Below is a copy of my commencement speech address that I had hoped to deliver at this fall’s commencement ceremony. I was not selected as the student speaker, but, as with anything, there is opportunity for learning and growth in every failure. I figure that I might as well share this here, rather than letting it die in my saved word documents.
Barrett A. Brooks
Address to the University of Georgia Graduating Class of Fall 2010
“Never Let Your Memories Be Greater Than Your Dreams”
An alumnus of UGA by the name of Doug Ivester once gave me this piece of advice: “never let your memories be greater than your dreams.”
We all had dreams when we came to the University of Georgia. But the life of a college kid moves fast. Like 90 miles an hour fast.
Its move-in day and before you know it your parents are already on their way out the door. You’re left sitting in a 15 by 15 foot room with plain white walls and a roommate that you’ve either met through facebook or that is already annoying you because you’ve known him for so long.
You show up for the first day of class, and the second… and by the third you’ve slept through your alarm and are wondering where Mom is to wake you up when you need her. Is the professor going to call your parents?…. But wait, you’re in college!
Now it’s Game Day in Athens, and you arrive in the student section for your first game between the hedges as a UGA student. There’s this new quarterback on the field – Matt Stafford. He’s pretty good, but then a running back named Knowshon shows up. We Crank that Soulja Boy all the way to a number one preseason ranking.
You’re more than halfway through your college career and haven’t yet studied abroad or had an internship. So it only makes sense to stay in school for an extra semester. You call dad to let him know that ‘your advisor said it would only be possible to graduate if you have an extra fall semester.’ He buys it. Nice.
You take advantage and are lucky enough to travel the world with a study abroad trip to New Zealand, or maybe Cortona, Italy. Maybe you went to Oxford to study with the scholars or to Africa to get out of your comfort zone. But you did it. You left the country and flew over an ocean. And you had a blast.
Next thing you know you wake up to an email from the registrar delivering instructions on picking up tickets for this commencement ceremony. How can it be time to graduate already? It stops you in your tracks. 90 miles an hour turns to a slow crawl. Wasn’t I just at orientation? Is Stafford really in his second season in the NFL? Are the glory years already coming to an end? I will never have a summer break again.
But today, I want you to think differently. I want you to think back to all the great times with friends exploring Athens. Remember the feel of the grass on North Campus on a warm spring day. Think back to the time you fell in love with your favorite restaurant in Athens – Last Resort, Casa Mia, Five Star Day, or maybe Little Italy for the classier graduates here today.
And, even better, picture the degree that you are about to receive. The one that you’ve worked so hard for. The one that gives you a one way ticket to change the world for the better. The college years are ending, but the glory years are not.
I said earlier that I was once given a piece of advice from a great man. “Never let your memories be greater than your dreams,” he said. And how appropriate that is on this day when it is hard to know whether to be nostalgic for the past, or anxious for the future.
Every college student has ups and downs, successes and failures. I am no different. But through the good and the bad, one thing has held true. There is no better place to grow into an adult. There is no better place to call home. There is no better place to form great relationships with students, teachers, and administration. There is no better place in the world to go to college than here in Athens at the University of Georgia. Because of this, it would be easy to look back and say that our glory days are behind us.
But I challenge you to stop, class of 2010. Think differently. Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. The world needs you to dream big. For every great experience that you have had at UGA, I challenge you to dream of an equally great experience in the future. Whether that means Teaching for America, going to a top ten law school, becoming a great parent, or starting a non-profit that changes the face of poverty in the world, it matters not.
What does matter is that you never cease to dream. Always look back fondly on your time as a Georgia Bulldog. Give back in any way that you can… and the best way you can give back to this University is to go out into the world and, in the words of one of my favorite professors, dream big hairy audacious dreams. Dare to change the world, even if that means changing the world of just one person. Find your passion. And no matter what you accomplish or how great your experiences are, never, ever, let your memories be greater than your dreams.
Thank you for your time today. Congratulations on a degree (or two) well-earned. And Go Dawgs.