Good afternoon fellow classmates, families, friends, faculty and staff. Welcome to your graduation, class of 2012. My name is Hannah Biggs, and I am honored to welcome you to your graduation ceremony today.
As I sat down to write this speech, my head was swirling with thoughts about what to say for this graduation occasion, conflicting emotions of anxiety about life after Otterbein and excitement for what will come next, and bittersweet feelings that this day — May 20, 2012 — is finally here. Graduation day. Then I realized, all those feelings, anxieties, and moments of excitement; that’s pretty much senior year, isn’t it? Excitement to move on to life after Otterbein. Anxieties about leaving Otterbein and starting anew. Conflicted emotions and thoughts about what today, graduation day, means. This moment, right now, right here, seems surreal doesn’t it? I thought I would be able to put to words everything I wanted to say at this moment, but for some reason, my laptop screen just remained a stark white. And with the deadline to submit this application to speak at graduation quickly approaching, I knew I had to get words to paper, and fast.
Then I started overthinking things. And to anyone who knows me, when I overthink things, unusual ideas typically emerge. I started reminiscing. When I gave a speech during my high school graduation, I referred to a bit of advice from a woman we all know very well. She taught us about the ways of the world, the way the human body works and how cool it is to drive a big, magic, yellow school bus. Yes, Ms. Frizzle from the animated classic show, The Magic Schoolbus; she was the hero of my speech long ago. I thought to myself, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if I could use her words of advice again, those same words I used during that high school speech?” But then I thought, maybe words of wisdom from one of our cartoon heroes isn’t as applicable to college graduates as it is to high school graduates. Her exact words of advice for her students and those eager children television viewers: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.” Pretty applicable to high school graduates, right? College is the time for change, trial and error, and exciting new discoveries about the world in which we live. But, could this advice work for us college graduates? Could a cartoon teacher’s advice apply to us, the graduating class of 2012? I wasn’t sure.
But, then I started thinking about my college experience. And the plans I have after graduation. I started thinking of my friends’ plans after graduation. Thinking and realizing what it truly means to be a senior on this day, this graduation day. It means something different for all of us. The various Otterbein experiences that have made us who we are now are unique to every single person sitting here today. The different moments in our lives where we indeed have taken those chances, made those mistakes, and gotten messy. College is all about those moments, isn’t it? But, I ask you this: Isn’t living all about that, too? To “take chances, make mistakes and get messy” is what makes us essentially human, what makes me me and you you. And if we are to continue to grow, to continue to be the person we are and will be in the future, we must continue Ms. Frizzle’s idea even after graduation. So, maybe, I was wrong. Ms. Frizzle’s advice isn’t just for high school graduates. It’s for people of all generations. We are constantly growing into the person we are day-to-day, and a way to do that is to follow the advice of a dear, old, red-haired, cartoon elementary school teacher with a magic yellow school bus to “take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”
We’ve all taken a myriad of different roads and byways to get to this day. And sitting here, now, it is a pretty surreal, magnificent feeling. I urge you to embrace this day. Embrace your friends, your family, your professors. Graduation is a somber occasion, yes. But, this moment, this hour, this span of time in this gymnasium. This is ours. In this moment, remember who you were when you started at Otterbein; remember where you came from; remember those people who helped you get where you are today. And remember this: We are changed people. And the people we are today will not be the same people we will be tomorrow. We are growing. We are changing. And today is another step in that change. Today, we celebrate graduation and remember the pathways that have led us to where we stand now. So for those pathways, those changes and those changes to come, I thank you, Otterbein. I thank you, students. I thank you, faculty. I thank you, staff. I thank you, friends. And I thank you, families. Here’s to more changes and more growing. Here’s to more moments to “take chances, make mistakes and get messy.”
Congratulations, class of 2012. Enjoy today’s ceremony.
Hannah Biggs is an English major. She has been a teaching assistant and peer mentor for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; social chair for the Otterbein chapter of Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society; a Relay for Life team captain; host and tour guide; Writing Center consultant; and student caller for the Otterbein Phonathon.