Each journey has a beginning and an end. As travelers through life, we feel and know this. As scholars we mark and measure. We enumerate and count. One might say of the American Accounting Association, every member counts.
Here at the IU School of Public Health, every student counts. You count.
We are all about accountability. We are all about standing up and being counted. Today is a profoundly meaningful day in your life. Of this there can be no doubt. It may be a day in which you have fun or are relaxed or nervous about walking across the stage soon – took seriously or perhaps less so – the enjoinder to wear your classic academic regalia – or perhaps you are just thinking “I’m just doing this to please my parents.”
But regardless of these perspectives, it is indeed a profoundly meaningful day in your lives where you make a transition from a period of focused growth and learning to a role for many of you which will involve focusing on your career path and contributing to society and your families.
Today is a big day. It counts. No doubt about it. And it’s fitting that we are all here today to celebrate this achievement. And it’s fitting that we are marking this momentous day with this ceremony.
But you did not get here all at once. Maybe you began in the twinkle of your parent’s eyes, but let’s start our countdown toward today’s successful launch.
But how did we get to “launch?” I know that we talk in grand terms about support from family and friends and drive and determination – of the epic. We speak of momentous moments and amazing achievements. But how do we get from where we were to where we are? What were those moments like when things unfolded for you, when things clicked, or a challenge was overcome? And what does that look like?
Let the countdown begin. The sequence may differ for some of you if you are a graduate student or for other reasons. But here’s the prototype.
Roughly 1740 days ago you nervously clicked “send” on your application to IU.
You sent out a balloon of hope – a message in a bottle. And waited for a response.
Day 1680 you anxiously opened the response. Was it going to say, “we regret to inform you?” I am pleased that it did not. I’m pleased that we had your company here to study with us.
Day 1670 you asked whether you should accept this. You considered alternatives. Maybe you paced the floor. You made a decision. Good decision. Glad you came.
Day 1625 you accepted your IU offer to become a Hoosier. You were excited. Talk about a big step!
Day 1598, you moved into campus housing. You met your roommate for the first time. Would you get along? Would they drive you crazy? Hopefully, a little both of both. Luckily, for the most part, things worked out.
Day 1580 you went to your first official college class. You got lost but eventually found the room. Who knew room numbers didn’t always go in sequential order?
Day 1531 you aced your first major project.
Day 1523 you made your first collegiate friend. A friendship, which will undoubtedly last a lifetime – a friend who shares a special connection to this extraordinary place. Recently I convened a meeting with one of my old friends from many decades ago attending. As we embraced, I remembered the saying that “old friends are often the best friends.” And I agree. Several decades from now when some of you have as much gray hair as I do, I’m sure you will count the friends you made here at IU as among your best friends.
Day 1499 you went to your first IU Basketball game, IU vs. Eastern Illinois. Hoosiers prevail 88 – 49. Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoosiers! It may have been your first time in Simon-Skjodt Assembly Hall – a place you may have looked forward to visiting for a long time. You showed school spirit.
Day 1493 you made your first presentation in class. You learned the importance of preparation. Survey data have shown that more people say they are more afraid of public speaking than of dying – which means that if you’re giving the eulogy at a funeral, you’d rather be in the box than giving the talk. So, you overcame a fear that some people see as worse than death. Kudos to you.
Day 1378 was a tough day. Not everything went right. You thought about quitting. You wondered if you have what it takes. You wondered if the university made a mistake. You wondered if you had just fooled everybody. You hadn’t. You didn’t. Somehow you found that inner strength and kept going.
Day 1340 you attended your first Little 500. Who knew a bike race could be so much fun?
Day 1283 you started your first summer job. Maybe you hadn’t realized that there’s also a 6:30 in the morning – not just in the evening.
Day 1218 you moved into your first apartment. YOUR first apartment, ever. Goodbye campus housing! Hello 3 additional roommates! – and their dirty socks left on the dining room floor.
Day 1202 you declared your major. Go public health!
Day 720 you came to a crossroads, which way should I go? Graduate school? The workforce? Study this? Study that? Think about a future in another major? Study abroad? Which way should I go? A professor was there. Someone you could trust. They asked you some questions. They helped you sort things out. They helped you determine your path. You felt confident.
Day 518 you watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. Or not.
Day 463 you began your first internship and got an insider’s view on how things work – and possibly scored some points with a future employer.
Day 200 you bragged about the school to your friends.
Day 122 you started your last semester at IU. Home stretch.
Day 51 News breaks that the School of Public Health has been ranked as the best public health program in the state by US News & World Report. Wow.
Day 45 you start getting antsy. Graduation is fast approaching. You start sending invitations to family and friends.
Day 5, just a few days ago, you took your last final exam. You know you did great.
Day 2 you tried on your cap and gown.
Day 1. Today. You made it. You are here.
Take a deep breath. Sit a spell. Take it in. Savor the moment. This is one of your moments. Enjoy these milestones of life. This is the only time you will have this graduation at IU.
This one – day 1. The one day on which you launch.
This day, on which you blast off, will not come again.
Go out into the world. Be bold. Be courageous. Create NEW, deliberate, impactful milestones in your life as you leave today. Remain enthusiastic. Remain tenacious. Remain persistent. Do these things – just as you have done amazing things over the last 4 years and bring your goals and dreams to fruition.
Tomorrow the countdown reverses.
Tomorrow morning, one.
Day one of the next phase of your life.
One life ahead of you.
One planet to live on and for you to protect for all of us.
One human race of which we all members.
One global society for you to serve and help.
One mission: leave the world better than when you came into it.
One you. One you who can do it.
One you who can make a profound impact on the world.
One you who will face many challenges.
One you who will stumble and fall but get up again.
One you to achieve your mission.
Be the one.