May 20, 2013

The Power of Being a Bucknellian

Beth Eanelli

Hello guests and families, faculty and staff and, of course, my wonderful fellow graduates. Thank you for being here today as we celebrate Bucknell's 163rd Commencement and the accomplishments we as a class have been able to achieve. It is my honor to be representing the Class of 2013 in presenting the student Commencement speech today.  

Can you believe we're sitting here with diplomas in our hands when, four short years ago, we were strangers without the vaguest idea of how college should go? In these four years, we have had to think often about what this experience has meant to us. Why did we choose this liberal arts school over all of the others? What do we love the most about Bucknell? What are we going to miss? And what is going to keep us coming back? I've had so many conversations where I am discussing these questions, but I have never had to consider my Bucknell experience as much as I have over the past few weeks. 

My motivation for choosing Bucknell, for falling in love with it, for the sadness that will inevitably come with moving out and for the excitement that will come with Homecomings and Reunions goes back nearly seven decades, when my Grandmother was a student here. 

This was back in 1942, when it took nine hours to get here from New Jersey because Route 80 didn't exist. She was here when Taylor Hall was still the zoology building and when Dana had just been constructed. She unfortunately was never able to graduate because of the war and other personal circumstances. Because of Bucknell's policy that you are considered an alum once you finish just one semester here, she is, in fact, still a Bucknellian and has always considered herself to be. 

I have heard about Bucknell throughout my childhood as my Grandmother reminisced about her experiences. She remembers the alma mater, the Lewisburg sunsets, and sitting out on the quad on a warm sunny day.  But I never understood Bucknell's enchantment until I stepped foot on the campus for the first time. I always wondered how it was possible, in a person's 89 years, for just one of those years to stand out so much. In just two semesters, my Grandmother experienced the power of being a Bucknellian — something we have had the honor and privilege of experiencing as well. 

We all have felt it at different times. Perhaps this power first revealed itself when you received your acceptance letter. Maybe it was when you scored your first goal, won your first match, meet, or game as a college athlete. Maybe it was the first time you had a revelation as to what your major should be. 

Perhaps the power was felt while you were having coffee with your favorite professor. When you went abroad, and realized that there's nowhere quite like Bucknell. Maybe you felt the power on bid night for your sorority or during initiation into your fraternity. Was it the first time you called Bucknell home? During an all-nighter in the library or Seventh Street? While eating Thanksgiving dinner in the caf or singing karaoke at Townie T? Was it while you were sitting in the middle of your freshman hall, bonding with your newfound family? My moment was when I pulled into the gates during Orientation to see perfectly aligned orange and blue balloons. Was yours the first time you saw the cherry blossoms on the quad or the golden fall leaves in the grove?

Despite our array of activites, sports, majors, prospective careers, friends and futures, we all have Bucknell in common and always will. 

There was a power that began the moment we walked through the Christy Mathewson Gates in August of 2009, escorted by the spirits of former Bucknellians, and it continued when we lit candles at Convocation, and throughout our four years. This power will persist for many years to come as we diversify our experiences and move on from the comfort of Lewisburg. 

The "real world" is something we have been talking about since we got here, but have yet to experience. It seems so much less daunting to me when I am approaching it with the class I have been privileged enough to experience Bucknell with: fellow peers who amaze me everyday. We have transformed from being anxious strangers as first-years to being an accomplished, cohesive class, and now, finally, graduates. 

We as a class have scholarship recipients sitting among us. Student athletes. Presidents of organizations. Founders of societies and clubs. First-generation college students. We have directed and starred in performances. We have created senior design projects that have solved real issues in society. We have participated in research that has been published and presented at symposiums. We have arranged a capella pieces. We come from all different parts of the country and nearly every corner of the globe. 

We are going on to work for some of the best companies in the country. Some of us are going to share the knowledge we have learned by teaching. We are pursuing higher education in master's and Ph.D. programs, law schools, and medical schools. We are going off to travel the world. Some of us are following our dreams, and sticking with the plans we have had since middle school. Others of us have completely changed our minds, our majors, and our futures. When I look at the class sitting before me, I see leaders, thinkers, friends, and peers. 

I see smart, talented, inspirational men and women and I can't wait to see the incredible things we will do with our forthcoming ventures.

There is a quote by Saint Ignatius Loyola that I came across during my first year here. I wrote it on the top of the Bucknell Brigade bus in Nicaragua and I have used it in countless essays and applications. It has defined what I believe all of us graduating today will do with the years we have spent at Bucknell. 

"Go forth and set the world on fire."

I have a feeling we all will use the power of being a Bucknellian in our futures. We all have had moments here where we have felt like we can pay it forward. 

We can use our knowledge in our prospective workplaces. We can use our leadership and classroom experiences in any endeavors we might have. 

We will always have this power in the relationships that have formed here, and in the skills we have learned here. And this power can never just disappear or be taken away: it's a part of us now.

Maybe in a few decades, we might even see this power instilled into a child or grandchild and be able to watch them graduate from our alma mater — just as my Grandmother is doing today. 

Congratulations, Class of 2013. I can't wait to see us take this power, cherish it for years and years to come, pay it forward and set the world on fire. 

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