President Adams, parents, administrators, and classmates-
My name is Kevin Scott and I am going to take you on an oratorical journey through the UGA undergrad experience over the last 4 years…actually in my case let’s go ahead and make it 5.
I want to take you day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, to this very moment right…now. Yes, for the next 5 hours we will be covering everything from your first all-nighter at the SLC, to your all-day escapades waiting in line to get football tickets, and the always endless search for parking…that doesn’t exist!
At the urging of President Adams, I will also be encouraging large donations to the University of Georgia upon our graduation….as this kind act is considered rewarding, profitable…and fun!!
When I first started thinking about themes for this graduation speech I have to admit I struggled. I racked my brain. I had no idea what to do or where to turn.
So in complete and utter dismay, I decided to do the most logical thing I could think of, which I truly feel will go down as the most memorable part of this graduation speech.
Ladies and gentlemen, please pull out a pen and a piece of paper (the back of your graduation announcement will do.) Oh, I’m serious, we’re really doing this. Get out your pen and paper. Please write the following: email@example.com
Yes, ladies and gentlemen that is my email address and this is my last ditch effort to get a job on graduation day! See mom and dad, I promised I had one more trick up my sleeve!
In all seriousness, graduation day is a time to reflect on the pivotal moments that got us here today.
Remember when we were younger:
Before the Facebook frenzy…
Before the Internet & text messaging…
Before iPhones & iPods…
Back when we played Red Light, Green light, Heads Up 7 Up, and Nintendo was the hardest thing ever.
We remember class field trips, nap time, In-School Suspension, and two words that defined our educational experience- Trapper Keeper.
We remember when it was a privilege to sit in the front seat of a car and how wearing your new shoes on the first day of school was the cool thing to do!
We remember a time when life was simpler. When decisions were made by going ‘eeny-meeny-miney-moe’, we remember when money issues were handled by whoever was banker in ‘Monopoly’ and when being old referred to anyone over the age of 20.
We had Mark Summers and Double Dare, Camp Anawana, and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
We remember when the Chicago Bulls were the Best Team Ever, when Sid Bream slid into home plate, and the Falcons were….well they were just as bad then as they are now!
We remember knowing the entire opening song to “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” how our favorite people growing up were Zach Morris and Kelly Kapowski. And lastly, we remember everyone getting super excited when it was Oregon Trail day in computer class!!
As I got older, I began to set my sights on attending the University of Georgia. I wanted to partake in the game day experience at Sanford Stadium, enjoy the music scene that Athens is famous for, and see the most attractive girls that America had to offer— And then it was explained to me there was also book learnin’ to be done here as well.
As my parents learned of my desire to go to UGA, I would sometimes overhear them muttering such things as– Increasing admission standards, high SAT scores, and Kevin’s severe learning disability.
So they encouraged me to lower my standards and seek out more reasonable options such as the civil service, a GED program, or Georgia Tech…
But all kidding aside, I think all of us here would agree, without the support of our parents we wouldn’t be standing here today. On behalf of the 2007 Graduating Class of the University of Georgia, thanks to all the Moms and Dads for bringing us into this world, supporting us in our efforts, and helping us become the people we are today.
As graduation approached I realized there is, however, one thing our parents can’t necessarily do for us- Get us that first job.
Being in that same situation, I would like to once again reference my personal email address- firstname.lastname@example.org In the subject line, please feel free to put- 6 figure salary awaits!
Throughout all of our time here at the University of Georgia, each of us have had unique experiences along the way that have shaped our college career and provided us stories we can always look back on.
Some of you spent endless nights at the library and your studies have paid off. We have several students graduating with a perfect 4.0, even with the plus/minus system. We became the ONLY public university in all of America to have 2 Rhodes Scholars this year alone. UGA joins the ranks with Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia.
While those other schools may now try to call themselves the “UGA of the North” they will never have the opportunity to witness football like we have in the south. This year as a Bulldog Nation we went 10-2, wore out the Heisman Trophy Winning Quarterback and his little Florida Gators, and are headed to the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Lastly, many of us during our time here in college had the chance to travel overseas and experience life from a different point of view. I know so many people that have come back changed from experiences they never thought were possible here at home. But I am here to tell you that one of my most life-changing experiences happened inside the State of Georgia.
Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to work with UGA HEROs, the University’s largest philanthropy helping children in our state with HIV/AIDS. I have had the opportunity to see kids who by a simple twist of fate were born into this world, by no fault of their own, with so many things stacked up against them. It’s the experiences I’ve had with these kids that helped define me during my college career.
A few weeks ago we had all of our children together at one of our events. At the end of the day we had a balloon wish station where the children gathered together to write one final wish on a balloon before we would let it go into the heavens above. And I remember as I stood there, I watched an 8 year-old boy write, “I just wish my family would be alright.”
And a 14-year-old boy who wrote, “I wish I could graduate from high school.”
But I think the one that hit me the hardest was watching a 6-year-old girl take that balloon and write, “I (and she drew a heart for love), I love God, I wish God loved me.”
You know the sad part is that there are over 12,000 children in Georgia alone affected by HIV/AIDS and 90% of the kids in our program come from annual family incomes of $10,000 or less.
Looking back over my college experience I am proud to have been a part of UGA HEROs and know that while we may have received recognition, such as being named 2007 Organization of the Year, all of the accolades pale in comparison to raising more than $306,000.00 and knowing the impact that will have on our kid’s lives.
As I look back on my college career, if I had to point to one thing, to one time, to one experience that truly made me passionate about giving back to others, I’d have to tell you about an experience inside Sanford Stadium, but it wasn’t at a football game.
HERO put on an event allowing students for the first time to come onto the field to watch a movie on the Jumbotron. Many HERO children we work with were able to attend and in addition to being affected by this disease, these children are also economically disadvantaged and some have even endured the hardship of losing a parent or family member as well. For most of the UGA Students, it was an experience of a lifetime, being on the field, between the hedges, inside a 92,000 person stadium. Our initial thought was that these children would also be just as excited about the unique opportunity.
Instead, we realized that most of these children were more interested in having someone… to simply call a friend. I’ll never forget one little girl. Throughout the movie she kept talking about how hungry she was and couldn’t wait for the free Chick-fil-a that was soon to come. When the food finally arrived she rushed over and she excitedly grabbed a sandwich saying, “Chick-fil-a is my favorite and I never get to eat it!” So we cut the sandwich in half for her. She quickly ate the first half, and wrapped the other back up. A little confused, we asked, “Don’t you want to finish the rest of the sandwich?” I will never forget her response. She said, “You know, I do. But I really want to save it for my grandmother at home… who never gets to eat Chick-fil-a either.” 50% of the HERO kids have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately this little girl has lost both.
I remember sitting there thinking, “With all that this girl has faced, she is still focused on giving back to others.” It made me realize just how fortunate we truly are.
As the Graduating class of 2007 from the University of Georgia, we too, have an opportunity to give back. As the Graduating Class of 2007 from the University of Georgia, we should give back.
Around the world right now, there are 6.5 Billion People. More than 98% of them will never have the opportunity to attend college. Much less, be a part of the Bulldog Nation. But you are!
You have the knowledge to be successful.
You have the resources to be successful.
You have the talent to be successful.
So this is the time to go and be successful in this journey we call life, but remember this… Success is not always measured in the money you may make, or the recognition you may receive … but more so in lives you may touch and the impact you may have.
As we leave this University and finally walk beneath the Arch, I will remember football games with 92,000 of my closest friends (all making fun, of Gators in Jean Shorts), going out in infamous downtown Athens (not until junior year, of course!), the late night studying at the SLC (although very little studying was actually ever done) and Senior year putting all of our hard work and effort into that final push to get that first big job (which, by the way, I’m still looking for- email@example.com) But you know what… Even if you are moving back in with your parents come tomorrow morning, that’s still not as embarrassing as graduating with a diploma from that other school in Atlanta (Georgia Tech).
As we graduate from this great institution, we should take away from here the opportunities the University of Georgia has given us. And while we may descend upon our journey well-equipped to achieve success in all of its many forms, never forget there are many others who may never have those same opportunities. Be successful because you can, stand up for those who can’t.
To the Graduating Class of 2007– Congratulations and Best of luck!