The following is the speech by UW-Green Bay 2017 Spring Commencement Student Speaker Cody Von Ruden, Theatre, chosen to speak on behalf of his class by faculty members and administrators.
Video Recording (Von Ruden is introduced at 47:25.)
Good afternoon class of 2017, and welcome to the faculty, staff, parents, and guests who have gathered here today to celebrate our accomplishments. Before I begin I would like to say a few thank you’s. First, thank you to my parents for being an amazing support system through this crazy journey. Thank you to the Student Ambassador program, first of all for teaching me how to introduce myself, and also for enriching my passion for this university and giving me an outlet to share it with other students. Thank you to the Theatre department for fueling my passion to create and tell stories, and for showing me that hard work and passion can take you all the places you want to go. Finally, thank you to the UWGB Phoenix family, each and every one of you has had an impact on my experience here, you truly have become like family.
Today I would like to share a few quotes with you that summarize what I have learned over the last few years. Each of these quotes has taught me a lesson, inspired me, or helped me get through a rough time. I hope that you are able to take something from each of them too.
Walt Disney, “Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.” Today we are celebrating a milestone in our lives, we’re on the edge of adulthood. It’s a little scary isn’t it? I know that many of us may not feel like adults yet, and that’s ok. We may not have it all figured out right now, and what a wonderful place to be. You still have room to play, and learn, and grow. Don’t take life to seriously, have fun, eat some cereal, get messy, and make big mistakes. There is a great big world out there and you are allowed to play in it.
While you’re out exploring the world, remember this line from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “Sometimes I believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Embrace your opportunity to do big and impossible things. This is your chance to challenge ideas, to be adventurous and change the world. Explore the places you never thought you could go, meet people you never knew you could meet, and do things people told you were impossible to do. You never know how much you can do until you try. When you’ve reached your goals, reach even further and see what kinds of impossible things you can do.
Another quote I’d like to share is this, “keep on smiling.” I have a little story for you. Every year during freshman orientation the Student Ambassadors talk about making the freshman class feel welcome. We know they are all terrified, even though some of them may not show it, I know I was. But we remind them they all have the same feeling, college is a bigger world then they knew before. So, here we are back at the Kress Events Center, where it all began, where that feeling of fear first hit us, and it might be back, but its ok. Because we’re all here together. So share your smiles and be kind to one another. The classmate sitting right next to might be feeling the same way you are, so give them a smile and let them know its ok. Keep on smiling, life is too short not to share yours with the world.
We’ve been through a lot over the last few years, that has brought us to this moment. There is a lot of energy in this room, a lot of potential. It’s our job to go out and do something with that. There is one last quote I’d like to share with you, from the play Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson, “Because wonder will always get us there… those of us who insist there is much more beyond ourselves.” So be the innovators of tomorrow, transform the way we see the world, and find your place among those who have come before us. Before I go I want to leave you with this; No matter what your goals are, big or small, reach beyond what you believe is possible, keep on smiling, and always remember, you got this.