Watch the TED Talk I was introduced with here.
Nine years. Nine years is a lifetime in these parts, but nine years ago this week I did something that you all here at the National Society of Collegiate Scholars would never do: I skipped class in high school with a friend. I did it because I honestly thought like the video we just watched stated that I would still have that person here in my life today. I thought our futures would be endless as the sunny day that we experienced in our self-made extra-curricular. Like the video we watched I was sure she would still be here. She even had an AppState hoodie so I figured we’d go to college together. I was convinced she
would still be around. She is not.
Abbey died nine years ago this coming Halloween, and frankly my grief has not been good to me. There have been times that I have cried out to friends and to God who seem to have forgotten her. I cry out wondering why that car accident had to happen, or what I could have done to prevent it. People seem to be forgetting her nine years hence so I wanted to at least to remember her in this space. Now you may be wondering what in the world this has to do with your induction into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. For the longest time I debated challenging you to new academic heights, to get a higher GPA, or impress that one professor that always seems to give bad grades. But today I want to remind you of the importance of being human, the importance of skipping class, the importance of failing. Now before Haylee or your advisor comes an takes the microphone from me let me say that it is in our worst failures that we find our greatest successes.It is in our service whether inside or dare I say outside the class that gives us our reason to push forward when hope seems lost.
You see I’m a scholar of communication and religion and St. Irenaeus once said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” You are born to shine, and if that takes skipping a class or a meeting to go eat bad sushi with friends then that might be worth your time.
Here’s the catch: you are here to be fully alive and fully engaged. You are here to be people who realize that this chance and opportunity to be a part of this organization and this University are things not afforded to everybody. We are people who are most lucky to be attending or have attended Appalachian State University. We are the lucky ones who fuddled our way through life to this point. So now is your time to pick up the mantle of leadership at this great university. Now is the time to stop being so damn caught up in everything that you forget to enjoy the football game tomorrow and then remember you have an assignment due on Sunday evening.
These truly are some of the coolest years of your life, you have immense opportunity. But I don’t want to say they are the best years of your life. Only you can determine when those are. Or as Andy from the Office says, “I wish I knew they were the good ole days when I was going through them.”
Don’t let your good ole days pass you by. Don’t let your reward for being here be a piece of paper. Make friends in this society and beyond, make friends who don’t think like you, make friends who don’t believe like you, make friends who will challenge yet accept you for who you were created to be.
Don’t let the good ole days pass you by. When you’re 21, go and enjoy the PBR at Boone Saloon, when you’re down on your luck, go watch a sunset at Price Lake. These are the moments that make the Appalachian experience truly remarkable. These are the moments that you will tell your children, and your children’s children about. It is this very moment when you are inducted into the honor society that you will remember for a lifetime.
So look around and see your friends surrounding you. Look around and see the new faces you might not know yet. Seriously, do it. It’s worth noting that you are the lucky people who made it here and are succeeding. So don’t ever take it for granted and don’t ever miss an opportunity to share your experience about Appalachian with others. I have won accolades in my life, I have a master’s degree from Duke University, I have mingled with all kinds of cool people, but the thing I am most proud of is that my Bachelor of Arts is from this place—that I met my wife at this place—that we named our dog after Frank Hall on West Campus.
These are the moments you will remember so take heart and remember your humanity. Remember that the greatest sin you could commit these four years is to not be fully alive. You don’t want to regret these years of your life, so live them and be human. For in our humanity, we find that we are indeed limitless even if life is over. That’s why tonight I’m dedicating this award to my late friend Abbey Tsumas, gone but not forgotten. Nine years ago she died, but today she lives on in my memory and in this award.
Dear students you don’t know what could happen tomorrow, so I implore
you to be the best human you can possibly be. Live within the confines of life but know that you can break the mold at any turn to be better. You are people who are a part of a community that is remarkably special, so don’t ever take that for granted.