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Allie Simmons Commencement Speech (2014)

Allie Simmons

Furman University

Student Commencement Speech

May 10, 2014


You may have spent the past year on the receiving end of the dreaded yet increasingly pressing question: “So… What’s the plan for next year?” For me, the question came in many forms, the best of them being, “Are there any men in your life?” Assuming that if I’m not going to grad school or kicking off a killer career, I must be getting married. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But alas, for many of us, this just isn’t so.

And as wise and articulate as you may be, Taylor Swift, your song set an unbelievably unrealistic expectation for our 22nd birthdays. Yes, “We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.” I will give you that. “Miserable,” maybe. “Magical,” not quite as much. Interest rates and mortgages just aren’t that fun. All that most of us know about the stock market is that it takes up app space on our phones that could be occupied by something more useful.

The idea of simply basking in the bliss of being young and confused sounds appealing right about now, doesn’t it? To just have a conversation with our peers or our parents without the pressure of having to have it all figured out.

But that is not reality. And, if we’re honest, we don’t really want it to be. Yes, graduating is scary. Yes, the future is unknown. The real world is filled with vocabulary we can’t define and problems we can’t solve. But it’s time. And whether you feel like it or not, you are ready.

We have spent the last four years learning what it means to be engaged. To fit what we’re learning into a greater, practical context. But the even greater lesson we’ve learned is not to engage the outside world, but to engage the very world we’re living in. Amidst the academic challenge that engaged learning requires, we have learned to stop focusing on what could be to appreciate what is.

Right now, in this moment, there are approximately 967 things we could be and should be doing. To have any chance at future success, we must now be working hard, shaking hands, opening doors. It’s a little exciting, but very overwhelming. There are moments when you may wonder, who put me in charge of my life?

My dad used to tell me, “Allie, you’re going to be a great adult.” Implying that until then, I don’t get to call the shots. Well, guess what? Here I am! And here we are. We get to call the shots. Don’t question your ability to do so. Our parents, grandparents, peers, and professors have prepared us for this. Furman has prepared us for this.

Missionary Jim Elliot was killed evangelizing in Ecuador in the mid-1950s, and before he died, he wrote these words in his journal: “Wherever you are, be all there.” To be engaged, we must be all there. For many of us, that means intentionally investing our time in people rather than in school or in work. For me, it means to stop talking (something I haven’t done for the past 20 years), stop thinking, stop worrying and planning and doing, and just rest in where I am in this season of life. To be thankful. To just be.

I hope that for each of us, we are satisfied in how we engaged each moment here. We can look ahead with anticipation knowing that the strong relationships we have built will not end here. That’s the beauty of Furman: it lasts. And I suppose that’s the point of engaged learning: to participate and invest in things that last. Let’s not stop. Let’s keep engaging, keep asking, keep growing.

Whether you’re going back home or moving halfway across the world, whether you’re going to your top choice of grad school or wondering why in the world you chose the major that you did, be in the moment, pay attention to it, reap the blessings of it, and work hard to make something of it.

Wherever you are, Class of 2014, be all there. The world will be better for it.

Last updated May 2, 2014
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