The following is the text of the full University of Wisconsin Oshkosh of the Dec. 16 commencement speech delivered by Austin Karraker, of Wauwatosa.
“Good morning fellow Titans! My name is Austin Karraker. I have been a Titan here at UWO for coughing/mumbling* years. Today I am finally receiving my degree in broad-field social sciences in secondary education. So if you are a fan of long-winded, drawn out, meticulously researched lectures from the pulpit then this two-hour speech is going to fly by.
“Three and a half years ago I saw myself in a familiar situation. I was almost done, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I was a marketing major and I had just received a position to work in marketing at a radio station who wanted to pay me way more money than a 21-year-old should be paid. On paper everything was falling into place, but I was not excited. I figured it had to be because it was finals week, so I went to managerial accounting, my last exam, ready to squeak by with a C and move on.
“And there I sat, on question number 37 asking me about a balance sheet or something, to be honest I still do not know what managerial accounting is about, and all I could think to myself was: ‘I don’t care.’ I didn’t. I did not care. I did not care about question 37 or 38, or even the class itself. I did not care about my organizational behavior course, business law, or even principles of marketing. I did not care about business school.
“I realized business school was not for me. So I did what any logical 21-year old who had just finished his junior year would do. I dropped out of the College of Business. Now, my parents are pretty old-fashioned, they have these ridiculous expectations that I go to college to ‘get a degree’ and ‘find a job.’ And they were right, but I needed to find my passion and follow it.
Which I did. I found it in school. In teaching. I am now excited to get up for work everyday. I did not want to be sitting at some office job getting my gold watch, wishing I had been brave enough when I was 21 to essentially scrap my first three years of college to try again and do it right. I did not want to live a life where I was simply content.
“I know just as much as you do about the fears we are pushing to the back of our minds, the fears we will worry about Monday morning. There is a great big world out there that we must tackle now, but I implore you to fear a content life more.
“I am quite confident that all of you are such loyal UWO students that you know the mission statement in full, but in case you are spinning your wheels because of the excitement of today, let me remind you. The mission statement in part is ‘…to serve and stimulate society by developing in students’ heightened intellectual, cultural and humane sensitivities, scientific, professional and technological expertise, and a sense of purpose…’ That is what you signed up for so many years ago.
“Through this mission statement, this university has been preparing us since day one to combat ‘settling.’ We have been groomed since we received our acceptance letter that being ‘good enough’ or ‘run of the mill’ are no longer options. You may be thinking that you slept through the class that told you that Titans do not settle for average, but remember that your education is not restricted to what you learned in a classroom. Just please do not tell my students that so much of your learning takes place out of the classroom, because then they will stage a revolution and I will have a mob of anarchist teenagers on my hands.
“I know that while today is a long-awaited day of celebration, or in my case a very, very long-awaited day, we may lose ourselves looking toward that next step. As we sit here staring down the rest of our lives, do not forget the university that made you into the individuals you are, and will one day become. Do not forget to return home. Come back and remember the fond memories you formed inside and out of the classroom. The legacies you have left, and think of the legacies that will one day fill these halls. We must never forget that we are Titans.
“Being a Titan is a title you will carry around with you for the rest of your life. On the first line on your resume you are allowed to proudly produce the name of this fine institution. You must never forget that as a Titan you will stand out among your peers as a colossus of your field. As we find ourselves looking to write the next chapter of our lives, I implore you to remember to be a Titan.
“When you finally get your job…be a Titan
“As a business person…be a Titan
“As a nurse…be a Titan
“As a teacher…be a Titan
“As a law enforcement officer…be a Titan
“As whoever you are meant to be…be a Titan
“Thank you and Congratulations!”