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Graduating class speaker Abby Schultz, an accounting and finance major from Reedsville, reminded her peers that graduation is just a motivational blink in time to spring them to future successes at the afternoon ceremony of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s May 15 commencement.

Here is a transcript of her speech:

“Welcome, graduates, professors, staff, parents, family and friends.

“As I look out at everyone graduating here today, I feel lucky. Lucky to have been your peer for the last five years. I think of the times I have shared with many of you, which makes me smile and wonder, ‘If only caps and gowns could talk, what would yours be saying about your time at UW Oshkosh?’

“If my cap was talking, it would say that five years ago when I started this college adventure, I would never have dreamed of being here today. I am a small-town country girl who came from a class of 10 in grade school and 60 in high school. As a first-generation college student, moving to Oshkosh seemed like I was moving to a metropolis.

“Like each of you, I was given the opportunity to work with diverse people and organizations and achieve goals I never would have considered obtainable. I want each of you here today to realize not only what Oshkosh has given you … so far … but also what Oshkosh is still going to help you achieve as you go forward.

“Today is about all of us, and I am here to remind you that no matter how long the last five years may have seemed, it was really only a blink in the experiences, opportunities and success of the lives you are about to live. No matter what you have achieved so far, this graduation celebration is just a motivational blink in time to spring you into the excellence you are yet to obtain.

“One thing that we all did on our first day on this campus was come to this very room. It was probably the hottest day of the summer because we had just moved in to the dorms, and each of us was sitting next to someone we had probably never seen before. With some of us excited and others petrified, Dr. Jim Chitwood (the former dean of students) told each of us something that I want to remind you of today.

“He claimed that during our time here at Oshkosh, 43 percent of us would be lucky enough to find the person we would spend the rest of our life with, and he said that for 25 percent of us, they were sitting in the same room. You may remember the responses of 1,800 18-year-olds who had just met an hour earlier. For those of you looking at the special someone right now, congratulations!

“At the end of this day, each of us will take off these caps and gowns and pack them away, along with the memories we have shared. These caps and gowns and these memories will be reminders of what you have accomplished, but more importantly, they can serve as a motivator of what you are yet to achieve.

“During this ‘blink’ in time, I want you to know that if caps and gowns could talk, they would whisper two reminders that should not be packed away:

“First, never disconnect from those you have met during college. Whether it has been four, seven or 10 years, there have been people who have had an impact on you and people for whom you have made a difference. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the third job that most of us will have is likely not yet created, and the problems we will solve are not yet known. This future of ambiguity shows that you never know when you may be in the position to help someone or when you may need their help in return.

“Second, your cap and gown are speaking something even my 3-year-old nephew knows and that we all learned so long ago: Don’t forget to say thank you. Not a single one of us would be here today if it wasn’t for others who believed in us, gave us encouragement along the way and deserve our gratitude. For me, it was my family. Just like all seven of them came to help me move into the eighth floor of the South Scott towers on the hottest day of the summer five years ago, they are back here again today, watching me close this chapter of my life. And I am grateful.

“So on behalf of all of us graduates, I have something to say: Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives, partners, significant others, cousins, nieces, nephews, family, friends, advises, faculty — to everyone who has shown us support over the years — thank you!

“Today is a day to remember and to celebrate, but this blink in time will be over in an hour or so. Our caps and gowns can’t really speak, but our lives will shout, proclaiming with their impact the value of a college education.

“Tom Brokaw once said, ‘You are educated. Your certification is in your degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. Think of it as your ticket to change the world.’

“Class of 2010, congratulations!”

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