is a series of opportunities. While nearly everyone had the opportunity to create a massive extended network through the Greek system, only a select few rose to the challenge, seeing the long-term benefits clearly down the line. We’ve all had the “opportunity” to skip studying for double-digit numbers of beers. We’ve all had the opportunity to prove our worth through outside participation and internships.
A bachelor’s degree is not a house. It cannot comfort or sustain you the moment you receive it. In the same way, it is not an open field. By achieving it, you are not suddenly granted the ability to follow in whatever direction you choose. Your bachelor’s degree is more like a hallway. You wander down it for however many years, exploring various other opportunities along the way. No two people follow the same path, but through our connections we find those who walk a similar route. Once you exit the other side, there’s no turning back, and one is forced to live their remaining days facing the consequences of the path they chose.
As I near the end of my proverbial hallway, I can say with utmost certainty that every little detour has been worth it. Through all of the blissful highs, and tragic lows, we all now see ourselves emerging into the cruel and scary “real world,” which unfortunately is nothing like MTV’s interpretation of it. While many of us do not yet know the route our lives will take from here, we can all take comfort in knowing that the choices we made we’re not only ridiculously reckless and fun, but also held value in the building of our adult character.
As we all leave here today, for the first time as college graduates, let us all remember the cringe-worthy taste of plastic-bottled vodka, and hope that we never face such torment again. Let’s keep in mind the nights we stayed up too late, the mornings we slept in too long, and the beautiful Spring days we spent huddled in a dingy bar simply because our desire to get drunk far outweighed our desire to be a productive member of society. All we can do now is get dangerously hammered to celebrate, and wish each other luck in our futures. Just whatever you guys do, don’t play that motherfucking Vitamin C Graduation song at the bar tonight.