Computer pioneer Michael Dell once said, “As you start your journey, the first thing you should do is throw away that store-bought map and begin to draw your own.” Friends, here we sit today, having thrown away that map on our journey toward college graduation, and with the opportunity to create our own map, both collectively and individually, for the road ahead.

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Looking out at the crowd, I see many faces – some that I know, most that I don’t. Each and every person here has played a role in some student’s life, though. On behalf of the graduating class, I would like to thank you all for being here and thank you all for the support that you have inevitably shown. Nothing great is accomplished alone, and I know that I, for one, could not have gotten to this point without the support of family and friends. Thank you also to the administrators and advisors who are here today. Finally, I would like to personally thank all of you – my classmates and friends. It has been quite a ride.

As freshmen, we came here unsure of what the future would hold. Many of us were forced to adjust. Knocked out of our comfort zone, we were living alone for the first time. Personally, my resident advisor was essential for setting the tone that would drive me to a successful college career. As freshmen, we made great friends that have lasted for our entire college experience.

Sophomore year brought new opportunities and new challenges. Fully settled in to our new environment, we had fun, engaged in activities, and became a fully invested part of the university family. We made big decisions like declaring a new major and plotting a course that would push us through our journey toward a legitimate career.

As juniors, we transitioned into leadership roles. Hey, we were the new kings of the campus, mentoring new students and preparing for what was to come. It was a scary time, with administrators preparing us both for our senior year and the exciting future that lies ahead. As seniors, we found out that the questions and uncertainty never stop. What will we do with our lives? Will we get into graduate school? Who is going to graduate and start the next great American business? The tension of senior year was palpable, but that didn’t stop us from having our fun.

And now we’re here, on graduation day, surrounded by family, friends, and the support they’ve given. It’s an exciting day, and an excellent chance to reflect on what lies ahead of us.
Some will attend graduate school. Others will jump right into the working world, getting a head start on that 401(k) and a cushy retirement. Some of us aren’t even sure what’s next, and that’s alright. Don’t let the world define what your role will be. The possibilities are countless, so don’t be in a rush to figure out where your place will be.

One thing that I do know is that this university has provided each of us with a small example of the world around us. This place is full of diversity, and we’ve been lucky to learn from our fellow classmates and grow by being placed into difficult situations. As you leave this place, reflect back on how the people around you have made you better. I know that personally, I have grown from my interactions with each of you.

Most of us here would not recognize our former selves from four years ago. This has been a time of tremendous growth and change, and I would like to think that we’ve gotten better, both as a class and as individuals. And today’s society will require us to constantly change and evolve. Here, today, we have the opportunity to take the lessons we have learned here and use them for a better future. To make an impact on the world – whether it’s in business, social work, the legal field, or somewhere in between – we’ll have to constantly update our knowledge.

As we go out into the world, we can always reflect on the times we have had at this place. Together, we have succeeded, failed, and above all else, grown. We laughed, cried, and grew up together. The lessons we have learned will influence the future we can have. As Michael Dell said, don’t be afraid to throw away the map and create your own. We have all done it here – surviving bad weather, making our away around nearly constant construction, and growing up in style. We’ve gotten jobs and read rejection letters. Cherish these experiences as you move forward, and no matter what, remember the truth that this university helped to instill in you – that you have the power and ability to chart your own course, make your own way, and throw away the map. Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.” Go out and create the next big thing, and let your deeds bring the true happiness that we all seek.