- Why Colby?
- Request Information
- College Profile
- Student Perspectives
- Alumni Success
- For Counselors
- Contact Admissions
Whoa. Okay, I know we had to move this thing inside and all that, but there are a lot more people here right now than I've been seeing in my nightmares for the past few weeks. But that's a good thing, I suppose, and I want to tell you why.
I look out on this crowd today and I see the faces of a lot of mothers and fathers. I can tell you, on behalf of all of us, that there is no one to whom this day belongs more than all of you. From the very beginning, the way that you have led us toward.... Okay, I'm just thinking about this now, and actually if we're going to be fair, I guess this day belongs to us first. It does. We're the ones graduating here. But parents, you're definitely second on the list of people to whom this day belongs. And that is really because of the way that you've.… Okay, actually, if we're going to be fair here, the professors are probably second, right? They took us through the academic journey, they were here for us. So professors you're second. And of course you've got the dining hall people who cook the food, security guards who kept us safe.... Anyway, parents, the point is this: you are somewhere on the top-ten list of people to whom this day belongs. And that is honestly.… You know, I lost my train of thought here. Parents – thank you – for forking over a lot of money. Whoa.
I look out here today, ladies and gentlemen, and I see the faces of some very proud grandparents. And there is nothing in this world that makes me happier. This is so cool, by the way. I can't even begin to imagine the pride that all of you must feel for us right now. I mean, I'm proud of us and you guys have like 60 plus years of built-up pride that you've been storing away deep in your chest like some massive, dangerous pride grenade. Just waiting to explode on all of us. To tell you the truth, that makes me a little uncomfortable. So please, as the day goes on, feel free to share some of that pride with us in a constructive way. If you'd like to applaud, that helps.
Now I can't see any of you right now, but I know a lot of second-tier relatives made the trip today. And you're all watching on television right now and I can say to you – I think of you and I think one thing: What in the world are you doing here? What did you expect? Do you know how many extra lobster we had to catch so you could enjoy yourselves this weekend? Maine lobster are now an endangered species. I hope you're happy. I'm kidding. I'm obviously kidding, and I'm so glad to be able to stand up here and welcome everybody today. Who better to share this day with us than the very people who have taken us on our journey to "us-hood." So thank you from the bottom of my heart, and welcome to everybody.
Now when I first learned that I would be giving this speech today at graduation, I was honored. I was humbled and I was excited. Because only about five minutes earlier I had finally managed to topple the high score in Mrs. PacMan. And so those good feelings carried over when I found that I had been chosen to speak. Of course Brad Kasnet '05 would later obliterate my humble record. The good feelings from the news were enough to carry me.
What happened then was that I began to think about what I might say up here today. That was about four or five hours ago, and it occurred to me that this thing was not going to be as easy as I thought. There are a lot of different people in this class who do, say, and believe a lot of very different things, and who have had a very different college experience. You might even say we're a diverse class. That's not a joke – don't laugh. Anyway, so I started thinking about this and I thought to myself, how am I possibly going to stand up here and say something that can relate to everyone's experience?
Well, I realized I had one of two options here. Option number one was the following: I could stand up here and give a speech similar to the one you probably heard at high school graduation. "We got here when we were freshman and boy were we scared! Hahahaha." I could not sleep at night if I did a speech like that.
My only other option, I realized, was to stand up here and tell you some about my college experience – some lessons I picked up along the way – and hope that at the very least most of you can relate to these lessons. I think you will be able to, at least that's the hope. If you find I'm missing the mark for you as I go along, I'm sorry – throw some rotten fruit at me or something.
I'm kidding – don't do that.
Dave – put the pear away!
Anyway, so, I'm going to lay 'em on you. Everybody tells you college is the best four years of your life. So I figured I ought to have at least four lessons, one for every year. Plus that's an easy mnemonic device for me to remember. Anyway, they go in chronological order, so let's get into them before I waste any more time up here.
Lesson number one. Your work habits are your work habits, and they will be your work habits forever and ever and ever. I promise you. Everybody comes into college thinking that you're going to change the way that you work – that you're going to become this good little worker bee to head off into the real world. No. That doesn't happen. I came in here and I found out that I work very well with deadlines. I do. Don't laugh at me. I work so well with deadlines, in fact, that I can't even begin working until a deadline is staring right back at me, like the black, gnarled face of death himself. That's how well I work with deadlines. But college, as I said, it's not going to fix those problems, it's going to teach you how to use them to your advantage.
I learned a lot of useful things, thanks to my horrible deficiency for working ahead of time. I learned how to enjoy the taste of coffee, which was good for those late nights. Secondly, I learned how to set fake deadlines for myself so I wouldn't miss the real ones. I also learned a very important skill, which is to schmooze with professors and get yourself an extension. These are important life skills people. And so all of those things were things I picked up along the way. And I still haven't changed the way I work. I still work in creative bursts from 2 to 8 in the morning, but I've learned how to do it to my advantage. So college teaches you, number one, to play to your strengths. Do what you do best and learn how to do it best.
Lesson number two, and I picked this up sophomore year. Professors are awesome. You guys are awesome. Where are you? Professors, raise your hands. Beautiful. Everybody sitting out here today knows they have one or two professors that they can say, "That's one of the coolest guys I know." And professors, you've managed to do that. You have managed to stay cool for much longer than the normal human being. And I figured out why. I thought about it and I think I figured out why. You're still in college! Is that not brilliant? Why doesn't everybody think about that? I thought about it and professors, you're still having the same kinds of conversations I have with my friends on a given week.
I don't remember a lot about Doghead – it was snowing outside, I was wasted. But I do remember that for about an hour I sat outside in the snow and I talked to my good friend, Jeb Mahoney '05, about existentialism. And it was the best part of my day. Also, you know, on a Saturday night when Will Van der Veen's '05 got a couple beers in him he's going to turn to you and go "Dude, Thomas Hobbs is a bad ass." And professors, you're still having these conversations. Maybe not like that, but you still have them. And you get paid for it. Amazing. So my second lesson, the second thing that I picked up while I was at school here, is to never stop learning. Figure out some stuff every day that you're interested in, go read up on it, and do something cool with it. It pays off, and it keeps you from getting old, fat, and dumb.
Now the third thing that I learned while I was here, and this was during my junior year – I was fortunate enough to go abroad. But I think all of us, whether we went abroad or not, have had some chance to travel and some chance to meet a lot of different people. So my third lesson is this: get out there, meet lots of people, travel as many places as you can, and get to know the people there. Watch and pay attention to the cool stuff they do, and then steal it for yourself.
This is a very good lesson and it enriches your life. I'll tell you a story. I went to Santiago, Chile, my junior year. And the first night I got there my family threw this huge party for me. They were outside, they were barbecuing, we were dancing, everyone was playing music 'til the sun came up. Amazing. Anyway, the next morning I get down to the breakfast table and in my broken Spanish I told my family "Thank you, so much. I am so humbled by the gesture that you made last night." And everybody sort of looked at me weird. My host father leaned over and he said, "Josh, don't get me wrong, we're happy you're here but we do that every Saturday." And I thought, man, that is cool! I'm taking that home! Anyway, do that and your life will get a lot cooler.
Number four, and I think this is something that I think everybody learns at the beginning of senior year and it becomes more and more intense as the year wears on. College does not prepare you for the real world. And I'm pretty sure that's a good thing. Let me try to explain why.
Contrary to popular belief, and parents and relatives I hate to burst the bubble here, we did not come to college, at least not to Colby College, to learn from the sacred texts or fraternize with future business partners. We came up here to the middle of Maine, we partied really, really hard, and we learned a lot – mostly about ourselves, but we learned a lot – not so that we could sit here today and go off and join the real world. We are here today, we are graduating, because we've learned how to redefine what real world ought to mean to us. And that's an important skill.
Now I know some of you are probably thinking, this is the unemployed kid talking. Well, yes. It is. So back off. See, and most of you are applauding because you're also unemployed. That's okay. But let me tell you, even for those people who know what they want to do, those people who are heading to school or heading to a job next year, even those people, I would argue, aren't ready to join the real world. And that's a good thing. And here's why.
I had a chance to talk to my friend Adrienne LeClair '05 for a little bit. And Adrienne knows, right now, that she wants to be a dentist. A dentist! Who knows that they want to be a dentist? This blew my mind. I thought it was just something in medical school where you pick straws and the guy who gets the small one has to be a dentist. It's like "Oh man." "No dude, you gotta do it. We all signed the agreement, man." But no, Adrienne knows she wants to be a dentist. But she's not doing it the normal way. Adrienne has a very bubbly personality. She's a very personable human being and she wants to be that sort of dentist that people are actually excited to go see. Go find that in the real world for me.
Even those who know what they want to do know that they don't want to do it the same way that people have been doing it before them. They want to change things. They want to shake things up a little bit. So folks, we're not ready to get into the real world. And that's good. That's very good.
I want to tell you. I've stood up here and I've talked a lot of trash, but I'm as scared as all of you are. I am. I don't know what's coming next, and I don't know what to think about that. But I can tell you at the very least that it's been a pleasure and it's been nice, at least for me, to be able to share that feeling with all of you. It's something that I think I really wouldn't have made it through this time without the stories that I've shared with my friends. The times we sat around and said, "Man, I don't know what I'm doing." But that's important. That's why I've had all of you throughout these four years, and nothing makes me happier than looking out here today and seeing everybody in the exact same boat – having used our paddles for firewood last night – heading up a creek, in no particular direction.
Class of 2005, I want you to look at me right now. I know I'm ready for this. It's scary, I know. Are you ready for this? Are we ready for this? [Silence.]
I'm going to do a little call and response here, since you didn't answer the first time.
Remember that thing Hulk Hogan used to do when he'd play the crowd and he'd go [swings arm above his head]? We're going to try that right now.
Class of 2005. Are we ready? [Seniors cheer loudly.]
Then my job here is done. Thank you.