To the men, women and non-binary members of the audience, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Johnathan Coleman, but please feel free to call me Chief. I am a philosophy and political science double major. If any of you parents are wondering what I'm going to do with my degree, I'm going to law school — don't worry.
Today I will ask you to imagine.
But before I do so, I want to recognize our friends, family and support systems in the audience. Thank you for helping us achieve beyond what we ourselves sometimes could envision.
I also want to acknowledge the elephant in the room. I have the distinct pleasure of losing my voice on perhaps the most important day of my life, but I have never been afraid of a challenge, and I am not afraid right now. So let's go.
To Bucknell's graduating class of 2019, today we received our diplomas and will begin the next chapter of our lives.
For some, that may mean starting a career, perhaps engaging in a fellowship or attending graduate school. And some may not yet know where the next chapter of your story will lead you. And that is okay — we have so much more of our lives ahead of us.
As I reflect upon my own Bucknell experience, I am reminded how much I have learned in the past four years, because as President Bravman said early on in the program, I never knew what I did not know.
Our experiences learning together have influenced all of our outlooks on life. In classes, we were taught to challenge the status quo. On the court, in the pool and while playing on the field, we learned to trust others and push ourselves. Abroad, we learned of different cultures and began to challenge our own world narrative. We did this all while simultaneously learning just how much orange we could fit into our wardrobe — 'ray Bucknell!
For most of us, next year probably means growing up and hopefully wearing a bit less orange. So, let us all embrace our inner child for a moment, while we still have access to it, and let us imagine. In fact, let us imagine what we will know tomorrow.
I take this phrase from the movie "Men in Black," where Tommy Lee Jones' character tells Will Smith's: "Five hundred years ago, everyone knew that the Earth was flat, and 15 minutes ago, you knew we were alone on this planet. Imagine what we will know tomorrow."
I do believe he has a point when he asks us to go beyond what we currently know now.
Let's try it out on our college experiences.
Please raise your hand if you came to campus with an intended major. Guests, feel free to participate.
Put your hand down if you changed your major.
For those with your hand still up, put your hand down if what you believed you would do with that major changed.
Did any experiences change your opinion of something you had held as a fact? Put your hand down.
Look around at how many people have expanded their knowledge.
Think to yourselves what courses, internships and life experiences have acted as a catalyst of change. Go ahead and think — you're dealing with a philosophy major here.
I myself experienced this change. I came to Bucknell as an intended international relations major, never envisioning a shift to philosophy. In fact, my mom couldn't, either. When I called to tell her I was becoming a philosophy major, her response to me was, "No, you're not."
But once I told her I was set on it, she became extremely supportive. There's no way I'd be standing in front of your without her guidance and strength, and I really mean that.
For it was until eighth grade that I had a terrible speech impediment that left me embarrassed to speak in front of large groups and crowds such as yourselves, and even among my peers. It was through her support that I am able to be speaking in front of all of you today, pushing myself further than I could have imagined merely years ago.
These distinct moments of transformation allow us the ability to go beyond our previous experience and become change manifested. We just walked across this stage, we grabbed our diplomas — they actually gave it it to us! — and shook some hands, signifying the end of our four years here at Bucknell.
Yet the learning does not stop here, nor does the imagination.The world is quickly changing, and through our Bucknell education, we now have the tools to adapt to that fast-paced world. However, merely adapting is not enough.
I'm going to ask you to think once more. Please close your eyes this time.
Imagine the world you wish to live in.
What does it look like?
What sort of people are there?
Shoot, what does it smell like?
As you begin to envision that world, I invite you to open your eyes again.
For years our elders have reported that we are the future of this great nation. But in fact, we are the now.
Bucknellians, I challenge you to go forward and innovate. When the days seem long and hard, when weeks do not go our way, think about the difference four years have made, and continue to persevere.
Leave no stone unturned, and let your imagination become your reality.
Congratulations, Class of 2019. I cannot wait to see the world we create.