Student Commencement Address

December 15, 2012
Kevin Rush

Hello everyone,

We’ve finally done it. After four years, no more registering for classes, no more book costs, no more homework. We are finally graduating. For many of us, this is a day filled with excitement and an underlining fear. We have finished a chapter in our lives, a big chapter. And after today, we enter the so-called real world. The world, which we seem to be told every day, is cold and unpredictable. But you know what, when people say this to me, my first thought is always: you know what’s cold and unpredictable, a Northern winter. 

If there is one thing that you, my peers and fellow graduates, have taught me, is that we thrive in the winter. Other schools have fall and spring semesters. We don’t. We have fall and winter. I know this may seem insignificant, but I think it says a lot about all of us. Whenever I am asked what we do in the winter, I can give them a bigger list than in the fall. Time and time again we demonstrate that winter is when we come alive. When others huddle inside, we celebrate.  We build homemade sleds, play broomball in the dark, explore a frozen shore line, bind together and have fun with over 300 student organizations. We make winter not an obstacle, but a part of life. When the rest of the country panics over snow, staying safe on their snow day, you know what we do? We walk to class. That is something to hold on to. 

Northern students are a different breed, we choose to come here, we choose to get up when the cold is stripping all motivation from the world, and we still succeed. All of us came to Northern with potential, often raw material like the landscape around us. But Northern has made us better, education has given us edges, the NMU community strengthened our will, and academic discipline will guide our actions. We came here as metals, but leave here as forged tools that can impact anything we touch. 

The supposed real world, the world that we are about to step into, is not embracing us with open arms. Many of us know the statistics. That 1:2 graduates are either underemployed or unemployed, that job markets aren’t what they used to be, and that opportunity is harder to find than ever. But statistics don’t capture everything. They can’t capture power of will, perseverance or character; they don’t measure potential. Statistically, I shouldn’t be standing here in front of you, I should have failed. I was the first in my family to go to college, a minority, and took four years off between high school and NMU. 

But I am standing here, and I’m standing here not just because of professors, or the overall institution, I am standing here because of you, the students that made me love this place, the students that taught me so much in and out of lecture halls, the students that helped me realize my passions. I am honored to be speaking to you because many of you do not know the changes you have already brought to the people around you, such as me. We need to remember what we have accomplished, the lessons that we have taken from Northern.

The world may seem frigid and covered in ice at times. But it won’t matter. We know when things get cold and unpredictable, the best option is to get up, thrive and do what we have done for the last four years, succeed. I am so proud to graduate with all of you.  Thank you for the last four years. Never forget the north, never forget we are wildcats, and we will change the world. 

Thank You