Mechanical Engineering student speaker Jordan Cioni addressed the graduates in the Cofrin School of Business and the College of Science, Engineering and Technology. His speech follows:
“Let me start by saying: I can hear my heart beating… but enough about me, let’s talk about you — let’s talk about us! We made it! WE’RE GRADUATING! No more assignments due at midnight. No more staying up until 2:00 am finishing lab reports that were due at midnight.
Seriously, what kind of maniac would go back to school once they graduate? … Wait a minute, I’m doing that. With that, we now conclude the joke-telling portion of this speech, and we will move on to something that has never been done during a commencement speech! A quote from Dr. Suess’s Oh the Places You’ll Go:
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer your life in any direction you chose.”
I love that quote– there are two main reasons why. First, it rhymes, and that’s nice. Second, it is a shining example of what it means to be… naïve.
We are all intimately familiar with the fact that there is so much more to changing lives and changing the world than being smart and being capable. There are things we simply cannot change, crimes we can’t undo, and words we can’t unsay.
Yet, on this day, it is not naïve to say that we are in the presence of great change-makers. Among us today are astronauts who will make this universe a smaller place, geneticists who will turn off disease, engineers who will redefine what is possible, and the CEOs of companies that will champion the hard work of all the previously mentioned parties.
The question becomes: Why should we be so confident? What is it that equips us to do all these great things? What is it we have that Dr. Sues neglected to mention? Well, it’s simple. We have each other.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Northeast Wisconsin, there’s something quirky that we do here. Whenever we talk about the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, we do not refer to it as the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. We do not even call it UWGB. We simply call this place GB, short for Green Bay, as if the entire community of Green Bay is encapsulated by this institution. There’s a reason for that: it is. If I’m being honest, I cannot think of a better word to describe what we have here than community.
We have a community of students who do not come here to party, but to learn and grow! Now, that is not something you see at every school, for example: Madison. And we have a community of students that ceaselessly supports one another in those noble pursuits of learning and growing.
We have community leaders who share our deeply held values. In five years at this school, I have never once gone to a professor’s office hours. Not to say that I don’t go to their offices; I bother professors all the time. Just not when I’m invited. Yet, never once was I turned away. We have leaders, faculty, and staff who also seek to learn, grow, and support others doing the same.
And our community extends far beyond the arboretum’s emerald curtain. We all have families and friends – people who give us the advice we need most when we want it the least.
Finally, we have a community that literally built us a school! Right now, our school has 243 engineering students, 32 who will graduate today. And not one of us would be here without the collective efforts of Northeast Wisconsin. Green Bay truly is a special community.
If this day was nothing more than the end of our involvement with GB, it would be a real tragedy. Thankfully, it’s not. Just as we live with crimes of the past, and just as we cannot unsay foul words, so to, will we carry our community with us, into each of our own futures.
As we all commence with great plans to change this world, be sure to do one thing: embrace that little part of you that is all of us.”