the commencement speech I never gave

I graduated on Saturday.

At my beloved alma mater, I was a finalist for commencement speaker.

I wasn’t selected, but I had a good mindset going in: I have done all I can. I no longer feared the failure, I knew that it was going to be exactly how it was supposed to be.

Turns out I wasn’t meant to be commencement speaker… and that’s okay. I got to enjoy my last several weeks of college, and I didn’t have to stress over not crying on stage in front of a couple thousand people.

However, I still feel this words on my heart. So here’s a “rendition” of sorts of the commence speech I never gave… and to my fellow seniors, we did it!

My name is Alex, and I am fully aware that my classmates are all students who have accomplished great things, inspired many, and impacted our community…. and now, a small town girl from Britton, South Dakota will share a few words.

A classmate once said to me, “Our experiences at SDSU are so different,” when I was discussing the variety of meetings and activities on my schedule for the day. This couldn’t be more true. My experience involved the Students’ Association, CAPERS, State A Thon, Step Team, Intramurals, Honor Societies, Undergraduate Research, and so much more. Even though our experiences are vastly different, I wanted to find a way to relate to all the members of the SDSU class of 2019.

My thoughts kept circling back to one word: FAILURE.

I know, probably not the word you were expecting! I asked several classmates, fellow seniors, to enlighten me in my speech-writing process and narrow down their four-year experience into just one word. There was a variety of answers: growth, discovery, opportunities, excitement, friendship, love, and community… just to name a few!

While I am sure many of these terms relate to your college years, my mind kept floating back to a conference I attended last fall. There, I was introduced to the idea of a “Failure Memoir,” where we reflect back on our experiences in terms of all the ways in which we have already failed.

So here’s the thing… Our lives are the way they are today because we have failed. If I hadn’t failed, I probably would be an excellent pianist or an Olympic swimmer. Both of these, I failed in middle school. Now, I can no longer read music or swim a couple laps without getting winded.

In our collegiate experiences, we have all failed. I failed to star in an SDSU production, I failed to become lifelong friends with every person along the way, I failed assignments, I fail to wash the dishes in a timely manner (sorry, roommates!), and so far, I failed to keep off the freshman 15, find my the love of my life… I’ve failed to accomplish all that I hoped to do as a bright-eyed freshman when I lugged my room and my life into Honors Hall room 210, and today I’m sure I will fail in my valiant attempt not to cry as I hug my parents.

Failure is hard. and it hurts. Failure makes us question ourselves and the world around us.

Failure has taught me so many lessons. Failure has made me strong. Failure has shaped me into the woman I am. The idea of the failure memoir is to allow ourselves to realize that we have already failed. It somehow makes any future failure seem less daunting. Even though I know I will fail time and time again, I know that this success today is just one of many that await us.

As I began to write my own Failure memoir, I came to realize it was a resume of what I didn’t achieve. Our memories are selective. Our brains push aside the failures. In 5, 10, or 50 years we will not remember that extremely difficult economics exam or the group project that cost us a night of sleep, the speech that made our voices quiver, the time we slipped on the ice, a lost intramural championship, or forgot, once again, to wash the dishes. Our failures may not be our best memories, but they hold the best lessons.

What will we remember? We will remember this moment. We’ll remember the people who reminded us that while we fail, we are not failures. We’ll remember the passion-fueled paper or project that reminded us why we selected our programs. We will remember the 4 Hobo Day celebrations, our beloved clubs and organizations, internships that kick-started our careers. We will remember our residence halls, our first time on the 9 dance floor, and, because we’re the class of 2019, we’ll remember things like the Frost parking lot, and the use of Doner auditorium. We will remember accomplishing goals after we believed we could not. We will remember thriving off of coffee and pizza. We will remember screaming GO JACKS at the top of our lungs. We’ll remember mentors and professors who helped us to fall in love with our future professions. We will remember this place and the monumental impact it has had on our lives.

So as we leave here today and go on to face the world around us, I hope you are unafraid to fail. Because, the growth, discovery, opportunities, excitement, friendship, love, and community we have experienced here are the products of our failures. I hope you remember that your failures will not define you, but instead they will enlighten you and reinforce your purpose in this world. I hope you will remember that your successes, alongside your failures, brought you here, and that, as we all know, right here is a pretty great place to be.

Today, my friends, we have succeeded.

This is what we will remember.

Oh, and we’ll always remember: GO JACKS.

I love that this blog gives me a space to share some of my creativity, thoughts that I have (because I’m terrible at journaling), and connect with others.

This one’s for my classmates.

We’ve failed… but in the end, we’ve all succeeded in amazing ways, too.

So… I’m proud of you, congratulations, and go jacks.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close