Centre College Commencement 2012: Response to the Class of 2012
May 20, 2012 By Brian Klosterboer ’12, Student Government Association President
president, gave a response to the Class of 2012 at the 2012
Centre College Commencement on Sunday, May 20.
So this is it. May 20, 2012.
One thousand, three hundred and sixty days ago, we donned our blue Centre College Class of 2012 t-shirts and stood outside this very building for a group photo in the blinding sun.
Awkward, nervous, ambitious and excited, we gazed at the faces of our classmates—the same people who are on stage with us today—who have defined our journey at Centre. In the 32,784 hours that we have been Centre College students, we have experienced a lot. We have learned from some of the best professors in the world, who have prepared us for extraordinary success. We have studied abroad, won national championships and dominated the SCAC. We have performed, created, inspired and debated.
But we could have done none of this without the help of a very special group of people. Parents, guardians and loved ones, thank you for believing in us and helping us become the people we are today. Fellow seniors, please join me in thanking our friends and family members for their love, encouragement and support.
There is another group of people at Centre who often go unrecognized for the incredible impact they have on our lives. I have never been to another college or university where the staff members are so friendly or care so deeply about student success than here at Centre. Please join me in thanking the college staff for supporting us these last four years.
I would also like to thank our professors, who have guided us on intellectual and life-changing journeys. We have survived every test, paper and assignment you have thrown at us, so thank you for strengthening us, passing us and allowing us to graduate.
To the Class of 2012: congratulations. We have made it. We survived the ice storm, HHP, the air-force-hangar-turned-dining-hall called Chowan, and we have successfully navigated the academic and social hurdles of Centre College. But perhaps the most valuable thing we have done here is to forge friendships that have transformed us into who we are today.
We have read a lot during our four years at Centre—or at least we were supposed to. Amidst all of these readings, one passage from Dr. [Andrea] Abrams’ Race and Ethnicity class really stuck out to me. It’s from an article on cross-racial friendships by Beverly Tatum, who asks if we are capable of forming deep, genuine friendships across boundaries of race.
Tatum defines a “genuine friendship” as “characterized by authenticity and mutuality, which is life giving and soul satisfying …When a relationship is mutually reinforcing,” she says, “it gives you a feeling of increased zest, a sense of empowerment, greater self-knowledge, increased self-worth and … a desire for more connection.”
Life-giving and soul-satisfying—these are the kind of friendships we yearn for. As we were dancing with each other at the fraternity houses, working out together in Sutcliffe, climbing mountains together in foreign countries, skinny dipping together in the Atlantic Ocean and sitting together in Cowan for hours and hours and hours, we might not have realized it, but we were forming bonds that have incredible resilience and the potential to change the world.
True friendships not only exist at Centre; they also extend powerfully beyond the Centre bubble. At no other college or university would you see one naked man pushing another naked man around a statue in a rolling chair because his friend wanted to run the Flame but had sprained his ankle. Some might call this a blemish on Centre’s esteemed reputation, but I see it as an example of true friendship.
If you are a fan of Harry Potter, then you know that Harry does not defeat Voldemort alone. He is surrounded by a diverse group of people who love one another and stand up for what is right—even when it costs them their lives. Harry is guided by incredible professors who strengthen him with knowledge and training—and a white-haired headmaster, who leads the school with wisdom and grace. Our own headmaster saved a student’s life our freshman year by performing the Heimlich maneuver in Chowan. So beat that, Dumbledore.
But in important ways, we are not at Hogwarts. We didn’t use magic to get on this stage and we don’t have to face a malevolent wizard who wants to force us into slavery. The challenges we face are much less black and white. In a world full of ambiguity, we will confront moral choices on a daily basis that we don’t have easy answers to.
These challenges may be daunting, but the good news is that we don’t have to face them alone. So thank you, Class of 2012, for enriching my journey at Centre and for letting me be a part of yours.
For a PDF version of Klosterboer's remarks, click here.
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Centre College, founded in 1819 and chosen to host its second Vice Presidential Debate in 2012, is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges, at 42nd in the nation, and ranks 27th for best value among national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 34th among all the nation’s colleges and universities and has named Centre in the top five among all institutions of higher education in the South for three years in a row. Centre is also ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News for its study abroad program. For more, click here.