Where am I?

Graduate Student Speech 2014

The following was given by Monica Kleekamp (pictured at right), speech-language pathology master's candidate, during the 2014 Fontbonne University graduate student commencement ceremony.

Good morning and welcome, President Golden, the Trustees and Regents, faculty and staff, my fellow graduates and all of the guests here to celebrate with us. I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to speak to you today.

Like the rest of you, I have had my head buried in books and computer screens for the last few years. When I finally came up for air a few weeks ago to decide what I wanted to say at Commencement, I thought I should start by researching any important new stories I had missed since cutting myself off from the world to attend graduate school. Let me tell you, there has been a lot going on in world news. I’ll give you a few examples.

In Ireland, the police recently had to get involved when a grown man ordered a happy meal at McDonald’s and then proceeded to eat his happy meal in a toddler’s high chair at the restaurant. Assistance from the police department was required in order to free him from the chair.

In other news, the state of Massachusetts is getting very close to making history as it attempts to pass a new bill into law. The bill under consideration would officially name the fluffernutter, a sandwich comprised of bread, peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, the official state sandwich.

The citizens in Massachusetts will have to hold their breath until the House votes on the issue to see if it will move on to the Senate.

Just one last earth shattering story for you. New York has opened North America’s very first “cat café.” Within the café, guests can grab a cup of coffee and enjoy it next to any of the 15 resident feline friends at the restaurant. I suppose now one can go get a cup of coffee with a friend, be that friend human or otherwise without distinction. We are truly a progressive American culture.

Needless to say, my investigation into the life altering information I had been missing while studying, did not lead me to many true words of wisdom or advice to share with my fellow graduates. So, rather than looking in modern day news articles, I decided to pursue the thoughts of more historical individuals.

The first idea I came across that really inspired me was spoken by Aristotle, who said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” Choosing to pursue a Master’s degree was not required for any of us. Each made the choice to commit to excellence in our academic areas. Our motives for choosing the path of a Master’s degree vary from individual to individual in this room. However, we share commonalities between us. The amount of time, energy and effort required to complete a graduate program is not something that can be taken lightly, nor will one be successful without full participation in the process. Together, we each share a passion for what we’ve chosen to pursue as students. Though are passions may be different, all of us have a drive and desire within us to do more with our lives.

Although I jokingly mentioned that I’ve been out of touch with what’s trending in the news, I have found myself to be somewhat “lost” in the process of graduate school over the past couple of years. When I was trying to reflect on whether this was a positive or negative, I encountered a quote that answered the question for me. Photographer Kristin Martz said, “We lose ourselves in things we love. We find ourselves there, too.” Each and every day of our educational paths, we have been on a journey. During that journey, I found myself immersed and perhaps a little lost in the field I have chosen for my professional life and it is there that I also found myself. So, the conclusion I can draw from this is that while the time we’ve put in has been long and daunting, it has most certainly not been in vain.

As we leave this university today, may we each remember where were able to develop our passions and continue to grow those passions with purpose. For some of us, the transition from student to professional is yet another challenge we now face. For others, this degree will provide the opportunity for further professional advancement. Each of us has the foundation provided by the outstanding professors at Fontbonne University to go out into our respective fields and become the professionals we always dreamed we’d be.

May you continue to grow the habit of excellence you have begun. May you be fearlessly authentic in your life and in your career. And each day, may you tell yourself that what you do in that day is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.

The last few thoughts I want to share with you are simple. And those are for you to:

“Be wondered, be inspired, be cool, be bold, be outside the lines, be creative, be in touch, be a dreamer, be blessed, taste, try, deliver and be more than less.”

Congratulations and best wishes Fontbonne University Class of 2014. It always seems impossible until it’s done. And today, in this moment, this chapter is done. Thank you.