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Transcript of graduating senior Elizabeth Fritsch's speech at Silver Lake College's Spring 2014 Commencement Ceremony
"President Domes, distinguished faculty, family, friends, and fellow graduates, it is with great joy that I welcome you here today. I congratulate all graduates on their continued dedication to their education and the pursuit of wisdom.
"When I first chose to attend Silver Lake College as a high school senior, I was met with a lot of skepticism and criticism. I was asked why I would want to attend a college ten minutes from my house, a college with a smaller student population than most high schools, a college without an extensive, sprawling campus. To be honest, these were questions I couldn’t answer at the time, but I instinctively committed myself to Silver Lake anyway.
"Yes, I 'missed out' on what mainstream society has made to be some of the cornerstones of the higher education experience – fraternity parties, lecture halls filled with hundreds of students, and rampant student devotion to football or basketball playoffs. It is only now when I look backward that I can truly recognize and appreciate what Silver Lake has offered to me and instilled in me. Yes, there were certain obvious perks to attending Silver Lake, such as not having to walk fifteen minutes outside to class during the winter or knowing half of the student body by name.
"Most importantly, though, I am blessed to have been a part of a college that not only tolerates and accepts faith but actively strives to make faith the cornerstone of the college experience – because an educational experience that neglects the whole person – the soul of the person – will always be incomplete.
"I am thankful to have grown in my understanding and practice of the Franciscan values: community, compassion, goodness, peace, and care for creation. Finally, I am thankful that I’ve attended a college where servant leadership is not only a topic for discussion on the syllabus, but something that is lived out every day by the faculty and students.
"Silver Lake’s commitment to the Franciscan vision of the human person is something that I will take with me as I leave here today.
"On this day of commencement, I want to remind you of the best advice I’ve heard, and you’ve probably heard a dozen times each semester: continue to be a lifelong learner. Our education does not end when we walk across this stage today. Education is something that can never really be completed. The trials and triumphs of our lives will be our courses and those who touch our lives will be our professors.
"The most important thing I will take with me as I leave here today is not a degree, but an unquenchable thirst for learning. C.S. Lewis wrote, 'The love of knowledge is a kind of madness.' I agree wholeheartedly with him, but would amend the statement to say, 'The love of knowledge is a kind of madness with which we must infect the world.'
"I am grateful to all of my professors over the past four years for inspiring this love of knowledge and love of learning in me. Whether it was learning to recognize different styles of poetry, learning about the Viking invasions, or learning about different art movements, I’ve enjoyed every opportunity I’ve had to grow intellectually. The passion for learning and knowledge will sustain us and renew us. And now graduates, it is our turn to pass this love of knowledge and learning on."
"Now I could speak about the different challenges and obstacles we overcame during our time at Silver Lake. As much as I’d love to speak about classes, exams, portfolio pains, and minor existential crises, that is not the reason why we are here today. Today is a day to look forward. So now what, graduates? One of my favorite sayings reads, 'Yesterday I was clever and wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.'
"It is unlikely that we will have the opportunity to change the world in any sort of profound way. Perhaps there is a bit of sadness in the realization that we are not as powerful or influential or important as we may think we are – as we were taught to believe as children. But we can always change ourselves – and I think that is the far greater and far more important truth. Sometimes we are so focused on looking outward that we forget to look inward. We forget about the immense power we have over our own lives and our own decisions.
"As our time as Silver Lake students draws to a close, I leave you with the words of the recently canonized St. John XXIII: 'Consult not your fears, but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do.'