University of Kentucky
Commencement Comments from Student Representative
May 8, 2004
by Donald C. Storm II

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To the Board of Trustees, President and Mrs. Todd, the Platform Party, the proud families `and friends, and especially to the greatest class that has ever graduated from the University of Kentucky…Today’s date, May 8th, will always be memorable for us as graduates. From here on, the mark of achievement is upon us all, academically and indelibly; so let us rejoice in that, because now we fare forth, and the world where we are to make our mark lies before us. We are the class of 2004.

Some would view us the end of the most tempestuous, change-driven century of the millennium. Others think of us as the hopeful, better beginning of a new era. However we are viewed, in truth, we are nothing but ourselves. We have slid out of Generation X into our own. Appropriately coined Generation Y, we are the ones who ask for faster, longer, safer, fairer, and better. We are the sons and daughters of baby-boomers, farmers, veterans, ex-hippies, and civil rights activists. Yes, we are a diverse group, yet we accept that diversity whole-heartedly. We all have our own beliefs. We hail from the East Coast, the West Coast, and all stops in-between infinity and beyond. We are actors, artists, writers, and musicians. Some are mechanics, carpenters, accountants, engineers, doctors, and programmers. We are runners, jumpers, hitters, and throwers. In short, we are leaders, freethinkers, and dreamers. None of us has a certificate or signature that confirms any of this quite yet, but we have all experienced these roles in the society that is the University of Kentucky. We should not say “I want to be,” or even “I will be,” but instead “I am.”

We are the past and we are the future. And on this trip into the future, setting our sails towards the noble goal of a just and civil society, we have only education as our compass whose needle guides us towards our humanity. We cannot assume that we are done with our education now that we enter adulthood. Rather, we must continue to strive towards that noble goal of civilization, by creating an educated and not ignorant society. Our fight is to teach the world about science so that we will understand our world, what is possible and what is not. We need to understand language so that we can read and comprehend, staying current and balanced. Moreover, language enables us to read the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” and for the only time in some of our lives understand the coming of age of an African-American woman. We need art to know what we would be missing if we only knew science; and we need math for it is the universal language. We need history so that we may know the past and may not be condemned to repeat our errors.

Civilization is our humanity, and what makes us human makes us think. We must be educated so that we can be the best we can be as human beings, so that we can create justice, understanding, and compassion.

Now that we are embarking on the rest of our lives, I challenge you to never stop thinking or learning. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said in “Tender is the Night”: “Either you think or else others have to think for you and take power from you.” When we stop thinking, we lose the power that makes us uniquely human. So whether you are attending graduate school, planning to start work, going into the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines, never stop learning. The world is more than grades, more than words in textbooks. The world is a powder keg of knowledge, and we are all the fuses.

What we do is so important, for we will affect people’s lives and their happiness. And our humanity and education is what will decide whether we are kind or cruel, fair or unjust. Educate yourself and your children, your neighbors and your parents. Teach them all you can, show them the civility within you and the education you possess.

We, the class of 2004, have the awesome power of knowledge. Education has been a gift from these wonderful parents and educators, and I ask you to grow and learn and use what you have. Don’t ever assume it is time to stop. We close a door so we can open another. We are the dreams of the past, the energy of the present, and the inheritors of the future. We have gone, and will go, farther than the moon to reach for the stars. We follow a set of paths vastly different from those tread by our ancestors, perhaps even those by our parents, which may cross in the future, or may not. As Robert Frost wrote:

Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

In some ways, the class of 2004 has already done this, because we…we took to the task of learning.

Thank you and good luck.

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