It’s been a privilege to spend my four years with all of you stellar individuals. And given that we’ve all popped one too many bottles of champagne these past few days, we probably won’t remember the finer details of commencement and graduation weekend in the future.
However, what we undoubtedly will remember is this feeling; this feeling of unadulterated excitement and thrill that courses through each of us. Because graduation is a call for celebration and reflection upon the four years we spent here at Villanova.
During my first few months at school, nervous doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. Villanova was so picture perfect, and I wasn’t sure how I would fit into the hordes of straight-A students and peers juggling roles in not one or two, but several student organizations.
My first Activities Fair is a blur – I remember walking into the Pavilion, paralyzed with the anxiety and uncertainty of how to and in what to get involved to sharing my email address with any organization in my path. Thankfully, I have been able to hone my interests throughout my undergraduate career, but that sense of disquiet has remained because our campus is brimming with peers that are pulled together so effortlessly and seem to have it all. In truth, I am consistently and extraordinarily humbled by the level of talent and success achieved by everyone around me.
And hopefully as nineties babies, you guys can relate; we grew up with a slew of fictional heroes. There is Tommy from Rugrats, Harry the wizard, Neo from the Matrix, or even the likes of Spiderman. These guys represented “chosen” ones who go off to save the world, which made it easy to see leadership as an inevitable fulfillment of a destiny.
So couple that with my perception of picture perfect Villanova, and it was easy to believe that going forward I would be expected to have a clear path to success. Frankly, it felt as if some kind of unique and special fate awaited our classmates that was eluding me. But if my experiences at Villanova have shown me anything, they have taught me to shatter such a passive notion of heroism and replace it with the understanding that we always have the choice to be leaders; to be heroes within our communities and in our own lives.
Whether it is through service, new experiences in foreign countries, or collaboration in the classroom, we find success because we eschew apathy. We explore our boundaries and test our parameters. We accomplish heroic efforts because we dismantle obstacles collectively. Think about it. Our campus is strewn with heroes.
Our scholars. Our tour guides. Our orientation counselors. Our musicians, athletes, actors, and activists. What we all have in common is our willingness to be a part of something greater than ourselves, uninvited and unasked. Because that is the most important characteristic of true leadership: the readiness to volunteer with others to make passions come alive.
My numerous hours spent on Buzzfeed suggest that we Millenials have no idea what we’re doing, but given the calibre of my peers, I politely have to disagree. When I came to Villanova, I wanted to be cool and to make a difference, but I had all these insecurities and fears of failure. But the truth is that all of us more or less want those same things. What ultimately distinguishes us from each other is when our desire to take initiative outweighs our fear of screwing up. We have all demonstrated leadership, and our education has taught us how to embrace challenges and pay attention to opportunities. We came to Villanova wide-eyed and ambitious, and I hope we leave it equally determined, albeit now with greater courage.
Just as the class that preceded ours and the class that will follow ours, we have already gotten a jumpstart to discovering success. Receiving our diplomas in it of themselves is a symbol of leadership; that, if four years of all nighters and dozens of Red bulls later are any indication, it does not happen on a whim and that it is not always glamorous. Yet four years later, we’re here, equipped with the capacity to question the status quo and make meaningful contributions to humanity.
And yes, having the audacity to follow our passions and to be brave in our future may lead to failure. However, I sincerely hope the prospect of defeat doesn’t discourage us. Because persevering through those risks will teach the greatest lessons, and following our curiosities will broaden our world views. So, remember that feeling I mentioned earlier? The electricity emanating from feeling invincible and ready to take on the world? Hold onto that emotion, and don’t forget it. With every endeavor you make going forward, stay hungry for that sensation.
And while you’re satisfying your pursuits, do celebrate with your fellow dreamers, friends, and loved ones. Because while half the equation is about which visions you’ll fulfill, the other more important half is who you realize them with. So to my friends and peers, thanks for continually inspiring me and for making my time at Villanova more than just about obtaining a degree. We’re young and enlightened and on our way to a boundless adventure, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the Class of 2014. Congratulations, Wildcats. We did it!