“You are the students who look at their scope of work and demand its commitment to something greater than themselves”

By Sawyer Knuteson, 2017 SPEA Commencement Student Speaker

Neither greatness nor failure is made in a day; both will take a lifetime to achieve.

This is something that I have said to myself throughout my college career. It has encouraged me in times of tribulation, and humbled me when my arrogance bested me. However, these terms may have a different definition depending on the person with whom you speak; one woman’s failures may be another’s successes, so this is why to define these terms we must first look within.

Many nights we spent long hours writing papers, highlighting the readings or maybe even secretly plotting mutiny within our group projects.

All of these experiences prepared us for class, but they also refined us for difficulties that lay ahead. Despite these experiences and refining moments it is far too often I hear my generation referred to as snowflakes. “Oh you delicate snowflake.” “Don’t hurt the snowflake, they are easily offended.” Well this time, hell yes I’m offended! Because I do not think we understand what a snowflake is capable of and what it means when someone calls us this strange and wonderful insult!

You do realize a snowflake is unique?

To paraphrase my good friend Hanna Trusty, “A snowflake has an intricate ornate beauty. It has the ability to create wonder on a blank canvas, and snowflakes are water, you can’t live without water and you can not live without us! Our generation has been told throughout our lives that we are special just like everyone else, this much is true. But one thing the analogy and attempted insult do not take into account is the sheer unrestricted power of a snowflake.

You may giggle, but I wonder has anyone been in a snow storm? What’s happening there, at a single moment in time those delicate intricate snowflakes come together to grind a whole city to a halt, to shut down airports and cause ripple effects all throughout a region, and what caused this? A collective of delicate snowflakes coming together. It is when all those individual pieces come together to form something greater than themselves that a real difference can happen. Coming together to question the inequalities we paint as normalcies, and to challenge the institutions to be more inclusive, to be more compassionate, to be more human.

It is when these individuals come together that they can truly form something so magnificent and virtually unstoppable that it brings our most corrupt
institutions to their knees. However neither greatness nor failure can be found in a textbook or in one experience, it is a culmination of the events, the fears, the trials and the moments that give us true pride in our work.

As Speons  we understand this balance.

When I first was introduced to SPEA I asked, like some of you, what is SPEA and what is a Speon? And everybody laughed, just like you have, and then they spoke of what SPEA was to them. So I’m going to tell you what a Speon is to me. I see students who know that their work in the classroom is not merely checking a box or writing an essay. The projects and volunteering that so many of you do have. made. a difference. and it has rippled into the community and across many lives. Your work has changed the city of Indianapolis, the state and dare I say the world and you do not need to leave this campus to see these things taking effect!

Students such as Guadalupe Pimentel, who stand unwavering in protest at their own risk,  demanding that legislators protect and respect our communities of undocumented immigrants. Students who work so tirelessly and often without recognition, like that of officer Luckas Thornycroft, who pull third shift serving and protecting the Indiana school for the deaf, and frequently without sleep will be in class the same morning with a smile. Students such as Andre Zhang Sonera who continually march a conversation forward of inclusion and understanding both here in Indianapolis and in D.C. Students like that of Sara Hindi, who showed us that a person is more than their religion and in times of ignorance and misunderstanding we respond with a loving educated heart and not one of hate.

A SPEA is a calling of responsibility and a sense of ownership of the community of which you are a part. A belief that through collaborative and meticulously creative work you can contribute to our community in an impactful way. You are the students who stand in organized protest to the injustices seen by our marginalized communities. You are the students in uniform, standing to protect our most basic right of free speech. You are the scholars interning with civic leaders and showing first hand how diversity in the workforce can lead to a more robust outcome. You are the tree planters and recyclers that have
challenged us to see our greater global impact. You are the students who look at their scope of work and demand its commitment to something greater than themselves.

When I was young my mother told me, “It is not what a person stands for that defines their true character, but it is what they sit for.”

I see this in all of you. You know that indifference or silence is just as poisonous to a community as is hate. We are on the cusp of a new beginning where we all have a role to play and in that we must continue the lessons we have learned here. Do not fear the road ahead, go boldly forward, for neither greatness nor failure is made in one day, both will take a lifetime to achieve.

Congratulations SPEA IUPUI Class of 2017

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