Phillip Gruber, of Oshkosh, graduated from University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s College of Letters and Science with a major in biology and a minor in microbiology. Gruber offered the following remarks to his class as midyear commencement speaker:
“Good morning faculty, parents, relatives, friends and University of Wisconsin Oshkosh graduates of 2018.
“Change is a powerful thing. Without change, the world would not be what it is today. Without change, the United States of America would not exist, technology would never advance, African Americans would still be slaves, women would have no rights equal to a man, only two gender identities would exist, and children would have no opportunity at such a fine education like all of us had these past few years.
“This powerful thing called change can be used in many ways. It was change that saved millions of Jewish families from death during World War II. It was change that allowed Amelia Earhart to become the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. It was change that brought America out of the Great Depression. It was change that elected Donald Trump. It is change that gave you the iPhone XS, ice bucket challenges, Unicorn Frappes, bottle flipping and, yes, Fortnite.
“Change is happening all around you at every moment of every day. You wake up and change your clothes, or at least I hope so. You change a light bulb every now and then. You login to Titan Web and change your schedule after checking ‘Rate My Professor.’ You change your major once, or maybe five more times. You change your dance moves after realizing that dabbing apparently isn’t ‘in’ anymore and you have to do this thing called flossing. And then you even change your definition of flossing.
“I guarantee you that you have seen somebody trying to make change in the past week. You turn on Sunday football and see people kneeling during the National Anthem. You walk across campus and see people standing at the entrance of every door on campus handing out pocket Bibles. You read the newspaper and see a new headline about the #MeToo movement. Change is relevant, and it is happening all around us.
“So what is my message to you today? Well, you probably guessed it. Change.
“Graduating class of 2018, we are a group of people who are bound to do amazing things. We will challenge this world. We will speak our minds until nobody wants to hear us speak. We will start movements when nobody wants us to. Nothing will contain our desire for change. And I want you all to make that change. Today, tomorrow, or even years from now, I want you all to make that change. All change begins as just one person with one idea. I know you can do it.
“This world is in desperate need of change. Whether or not we all agree on the same politics, beliefs or morals; we can all agree that this world needs change. Environmental protection and conservation need change. Sustainability and technology need change. Journalism and the media need change. Healthcare systems and medical practices need change. Education and guidance we provide to the next generation need change. And most of all, the amount of respect in this world needs to change.
“So how will we do this? Well, I will tell you how I made my change.
“About a year ago, I decided I wanted to research birds. I was currently learning about wildlife behavior with Dr. Elsbeth McPhee, when I realized that I wanted to learn more about why animals behave the way they do. In particular, I wanted to learn about how we, as humans, change the behavior of birds. Now some of you may recognize this, as I was featured in the Titan Newsletter that you receive through Gmail. The rest of you that have no idea what I am talking about are probably like me and deleted that email before even reading it.
“Anyways, in my research, I did in fact learn that birds respond negatively to noise pollution created by humans. I am now taking this information and working on publishing it in local and international scientific journals. This is how I have decided to make some change in my life. And, knock on wood, I will have plenty of time in my life to make more change.
“So what will you do Class of 2018? How will you make change? Where will you make change? Why will you make change? Your options are endless. And I challenge you to make that change.
“There is a quote by Barrack Obama that sticks with me as I come to my end here at the great University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. ’Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.’
“Thank you and congratulations University of Wisconsin Oshkosh class of 2018.”