Class of 2018 Commencement Remarks

President Bergman's speech to the Gustavus Class of 2018 at the commencement exercises on Saturday, June 2.
Posted on June 5th, 2018 by

Members of the Class of 2018…

Let me first offer my personal and heartfelt congratulations to each of you. You are a distinctly special class to me because of the fact that we started together at Gustavus in the fall of 2014. Now, four years later, I am honored to officially send you off to live purposeful lives, to be leaders and people of action in your communities, and to find fulfillment and true happiness in all your future pursuits.

Today, June 2, 2018, marks the culmination of your days as a student here at Gustavus Adolphus College. I know that this past week has been all about closure — you have had time to reminisce about your days here on the hill and the many special moments you have shared with each other. And now, here we are…the main event has finally arrived and we are celebrating your Commencement. This is a time for you to feel proud of the knowledge you have gained and the impressive body of work you have completed. I encourage you to live through this day with your senses wide open and savor the details of the experience and tuck them away in your memory banks. In Psalm 118, we hear the psalmist say, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  This is, indeed, a special day, so let us rejoice and be glad in it.

This is also a day to look forward and anticipate new beginnings. As of this day, graduates, you are moving on, stepping out into the real world. You are commencing on a new journey of discovery and opportunity. Commencement is a time to eagerly look ahead to new opportunities that are poised and waiting for you. And, I know you are ready to join 27,000 fellow Gustavus alumni out there who are living out the Gustavus mission in communities around the world!

As you pack your bags today and step boldly into your future, I have three foundational ideas that I urge you to carry with you.

First, I encourage you today to commit to living a purposeful life — a life lived on purpose, with purpose, and full of purpose. Remember that you are the lead designer of your own future. Take that responsibility seriously. Allow yourself to dream big dreams and strive to reach for new levels of excellence in all your work. Live into your future with a sense of optimism, a willingness to take risks, and an openness to new ideas. Above all, remember to keep your head up! Do not walk through your life with your head down! Be alert for the abundance of opportunities that will undoubtedly come whizzing by your field of view. Keep your big goals in mind, and, at the same time, be ever-mindful about your everyday actions and interactions. It’s your daily decisions about how you live and work that will matter in the long run. Dear graduates, if you live each day with purpose, you can be sure that your days will add up to a purposeful life.

Here is the second big idea I would like you to focus on today: commit to being a person of action in your communities and in the greater world in which we live. You are entering the real world at a time when it is rather easy to identify difficult and complex problems that sorely need robust and effective solutions. Jump in!  Get involved! Be leaders! Don’t wait on the sidelines for someone else to take action. Act in ways that bring fullness of life to others. By adopting an attitude of service and a commitment to do justice, you will carry forward one of the key principles of a liberal arts education in the Gustavus tradition. Your time here has prepared you to use your knowledge and your critical thinking skills to solve problems, to contribute to the common good, and, in this way, to have a positive impact in the communities in which you live. You have each been blessed with a first-class college education, from a place where service and justice are woven into the fabric of the institution. I trust that an orientation toward service and a bias for action has seeped into your soul and is lodged there forever. I ask you now to commit to being a person of action and to work with diligence throughout your lifetime to solve the great challenges of our time.

And finally, this brings me to the third key idea I want you to remember from this day forward: Resolve to always do the right thing. Always, always, always do the right thing. Every day, no exceptions, even when no one is looking, and especially when it isn’t easy, always do the right thing. This advice is aimed directly at the center of your character, and following it means you will live with integrity. Be resolute and wise about your daily choices, fully contemplating the downstream consequences of your decisions, your words, and your actions. Choose right over wrong; choose fairness over injustice; choose truth over falsehood. I promise you that doing the right thing will bring you a deep sense of wellbeing and inner peace, and will ultimately be the secret to true happiness.

I leave you, then, with these three important ideas to carry with you as you leave your home here on the hill. I have full confidence in you that you can remember three things from me today:

(1) Live a purposeful life…this means paying attention to your values and convictions and living with purpose every single day.

(2) Be a person of action…this means stepping forward, tackling the great challenges of our time, and making the world a better place.

And, (3) always do the right thing…this means living with integrity, setting high expectations for yourself, and ultimately, this means being a good and honorable person.

This is my hope for you as our newest Gustavus graduates, and for all Gusties everywhere — that you live a purposeful life, take action in the world around you, and commit to always do the right thing. Three simple ideas for you to adopt as your own, more importantly, to practice, in the days and years ahead.

Gustavus Class of 2018 — This is your commencement, a new and promising beginning. Go with confidence. You are prepared to use your knowledge and skills to achieve your wildest hopes and dreams. Go with poise and professionalism. You will be amazing role models for others. Go with pride. You are strong men and women destined to make a difference in the world. Go with passion and compassion, to love and to serve. Go…You are Gusties, now and forevermore.

Congratulations, Gustavus Class of 2018.

 

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