Dig Deeper Into Your Life

University of Georgia Class of 2021 Commencement Address

Today is the day. I stand before you giving the commencement speech at our graduation from the greatest university on the face of the earth. I was informed that I only have about five minutes to give this speech, and it reminded me of the time where George Bernard Shaw told a speaker that he could only talk for 15 minutes. The speaker replied, “15 minutes?!? How can I tell them all I know in 15 minutes?” Shaw responds, “I advise you speak very slowly.” I say that jokingly, but I obviously cannot install in you every ounce of knowledge I have in this five-minute time span. I will, however, give an anecdote from the beginning of my career as a college student.

I was sitting at my high school graduation just four years ago, and the whole time I was just thinking about what it was going to be like when I move to Athens in a little more than a month. I was starting college in the Summer for the Freshman College Summer Experience. I had no idea what FreshCo would be like, but I couldn’t wait to find out.

When I first started Freshman College, I was told that we now have three classes instead of two, we have to complete a service learning requirement at a Habitat for Humanity site, and we now have to go to these events that just take up time, called Beyond Events. As I first heard the news, I let out a long a sarcastic “greeeeeaaatt.” I wasn’t very pleased. I had my first day where I not only had all 3 classes, but also had my first day of service learning. That day was probably the most exhausting day of my entire life.

This day consisted of about three hours of sleep the night before, a class at 9am that lasted until 11:30 am, arriving at the Habitat for Humanity at 1 pm, leaving the Habitat site at 3, going to my final class of the day at 5, and getting back to the dorm around 8pm, only to realize I had an essay to write as well.

The part of that day that I was dreading the most — working on site of a Habitat for Humanity home.

Anyone that knows me knows that manual labor is one of my least favorite things to do in the world. And guess what? As soon as I arrived at the house, someone handed me a shovel, and told me to start digging a trench alongside the house (which was probably the most difficult job that they had us doing). So, as you can guess, I spent the next two hours right beside four or five other guys in my class, just digging away. And surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad. 
It wasn’t that the work was good, because it was very, very tough, but the time wasn’t bad because I was meeting all of the guys I was digging the trench with, and making connections. Even though I thought it was going to be an awful time, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and enjoyed the other two trips to the site as well. Whether I was digging more of the same trench, using a pickaxe to remove roots, carrying a heavy trash bag, or laying concrete, I was meeting new people and having a great time.

Making concrete stairs

The lesson I am trying to convey through my service learning experience is that, sometimes, you think you are going to hate something, but most of the time there will be positives to take away. I went in with a mindset of all negativity, and left feeling accomplished for not only establishing social connections, but also feeling a sense of pride in my work, and feeling good about what I did for Habitat.

Me with a smirk on my face, feeling proud of the work I had done

To commence means to begin. I am giving this commencement speech not to officially end your time here at the University of Georgia, but to announce the beginning of your life. Whether you are going to get your master’s degree, going to medical or law school, or going to enter the work force, never be reluctant to try what you do not want to. Now go. Go from this place and try new things, and make a difference in this world. Just as I walked onto the UGA campus for the first time for the Freshman College Summer Experience in the Summer of 2017, set out upon the world, figure out who you are, and truly make a difference in this world.

Ending of the Commencement Ceremony at UGA