Colin Danly, a junior at William & Mary, provides a guest blog. The blog is written in the form of a speech he would give to incoming freshmen at the College.
Welcome class of 2030!
It fills me with great pride to be able to speak with you all today. My time here was a transformative period of my life. I came into college certain that I had my whole life figured out. I was going to double major in government and history, and then I was going to go to law school, and finally, take over the world. My plans for world domination did not survive my first battle with Banner. Banner barred me from every history class. (Coincidentally, my plans did not survive my next five battles with Banner, but that is a story for another time.) I was devastated. My perfectly manicured plan no longer was possible. I placed such a high importance on my plan; I thought it was the only avenue for success. Life teaches you to be flexible; the path you once thought you were predestined for may close unexpectedly. The ones who are successful in life are those who learn to adapt and overcome unexpected obstacles.
As is customary in officious speeches such as this, I would like to recite an anecdote from my youth. While I was still in high school, my priest delivered a homily recounting his experience at the funeral of an old man. The man who had passed away had lived in my hometown for over thirty years and had a close connection to the church. My priest presided over the funeral and knew the family quite well. After the funeral, the priest went up to the man’s son. The priest wanted to know what the son’s favorite memory of his father was. The son replied that during his childhood his father would stop each of his children before they left for the day and tell them, “Don’t forget your name out there.” The son had never really given much thought to this ritual before his father began to die. He realized that after all these years his father was not reminding him of his first name, but of his last.
This is one of my favorite stories, and it drastically shaped my outlook on life. Much like the son, I heard what the priest said, but it took me a long time to really understand the distinction between first and last names. As I got older, this distinction became more apparent to me. In our youth, our default setting is to see the world from an egocentric point of view. Very rarely do children think about themselves as part of a larger group. We sometimes forget that our last names are just as important as our first names. I don’t mean last names in the traditional sense; last names are more than words on your birth certificate. Last names embody all groups or institutions you are a part of, beyond those who share your name. For example, my name as printed on my birth certificate is Colin David Danly. To me, my last name is Danly from the Danly family, from Lake Forest, Illinois, alum of the College of William & Mary, citizen of the United States, and member of the global community. Every time I get up in the morning, I represent each of these groups by my actions and interactions with other people.
You all have just joined an illustrious line and can now add the College of William & Mary to your ever-growing last name. With this addition comes a new burden of responsibility to those who share this last name. Go make us proud and respect those who have joined your family, as if they were your blood. I wish you all the luck in the world. These next four years are not the best of your life. They are the beginning. Go forth, and do not forget your name out there.