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Transylvania Social Sciences commencement speaker urges 2021 graduates to maintain strong community

commencement speaker

Savannah Lambert ’21, an international affairs and German studies double major from Georgetown, Kentucky, delivered remarks during Transylvania University’s May 29 commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021 students in the Social Sciences division. Watch the video of her address above. The text, as prepared for delivery, is below.

Dear Class of 2021,

First of all, congratulations. As I look out across Old Morrison lawn, I see the faces of so many people representing so many memories. Those who were once strangers down the hall in Forrer are now close friends. Those who were once intimidating authority figures are now trusted mentors. And among them, the family members who once sent us off now watch us cross the stage as different people four years later.

At our first-year induction ceremony back in August of 2017, we were all handed engraved coins. Every class receives a coin with a different quote on the back, representing a different message for every year. Ours, Class of 2021, was the following quote from Henry Adams: “Chaos was the law of nature; order was the dream of man.” Four years later, who could’ve known how relevant that would feel? That’s the contradiction — we exist somewhere between chaos and order, and though strive as we might for order, oftentimes we end up a lot closer to chaos.

Over my time at Transy, and the past couple months in particular, I feel like I’ve been learning to navigate the contradictions and become comfortable in the unclear and unknown. It’s really tempting to categorize things on a binary system: inherently good or bad, one or two, this or that. When I think about the challenges of the past year, it’s really easy to want to say this was just hard.

While I certainly don’t want to gloss over the challenging moments. I’m also not here to dwell on the negative, and there have certainly been moments of light within. And so on this graduation day, I think we have to get comfortable in the in-between of the contradiction that a moment can be both good and challenging, both rewarding and sad.

If my time at Transy has taught me anything, it’s how to thrive in the chaos of the in-between. College itself is this strange and wonderful, but sometimes really confusing, liminal space — in between adolescence and adulthood, in between structure and independence, in between now and what we do with the rest of our lives.

That can feel really daunting, but it is also really exciting. I know, looking out at you all, that you have so much potential and capacity for light and change. But what I always try to remind myself in moments like these, is that not every day is going to feel representative of that potential, and that’s
OK.

Some days you wake up and you conquer the world. Some days you wake up and you survive. Both are important — we exist in that contradiction of needing both. I want you to know that you each absolutely have the potential to conquer the world, but I also want you to know that reacting and re-adjusting your expectations does not equate with failure.

There is not one single gauge by which one should measure success. Moving forward, we don’t keep getting Canvas grade notifications or transcript reports, but that isn’t, nor should it have ever been, exclusively how we define our successes. Success is neither instant nor always visible, but that in no way means it isn’t slowly approaching.

Most importantly, the way we support ourselves and our success is by creating a strong support system. If I had to boil down what makes my Transy experiences special to one thing — it’s not the outstanding courses, or the study abroad, or the student organizations, which are all absolutely wonderful and important, but it’s the people. Plain and simple.

I hope over the past four years you’ve built a community, no matter how big or small here, and what I challenge all of us to do, including myself, is to actively work to maintain it. We’ve been equipped with liberal arts know-how, the leadership opportunities, the extracurricular engagement and so much more. We have so much potential, whether it feels like it or not. But it’s a lot easier to put that to good use with a strong support network of good people behind you.

If the noisy hallways of Forrer taught us anything, it was that we could make stressful or challenging moments feel a little bit easier together. We’ve watched so many changes unfold, from the growing up we’ve done as individuals, to the changing appearance of our campus. Yet amongst those changes is one more contradiction: the steadfastness of our Transy community.

My hope is to keep our community strong and full of light. In that light, we pass on the light.

Congratulations Class of 2021, and may you continue to be light in the dark and order in the chaos. Thank you.