In all of my three years at William and Mary I have seen many people grow and I have seen some stay stagnant. I can testify to the challenge many, if not all, students face upon entering W&M and throughout their experiences here: a challenge of identity. Attending a rigorous university has its set of personal and professional trials, through which we begin to discover our place and our identity as emerging young professionals. However, attending what some may call a “public ivy-league” university adds a whole new perspective to this process of growth. We are the best of the best, very selectively hand-picked. Thomas Jefferson was our fellow alum, along with many other famous people and leaders. To be admitted to the second oldest university in the country, once rivals with Harvard, is an immense accomplishment. However, these are not the things that make us great. It is through a life-long process and dedication to personal and professional reflection, growth, maturity, and positive contribution that we truly can begin to live up to the reputation that has been bestowed upon us as we earn the title of William and Mary Alumni.
This school, as an undergraduate and graduate institution, is geared toward complete and utter development and molding of the self. We are pushed, pulled, and challenged by our faculty and peers to grow and become all that we can be and all that we want to be. Many people only dream of such opportunities. Many people just see it in the movies. But, we have this opportunity and should seize it now and throughout our lifetimes. In fact, this growth and development can and should occur no matter where you are, what you study or do for a living, or who you are around. This is our calling and our personal and societal obligation: to make a difference. If we truly seek to be the best we can be, our priorities will include concern for more than ourselves and our “prestige.” It is okay to be proud. Sure, we deserve it! But, I challenge my fellow peers to not let that pride inhibit growth or keep us from making great contributions to our society and helping those around us. You do not need a license in a helping profession or even a degree to do good things for others and help those who are struggling. You do not need to be Valedictorian to make a difference and be remembered. You just need to be you… in search for your best. My fellow friends and neighbors, get serious about life, not conceited. Be kind and generous to those around you and those in need. Live each day as if it is your day to make a difference and be a light to this world in times of great hardship.