Remarks to Fellow Graduates – Robyn Nicole Crutchfield

May 14, 2016

To president Killeen, the board of Trustees, Chancellor Koch, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Dr. Ford and everybody gathered here today, Good Afternoon and Welcome!!

Class of 2016, family, friends, professors, administrators and staff; we made it. We, because this graduating class could not have done it without all of you! This graduating class has experienced an amazing degree of support from those around us both directly and indirectly. Whether it was encouraging words, a couple of dollars towards our books or baked goods over the holidays. We thank you.

Graduating is one of the most exciting and trying times in our lives. On one hand, we’ve gotten this degree that we’ve worked so hard on despite each and every one of our circumstances. We’ve written papers, taken tests and took part of discussions to be able to call ourselves experts. On the other hand, our loved ones favorite question is “what are you going to do next?” and for quite a few of us those few words are terrifying because we simply don’t know. Some of us are afraid, some of us are anxious and some of us are just excited and ready to go.  So to all of you, I encourage you to just LIVE.

Live. The ‘L’ is for Love. There is so much heartache and pain in this world, but I truly believe that the best form of combat is a love driven people. Love on the people around you. Be compassionate in your words and your actions. Something as little as a smile or a note can change a person’s whole day for the better.  Love is listening, love is patient, love is kindness, love is appreciation, love is helpful, love is hugging, love is kissing, love is fun.

‘I’ is for Inspire. Don’t be afraid to tell your story. You have already conquered unimaginable things in your life and you are still pressing forward, so don’t be afraid to be a light for someone else. Yes, this is a huge undertaking, but you’d be amazed at how many people already look up to you. Some of you are graduating with children and to them and me you are super mom or super dad. Some of you have little cousins and when they grow up they want to be just like you. Some of you are first-generation college students and you’ve shown your family that truly anything is possible. I think I can even safely say that all of you have inspired your professors in some way. They’ve watched you grow and want to be better teachers because of it. So while being a constant inspiration may seem like a huge weight, you’re already doing it perfectly, just keep being you.

‘V’ is for vocalize. Find your voice amongst those closest to you, but also figure out where your voice is needed in this world. It is your civic responsibility to know what is happening around you, to vote and to speak up for those who may not be able to speak for themselves. Be an advocate. Be a revolutionist. Be an activist. And do this in every walk of life. Recognize injustices in the work place, at school or even walking down the street and call it out. While social media is a great way to be vocal and get your friends involved, you must go beyond the keys on the keyboard. Not everyone wants to be the next president of the United States and that is ok, but your voice can be heard through your everyday actions, by volunteering and educating those around you.

Finally, the E is for experience. There are so many people to meet and so many things to do outside of our hometowns and beyond the bubble of UIS campus. So, I encourage you to get a little uncomfortable. Get out and do something new. Check some things off of your bucket list, travel, plan a picnic, drive across the country, fall in love, go to a concert, get another degree, read a book, learn a new language, run a marathon. Whatever you do, never ever stop doing what makes you happy. The world is yours.

Whether you have been here for 1 year, 4 years, 8 or 11 years, be proud of the education you have received. UIS taught us that leadership lived and each and every one of us exemplifies that. You have shown up and shown out in your classrooms, in your student orgs, on the job and in your personal lives. Be proud of your alma mater and remember the time you spent here for the rest of your life. Remember all the horseshoes you ate and probably shouldn’t have. Remember the breakfast potatoes in PAC. Remember all the times you said “if I make it through this paper, then I will never procrastinate again” only to find yourself pulling an all nighter again the next week. Remember the days when the power went out in Lincoln and how this campus (students included) came together to make sure we all showered. Remember ordering cheese pizzas and late nights smack talking with your friends. Remember Homecomings and Springfest. Remember the struggles, the days when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse and then they did; but also remember how gracefully you overcame those days. These memories you have will be stories to tell for a lifetime.

So, again I implore you to live.

Love, inspire, vocalize and experience.

With that, I’ll leave you with a quote from Dr. Seuss.

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!