Where am I?

Undergraduate Student Speech 2014

The following was given by Dustin Graves (pictured at right), an accounting major, during the 2014 Fontbonne University undergraduate student commencement ceremony.

Congratulations Graduates, today is a day that we have all worked so hard for! I’d first like to thank the Trustees and Regents, faculty and staff and everyone else that has made Fontbonne such a wonderful place. On behalf of this graduating class, I’d like to especially thank Dr. Golden for his 19 outstanding years of leadership and service to this university. Thank you so much for everything you have done. And finally, welcome to the family, friends and guests here with us to celebrate. I am truly honored and humbled to be speaking today. I could not have imagined this just four short years ago. As a pitcher for the Fontbonne baseball team I quickly learned that to be successful I needed to have more than one pitch, so no worries if this speech doesn’t go well I have two more I’d like to try.

But today isn’t about me, and it isn’t about one person in particular, it is about all of us. It’s about you, the graduate, whatever your age or background. The relationships you’ve made, the experiences that you’ve had and the lessons that you’ve learned. I am sure some of you can remember the feelings you had during the freshman overnight retreat…the feeling of uncertainty, not knowing what to expect or if you started as an adult student, perhaps you had anxieties about how you would handle the academic demands along with family and work obligations. And throughout our time here, we’ve all been challenged to become better students, citizens and leaders. Yet, sometimes the biggest challenges we faced weren’t the tests or presentations we had, but it was finding a parking spot. Even though we try to measure and quantify the mark that Fontbonne has made on all of us, what we have experienced here is truly invaluable and immeasurable. Fontbonne’s mission is to educate leaders to serve a world in need. Although we all come from different walks of life, and have different majors and career paths, each one of us will be a leader in some respect, but it is up to you to decide on the type of leader that you will be.

As graduates, we are often asked, what’s next? What are our plans for the future or the next stage of our lives? But instead of thinking about what we do or what we will do next, I think it’s important that we focus on why we do what we do? Everyone is passionate about something, but what are you passionate about? What gets you out of bed in the morning? If we truly want to be leaders that make a difference and create positive social change, we need to think about our why, our passion. Because when you have a clear sense of why you do what you do, you not only live a fulfilled and happy life, but you are able to do something that I think is extraordinary. You are able to inspire and motivate others. You are able to create a movement, to change the world for the better. It will be our leadership that shapes the world for future generations.  

You not only inspire others because of your passion, but you also inspire people with the vision that you share with them. But what does it mean to have a vision? Perhaps, Henry Ford best exemplifies someone with a vision. He was asked how he knew what his customers wanted. To which he responded, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford had a sense of what the future held for his company. He was able to see beyond what was right in front of him. Steve Jobs is another visionary leader, who, from his garage, built Apple, one of the most innovative companies of all time and who helped usher in a new era of technology. He gave us the iPhone, a product that many of you know very well, especially those of you that are using one right now. However, as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, there was perhaps no one more visionary and inspiring a leader than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He had the vision of a country not divided by race, but of a country that was one, united and together. He had that vision in a time when there were people resistant to that type of social change. So as you can see, all of these leaders possessed the same thing. They had an enduring passion for what they believed in and they matched that with a vision.

We may not all start movements and inspire change of this magnitude, but why limit ourselves? We are only limited by what our minds tell us that we can and cannot do. Some may doubt your goals and aspirations. But at one point, there were those that doubted Steve Jobs, Henry Ford and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for believing what they believed. I’d rather aim high and have lofty aspirations and goals because then there’s a chance that what I do and what I believe just might change the world for the better. So as graduates, whether in our 20s, 30s, 40s perhaps 50s, let’s go forward with our passion and vision and make the world a better place. It’s our time to make difference. If there is one thing that I am certain about, it is that Fontbonne has given us the tools, the education, the experiences necessary to do just that. The opportunity to be leaders or strengthen our leadership is out there, so let’s take it! Congratulations again graduates and good luck!