Text of my Commencement Speech

Here it is! – Geoff

Good evening, everyone.   I want to congratulate all of my fellow Lincoln Tech graduates, and I want to thank the Lincoln Tech faculty and staff that helped make this possible.  And all of you, friends and family, also deserve our thanks for all of your support.  As Thurgood Marshall once said, “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”

Most commencement speeches are full of quotes by famous people, such as Dr. Seuss.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Dr. Seuss is ok, but I just don’t really see this moment as an “Oh the Places You’ll Go” sort of moment.  It is a time to acknowledge how far we have come, and also how far we have yet to go.  Most of you are not like me – you are still young.  But like me, I am pretty sure that you did not have an Ivy League crony to help you out.  I dare say that Lincoln Tech does not have a legacy admissions policy, and I am quite glad that is the case.  All of us made it here today by the sweat of our own brows.  Many of us have endured the sorts of issues that those ivory tower country club kids have never even heard of: enduring long-term unemployment (19 months in my case); working part-time or even full time while attending classes here; struggling with health issues; worrying about how to pay the bills; having to raise children alone, not speaking English as a first language.  Many of us spent years learning at the so-called school of hard knocks, being educated by the reality of our lives.  As New Bedford native Herman Melville once said, “A whale ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.”   I dare say that none of us ever hunted whales with a hand harpoon, but many of us have worked construction, or retail, or food service, or security, or served our country in the military.  And none of us have let life deter us from trying to improve our situations, despite numerous obstacles thrown in our way.

Looking at some of you here, I am reminded of some stories from my own family.  My grandfather, who finished his GED when he was older than I am now, never stopped trying to better himself.  My aunt, who got married and raised three kids, went back to college to finish her degree while in her forties.  I have seen some of you work night jobs and then come in to class the next day.  I know a fellow NCIS student who, despite major medical issues and nearly becoming homeless, made it to class every day without fail, and still managed to keep many of us laughing despite his own considerable pain.  Just as our pasts have helped lead us up to this moment, our classes and externships have helped lead us to the next phase of our lives, which for some of us has already begun.  After being unemployed for so long, it feels great to finally be doing the sort of IT job I have always wanted to do.  In March I started working at Northeastern University as an IT Security Analyst.  It is, quite frankly, one of my dream jobs.  And do I feel any sense of regret, having not reached this goal until I was 40 years old?  No.  Even if I could, I am not sure I would change anything, because the sum of my experiences, good and bad, has helped make me who I am now.  Yes, I have a great job now, but I have not always had a great job.  I have been a construction worker, a landscaper, a janitor, a waiter, a stock boy, a pizza cook, a security guard, and a machine gunner in an infantry platoon.  I have worked in a video store, a garden center, an electronics store, a bookstore, a cell phone kiosk, and a grocery store.   Some might look at a list like this and shake their heads, wondering where I went wrong.  My reply would be that I have not gone wrong at all. Is it better to go through life having everything handed to you on a silver platter, never having to confront adversity?  Or is it better to learn from your experiences, good AND bad and thus become a stronger, wiser person, ready to take a swing at whatever curve balls life decides to throw at you?

One of my favorite writers is Concord native Ralph Waldo Emerson.  In 1841 he published a book of essays that included an essay called Self-Reliance, in which he said this:

 If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not ‘studying a profession,’ for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.

Make no mistake: Emerson is saying that any of you, who struggled against many obstacles and adversities to get here, is worth a hundred trust fund kids.  I will take any of you over them any day.  And I am proud to say I am one of you.

So congratulations, my fellow Lincoln Tech graduates.  You have most certainly earned it.

Advertisements

Geoff Graduates

Some of you may have heard that Geoff graduated yesterday.  He finished school back in December, but like a lot of his classmates, he finished his internship a day or two too late to walk in December.  So he and a bunch of his compatriots from his NCIS class at Lincoln Tech in Somerville got their Diplomas last night.

I shot video from our seats which were back halfway in the auditorium just past the middle.  Before you scroll down and click, there are some things you should know.  There were a LOT of people there with no concept of how to behave in public.  Many of them talked through the whole thing until it was time to award diplomas.  There were probably hundreds of infants and children, many of whom cried, fussed, or otherwise made noise.  There were friends and family of the graduates as well as the graduates themselves who were arriving late to the ceremony right up to and through the awarding of the diplomas, so there were people wandering into my shot, completely oblivious of what I was doing.

The most important part of the ceremony was that Geoff was selected as the student speaker.  Out of all of the graduates, he was the only one who was selected to give a speech and it was the only speech that actually got the attention of the audience enough that they quieted down and more or less stopped talking.

I’ve embedded the videos below.  His speech is there in its entirety along with the various processional, recessional, line up, and diploma stuff.  He’s going to blog the whole text of the speech and write about his own experiences at a later date.

And here are the photos of Geoff in his regalia at the podium and with the head of his program and favorite teacher, Jay.

Geoff & Jay at Graduation
Geoff graduates, again!
Geoff behind the podium
Geoff "speechifying."

~Kelly