(The Longer Version)
By David L. Roberts,
Assistant Professor of Mass Communication
Missouri Valley College
Sept. 1, 2011
Welcome, freshmen. Welcome to college life.
If you are sophomores or juniors or seniors returning here, I say, “Welcome back.”
Welcome to Missouri Valley College.
Freshmen, as the other students know, you are now on an amazing, exciting journey of discovery called college life.
Some of the students of the Rev. Sebastian are wearing the “shells into bells.” I have mine, too. It is a nice symbol of letting peace ring.
Freshmen, when I was your age, I was at a large university with 26,000 fellow students and I really did feel like just a number. I can remember my matriculation number to this day…245262. I was a number in a mass of other student numbers.
But you are not a number at this college. The faculty, staff, and administration are eager to get acquainted with you pretty quickly. They want to know you. They want you to succeed here.
But I remember one time, in my freshman year, standing in this very long line. It was five times, 10 times maybe, longer than any line you would ever stand in here at this college. The fellow student immediately in front of me was miserable about being in the line. She was impatient and unhappy and consequently very unpleasant. And when I turned to the student right behind me, she had a smile on her face and she said, “You know what I like about being in a line?” Well, now I had to hear that, to see what she liked about being in a line. She said, “I know that I will eventually be at the front of it.” It occurred to me that my attitude, in all kinds of moments, could be like either one of the students with me in that line. But I know that the student behind me, with the patience, dealing with the moment, was the one who made me feel better about also being in the line. And she was correct—We did get to the front of the line. We were moving forward. We weren’t moving backward. We were moving forward.
That’s what education does. It moves you forward.
The educational process is kind of like a line. It can seem somewhat slow for freshmen, but it can seem much faster when you are a senior.
It is to say that attitude is a key part of how we all handle each day and face each obstacle in our paths, as we move forward.
So, how do you overcome obstacles and your fears about them, as you may be dealing with some right now, two weeks into your college experience?
Well, you ask for help and talk to people who can help you, and you organize and prepare, so you can face an obstacle, such as a test, with some amount of confidence.
I am still a little nervous up here after all those years.
But frankly I didn’t want to pass on this opportunity, because it is my opportunity and I may not get another one like it again. With this opportunity comes the great responsibility that I provide you worthy thoughts for your consideration.
My first piece advice to you was to ask for help and try to be organized and prepared for facing obstacles or fears.
My second piece of advice would be that you always accept a good opportunity. I think all of you students now have to be pro-active in education. One of the amazing aspects of a college is that it offers many educational and quality opportunities. Seek those opportunities, make the most of them. They will richly add to your college experience and probably make you more marketable in terms of your career path beyond college.
It always troubles me, even makes me sad, when I hear that a freshman has left college, sometimes in the first weeks. It truly makes me feel badly because I know, in earning my degree, education has been a blessing for me.
In looking out at all of you, it makes me feel good knowing that you are here in the first place because someone very special in your life—your parents, maybe a single parent, grandparents, or others—believes in you. That’s a wonderful gift to have. And they don’t just believe in you and your ability and your brain power and your talents. But also they care about you. They care about your future. They want you to have an enjoyable career and a good future. And once you earn your college degree, no one can ever take it away. It is always there to help you along your life journey.
So, my next recommendation, to those of you who are wondering if you made the right choice by coming to college, is that you give it some time. Give it a chance to get better, as it does get better.
Everyone here, wearing this—the regalia—everyone of these faculty members I am sure would tell you that their initial four years of college were very important to their lives, foundationally important for their careers, and also greatly improved their lives.
I heard an educator not too long ago say on the news program “60 Minutes” that when a student receives a college degree, it not only changes his or her life forever, but it also changes the lives of their whole family forever. And can even change the life of a community. Maybe truly change the world.
Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. said about education, “Education should equip us with the power to think effectively and objectively. Education should cause us to rise beyond the horizon of legions of half truth, prejudices, and propaganda. Education should enable us to weigh and consider, to discern the true from the false, the relevant from the irrelevant, and the real from the unreal.”
That means that beyond all the figures about how a person with a college degree can find a better job and have a better financial life, there are many other benefits of education.
Education means you become a wiser, more knowledgeable, more worldly person.
Education gives people hope. Hope in pursuing your dreams and having a stake in the process.
You can have hope here. This is a hopeful, progressive place. President Humphrey and a lot of people have worked hard to make it so.
You have a voice here too for your concerns. Natalie, here on this Convocation stage, is one of your student leaders who can represent you, advocate for you, and challenge the system.
When I am in a “challenging” mood, concerning my students’ work or the college or politics or anything, it would be wrong to characterize me as “unhappy.” It is far greater than that, and usually just the opposite. I’m hopeful.
I’m hopeful for a different approach or for something better.
And there is a reason to have hope here, because a lot of progress has occurred in all kinds of ways.
O.K., let me give some quick comments…
I recently traveled to the country of Turkey. It is an interesting place and I enjoyed it very much. Though I couldn’t speak the language, I tried in my short time there to learn important words and phrases. And I found that the two responses I used the most were “Merhaba” which means “hello” and “Tasheker edirim” which means “thank you.” As college can seem at first like a rather foreign place, “hello” and especially “thank you” are really good responses for navigating it. “Thank you” means you appreciate the help, And I have never known one person who achieved their success on their own—it is always with the support of family, friends, co-workers, mentors, and community.
College also is a time to enjoy. It is a time to make friends who could be friends for a lifetime. Don’t just “friend” someone on Facebook, meet and become their friends in person. College is a crossroads to the world…and to the world of friendship.
College is not high school. You don’t have homework here—It’s referred to as research. You don’t have teachers here, though we teach—We are professors and instructors and lecturers. With college, comes greater and higher expectations. You are at a higher level of knowledge attainment and intellectual study.
Probably in no other setting will you experience as much diversity. You will meet people from all over the world and you will be able to make friends with students of all different colors, ethnicities, religions, and beliefs. You will have the opportunity to listen to and consider other viewpoints. College is an amazing meeting of minds and energy and diversity. And that’s what education is about as well. Diversity, expansion, growth, broadening of viewpoint, respect for others, accumulation of knowledge, become a greater person today than you were yesterday.
It really is an honor for me to be a featured speaker for you all, the new class of freshmen. It is exciting for me to talk to you in class, to watch you at sports or theater or music events.
By the way, the formula for success in college classrooms is pretty simple. Four parts to it:
Go to class. Take notes. Read your textbook. And study.
Those are the keys to a college education. Go to class. Take notes. Read your textbook. And study. If you follow those steps, you will be successful in your college career.
Since I am in the area of Mass Communication and print journalism, this speech is a little like a DVD in that it has bonus features. I kept cutting my speech shorter for this occasion, but the speech in its entirety, with some quotes that I like, can be found at the new Delta Online news website, at www.mvcdelta.com. So, if your parents ask you what happened at Convocation, you can also link them to my full speech there at mvcdelta.com. Bonus features!
Let me end with two quotes. Sometimes quotes are good because they can be remembered and can motivate or inspire you.
One quote is paraphrased from Olympic Gold-Medal wrestling champion Rulon Gardner, who is from my home state of Wyoming.
The quote is, “When you work, you move forward.” That’s a simple idea, but it certainly is correct. When you work, you move forward. When you work at your studies, you move forward. When you work at your talents and skills, you move forward. When you work at a part-time or full-time job, you are moving forward. You gain knowledge and experience, you may make money or a good grade or a score in sports. When you work, you move forward.
The second quote comes from comedian Mike Myers, of all people. He said, “To be enlightened is to lighten up.” To be enlightened is to lighten up. I like that quote.
College life is a time for being enlightened and for lightening up. Your dorm room might not be the greatest, you may complain about cafeteria food, you may wonder why some students think like they do, or you may object to something that your professor said in class because you just don’t agree with it. Well, all of that is O.K. But remember that to be enlightened also is to lighten up.
And hopefully you will realize that challenges and obstacles strengthen your character, and differences make you understand that the world includes all kinds of people who have a place in it just like you do. You have a place at this campus.
It also means that it is important in life and, especially at a college, that you keep a sense of humor.
To be enlightened and to lighten up means having a broad mind, a tough skin, and a generous heart.
Have a great year, students! Find the major that gives you great passion and enjoyment. Excel in your work because it does matter.
You, as college students, are here. You are working. You are learning. You are moving forward.
Here are some quotes that Assistant Professor Roberts likes:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” — Charles Beard
“No one has written your destiny. Your destiny is in your hands…No excuses.” – Barack Obama
“Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
“What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.” – Lao Tsu
“Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery.” – Henry Miller
“In the midst of winter, I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus
“I am with you always.” – Jesus from Matthew 28:20
“And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.” – 1 John 1:4