Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2010 Commencement Speech: Life Happens

Charter Oak State College was created to serve adult students, second chance learners, who were balancing work and family while they worked to complete their degree. As I look out at your happy faces, I can see that we were founded on solid ground.

Let me begin by congratulating each and every one of you on the successful completion of your degree program. As you know better than I do, today did not happen by accident. It most likely began a number of years ago... in a few cases, more years than you care to admit... and I suspect it didn’t go smoothly. Things happened that derailed your first efforts at college. Life happened.

In some cases it was money—it ran out. In others, children. In a few others, it was bad grades or doubt about what major to choose. Maybe you got married or enlisted. Lots of you have moved around, collecting credits from a variety of institutions, but a degree from none. Some of you soured on higher education and others just got too busy.

In other words, life happened, and your degree hopes were put aside. But that dream of a degree didn’t die when you turned 25. It is true that many of you had your education derailed by life events, but it is equally true that each of you is here because some other life event drove you to start back up and persevere until you finished.

That life event might have been a missed promotion. Or the sight of your kid graduating from high school. It might have been an inheritance that put some extra money in your pocket, or more likely a pink slip that put more time into your hands. Maybe you finally picked your major or the graduate program that you want to pursue. Maybe you just stumbled across Charter Oak. Life happened.

And I bet that your decision to reconnect with college wasn’t made alone. Look around this auditorium, listen for a moment: Our students come to us a part of a family package. When you began to make your plans to finish your degree, I bet there were other people at the table. How many of you graduates have children in college? How many of you in the audience took on extra responsibilities so your significant other could study?

Well these are all examples of life happening as well. It is certainly true that life can interrupt us, but it is equally true that it can set up back on our path. And each of you is here today because your life happened—both the good stuff and the bad, and it all led you here.

So what words of wisdom do I have for you? Just this: Never doubt that you can accomplish great things. You have. And never doubt that life will happen while you are trying. It did and it does. But today you graduates are proof to yourselves and to the rest of us, that we can all achieve great things not in spite of what life throws at us but because life happens.

So I send you out into the world, Charter Oak State College graduates, life tested, degree in hand, confident that you will find new goals and that you will achieve them. And I ask one thing of you: The next time you hear someone say, Life Happens, you answer that it sure does. And it led you to this special moment.

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