By Danielle Brandreth
I would like to welcome Members of the Board of Trustees, President Wong, faculty, staff, families, guests, and my fellow graduates to this pivotal moment in our lives. Thank-you to everyone who has helped us get here. Without your love, support, and encouragement, some of us would have been lost. I certainly know I would have been. I am honored to be standing in front of all of you on this momentous occasion. I remember Welcome Weekend my freshman year, scared to death that I wasn't going to be able to make it. Seeing everyone build those ridiculous lofts in the Spalding/Gant courtyard and watching everyone struggle to move 9 months of stuff into a 12 by 12 box. I couldn't believe I had made it to college. I was terrified.
For months, I regretted my decision to come to NMU. Like many college freshman, it was my first time away from home, and I was having difficulty fitting in. But, my parents told me "Danielle, just give it until the end of the year and if you are still unhappy you can come home." Everyone has that one group of people or that one organization that makes NMU comfortable. Luckily, I found two organizations that made NMU feel more like home. Phi Sigma Sigma and the Student Leader Fellowship Program changed everything. I am thankful that my parents made me stick it out because I would have missed out on the wonderful experiences NMU has provided me. From academics, to studying abroad, to student organizations, NMU has molded me into the person I have always wanted to become and NMU has molded all of us into the people that we have the potential to be.
Through our lifetime, the importance of a college education has changed drastically. A high school diploma only gets you so far and now even a higher education degree has limitations it didn't use to have. In this economic turmoil, our education will prove to be our guiding light to the other side. The long hours we have spent in the LRC cramming for that exam that we should have started studying for a week ago, the all-nighters we pulled to finish that paper that we put off, and those times we took the professor's challenge to go beyond the assignment and make our brains really work, will all pay off. Because we have succeeded, despite all of the obstacles, we stuck to our guns, and learned, and made ourselves better. Despite the sacrifices, we made it.
Although academics might have been the reason we came to NMU, it wasn't the only reason we stayed. We have made friendships that will last a lifetime. The ones who will help shovel your car out when the plows annoyingly push the snow right behind your vehicle. The ones who hold your hand as you jump off of Black Rocks into the ice cold Lake Superior water. The ones who go out with you in the middle of the week just because you need to let loose. These are the people who have made our college experience not just about academics but what we'll remember for a lifetime.
Getting to where we are now has taken a lot, to say the least. Our professors pushed us to our limits because they knew we could be better and do better. Each of us has had that special professor that made our college experience different. The one who helped you with more than just a few corrections on a paper or an extra credit assignment. The ones who became our friends and mentors. You know who that person is. We are here because they put in the effort to push us and not let us just skim by. And because of their effort, we succeeded.
I can't help but think today of all we are leaving behind. For the past four, five, six, and maybe seven years, our lives have been full of an assortment of activities. From Welcome Weekend and Fall Fest the first week of school to Homecoming, Make a Difference Day, Greek Week, concerts, comedians, movies, athletic events, and then finally Winterfest and spring break, we didn't have time to relax. We bounced from one thing to another to another. But now, we are leaving it all behind. So enjoy your last few days in beautiful Marquette, surrounded by the trees and wonderful Lake Superior. Because even though you say you will come back, there is always the chance that you may not.
Dr. Seuss once said, "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go." We have been preparing for this moment since we first walked through the lobby doors during Orientation Week. We have put in the time and the effort. We are ready. A new chapter in our lives is starting, so embrace the change, make yourself proud, and be who you are destined to be.