May 24, 2010

Tim Hoffman
Class of 2010 Class Response
May 23, 2010

I've been told that I was a fast talker before but, Dr. Carson, the way you explained how I raised my hand, I think you take the cake on that one.

I would like to begin by thanking two groups of people on behalf of my classmates. First, a thank you to our parents and families, whether or not they are here with us: It may not have always been easy, but we would not be at this ceremony without your constant love and support. Second, a thank you to the faculty and staff of this university whose hard work and dedication make Bucknell the unique place that it is.

Now from personal experience and quite a bit of googling, I count five generic student commencement speeches that can be given. While I do not mean to suggest that every graduation address ever written neatly fits into one of these categories, I would wager that a large majority can be easily placed into one of the five. So everyone now has two questions: What are these speeches? And which one will he be giving?

Frankly, I feel that giving only one does not do justice to this day. I know that we've all been sitting here for a while, but if you haven't taken a moment and looked around — I mean, really taken in the scene, do so now.

Parents are here with tears in their eyes, siblings are here unwillingly, we're wearing big gowns and funny hats, and we are celebrating one of the single biggest milestones we will reach in our lifetimes.

Allow me to quote our eloquent vice president and state the obvious: 'This is a big freaking deal.' I think a few people behind me got a little worried when they heard that.

So with that in mind and in honor of this day, I'm going to give you a little bit of everything.

Five generic speeches
We begin with the "Numbers Meant to Boggle your Mind" speech. Setting aside the fact that I majored in political science and history, I've done a few calculations and here's what I've found. Combined, the 844 graduates seated here today have spent roughly 1,293,312 hours in class over the past four years, approximately 3,879,936 hours doing homework, and covered over 800,320 miles walking from dorms to classrooms to the gym to the library to the Langone Center.

As a disclaimer, I assumed over-achievers and slackers cancelled each other out in terms of work ethic and ability to pull themselves out of the bed in the morning.

Over that same period these graduates sent a grand total of 6,146,000 text messages and spent roughly that much time on Facebook doing "research" of fellow classmates. While these may be largely arbitrary numbers, I hope to convey the enormous amount of time these 844 have spent together over the past four years. At this point four years ago, most of us had never met one another and yet we now sit here having spent the intervening time as members of an extremely tight-knit community with a plethora of shared memories among us.

The second speech involves the "Carpe Diem" or "Seize the Day" message. As it would be presumptuous of me to offer advice to a group of my peers, I will instead rely on the wisdom of Steve Jobs. He succinctly put it: "Remembering that I will be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life."

I found this particularly important to share with my classmates on this day because whether or not we want to admit it, all of us are a little scared right now. We're scared of making the wrong decision, of making mistakes, of living with regrets.

We should not be. Everyone has regrets. And yet we must resist these natural tendencies to second-guess and dwell. Our time here on Earth is too short — our potential too great to be weighed down by concerns over an unchangeable past. Instead I would urge my fellow graduates to keep Mr. Jobs' advice — essentially appreciating our own mortality in minds moving forward.

We move on the speech everyone dreads: The "Political Critique." This is the time when I give you my take on some controversial current political issue facing this county; the type that's bound to upset at least half the people in attendance. And yet, I have a hunch that not a single person present today came to hear my thoughts on an exit strategy for Afghanistan or where I stand on the cap and trade bill before Congress. So, in the interest of time and of me not getting heckled off the stage, we'll leave the political rhetoric out of this non-partisan celebration.

Of course, it would not be a commencement address without a bit of the "To Whom Much is Given, Much is Expected" speech. We have been blessed with the opportunity to attend one of America's elite institutions of higher learning and while I do not mean to suggest that the best way to honor this fact is for each of us to join the Peace Corps or negotiate our first salaries, if we have first salaries at all, to one dollar a year, I do feel it is important to remember the words Bobby Kennedy spoke to an earlier generation of young Americans.

He said, "For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not we live in times of danger and uncertainty, but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves."

The diplomas we receive today are not just recognitions of our accomplishments, but represent obligations as well. This group of 844 young men and women possess an enormous amount of talent in a wide variety of fields and I would hope that each of us use these gifts to give back to community and country whenever possible.

We end this whirlwind tour with the "Many Experiences, One Home" speech. The past four years has seen the United States continue to engage in two wars, the world's financial system teeter on the brink of collapse, the election of this country's first African-American president, and the passing of the King of Pop and Anna Nicole Smith.

One constant
Through all this tumult and change, there has been one constant in the lives of these graduates: Bucknell. Whether Sunday afternoons were spent working with one of the countless student groups and clubs around campus or watching a football game while enjoying some bull dip, whether your tests included equations, five paragraph essays, graduated cylinders, or theatre recitals, whether your Wednesday evenings involved negotiating the treacherous sidewalks of Lewisburg or studying on Lower Level 1 of the library, we all shared this special place.

While our paths to this day are singular, our achievement is shared. We enter an uncertain world with the confidence and blessing of the greater Bucknell community who have attested to our maturity and excellence not just as students, but as people as well. Bucknell class of 2010, Congratulations and good luck.

Contact: Division of Communications

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