Irvine: Graduation speech in print

Judy Irvine

Last spring, I was in Dr. Berens’ Advanced Speaking and Speechwriting class. One of our assignments was to write and deliver a commencement speech. At the time, I thought that the year until graduation sounded very far away. I was also not a columnist yet, and I wished for the opportunity to deliver my speech at graduation. However, now that I am a columnist, I have the opportunity to deliver it in a somewhat different fashion – in print. Here it is, and I hope you enjoy it.

Faculty, parents, guests and the Class of 2002, welcome to a day that you may have previously thought was far away, or that would never come, but now, like most of us, a day that came all too soon: our graduation from Villanova University.

Some of you may not realize this, but this is the first time we have been united as a class since Orientation. I remember standing in the Pavilion on the last night of Orientation, clutching a candle in both hands as they stated it would be the last time all of us would be together, just our class, until we graduated. Probably part of the reason I remember so well was that my hands were shaking as I held the candle, in part because I was afraid that Orientation was ending and that the next day classes were starting and, in part, because I was still homesick.

I remember an upperclassman asking me what year I was born and when I said 1980, he remarked how young that sounded. And I felt young, a small fish in a big pond. A cliché, I know, but undoubtedly true.

Eventually though, as probably happened with a lot of you, my fellow graduates, things began to change. I made friends, joined organizations and began to love my time here. However, I will always remember the little things. Sitting out at the Oreo on a spring day, brushing hair from my face as a spring breeze wafted by, seeing the Church steeples appear from the trees as I drove up the Main Line to campus after a break, or seeing my parents’ reactions the first time I said I was going “home,” meaning to Villanova.

Today, looking back on myself freshman year, I wonder what my graduating senior-self would say to my freshman year self, given the chance. I think it would be something similar to what was said in the Disney movie “The Kid,” in which a woman states that she would say to her younger self, “Honey, everything is going to be all right.”

Like today, I then was nervous as to where the future was going to lead me, but now I know college was an incredible journey. It is this which we must remind ourselves of today. We must live in the moment in order to appreciate it and not worry about what tomorrow will bring. Sometimes we will be able to control what will happen, but most times it will seem like we can’t.

Despite this, think back to our four years here. Doesn’t it seem that everything that has happened was destined to be? Perhaps everything does happen for a reason. Regardless, try to live for the moment.

A quote from the film “Defending Your Life” best exemplifies to me why you should. “Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything. Real feelings, true happiness, real joy. They can’t get through that fog. But you lift it, and buddy, you’re in for the ride of your life.”

And so, to my fellow graduates of the Class of 2002, to their parents and mine, who will always worry, even when we have children, to our faculty and to our friends, I say, “Congratulations.” Everyone took part in getting us here.

And with that in mind, seize this moment, seize this day. Carpe diem. And tomorrow, seize that day as well, because it is undeniably true, life is too precious and too short.

To the classes of 2003, 2004 and 2005, I say enjoy it. For us, there will be no more formals, no more lounging in the sun in front of Dougherty on nice days, no more aggravating drives down the Main Line at rush hour to get to our off-campus apartments, and the true sign of aging, no more getting carded at bars. But I am sure we would all sit in traffic every day for hours for just one more year.

However, I state that we, the Class of 2002, should step cheerfully into the future, confident in ourselves, as Villanova has given us what we need to succeed and that is the best weapon for combating the fear and worry that might creep up on us every so often.

I wonder what my future self of four or five years down the road would say to the person that I am now. I am sure it would be, “Honey, everything is going to be all right.” Class of 2002, everything is going to be all right. Thank you.