2007 Commencement Speech by Stephanie McGruder

Good afternoon, and congratulations to all 2007 graduates of Notre Dame College! Thank you all so much to our families, our friends, and the faculty of Notre Dame, for not only celebrating with us today, but for helping us get here! I know my husband has spent the past few years keeping a steady supply of ice cream in the house and coaching me through homework assignments, and I’m sure he wasn’t the only loved one to be so supportive. So really, everyone in this room today deserves to be thanked and celebrated!

I want to personally thank my husband Robert, my parents, my sister and the rest of my family, my friends and my professors at Notre Dame, especially Dr. Jones and Dr. Ulrich. You guys are the best.

I am very honored to receive the St. Catherine’s award. While there has been some debate about the details of her life, Saint Catherine of Alexandria was a martyr and one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, saints that were prayed to when people wanted something really badly. Unfortunately, I am not such a saint. But receiving this award made me reflect on my character, and what I can do to improve as a person.

My big sister taught me that people waste too much time worrying about what other people think of them. Instead, we need to worry less about how we are perceived, and more about who we REALLY are. Graduates, there’s a scary thought out there – and that is that WE are the future. The future isn’t something we’re just going to “find” someDAY lying on the side of the road. The future is what WE make it. Every generation has access to a little more knowledge, a little more awareness of our world and the injustices that have been done to it. Don’t get me wrong; we’re slow learners.

In 1886, The Statue of Liberty asked other countries to give us their tired, their poor, their huddled masses – are we still that welcoming? The Pledge of Allegiance was written over a century ago, and yet, we are still NOT “ONE nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” BUT - we are suddenly awakening to the fact that our world does have an expiration date; that future generations after us have borrowed time. And the people around us, our world today, is suffering. The worst part is that most of the tragedies are preventable. Whether its pollution, crime, racism, terrorism, war, disease, or poverty – we have a lot of work to do.

We graduates are lucky to have a college degree. But there are 33 people who won’t be celebrating at Virginia Tech’s commencement this year. And over 104 million children in this world cannot go to even elementary school because their families can’t afford it. 18 million of those children have lost both of their parents to AIDS. There are about 1,000 people in this auditorium. Take ten thousand of these filled auditoriums, and that’s how many of those children die before their fifth birthday, nearly all of them from preventable causes. While this number is argued by some, most organizations agree that a child dies every 5 seconds because of hunger-related causes.

Take a look around you. One in seven of us will go to bed hungry tonight, and another one in seven will not have any access to clean water. And yet, here we are, worrying about Tom Cruise’s marriage, a new cell phone plan, and if our clothes are better than the person next to us.

Graduates - it’s time we roll up our sleeves and use those degrees! I love this quote by Jerry Garcia, from the Grateful Dead: “Somebody has to do something. It’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”“US” is “WE”. WE have to do something.

Let’s start today by reflecting on the people who made a difference in our lives; who inspired us; who made us feel special; who were passionate about something they believed in. Our new degrees may move us up on the pay scale, but we cannot buy passion. We cannot buy compassion. We know we have to do something. The hard part is doing it. But in the end, when we meet our God and answer for what we did with our lives, we will be able to sing that “Lord, we helped change the world!!!”

Thank you, and GODSPEED.

E.g., 06/22/19
E.g., 06/22/19