After a long and grueling year, we just celebrated commencement in person. It was shorter than the usual ceremony, and safety made the look and feel a bit different, but the occasion was marked, and that is important. Ritual is integral to the human experience; it is a means for us to orient ourselves and share an experience with those close and distant.
As I watched our students completing their Clemson journey, there was so much I wished to say. Although I didn’t have the chance to share my thoughts in a speech, I have a column! If I could speak to our each of our new graduates, this is what I would say:
Dear Graduates and new Clemson Alumni,
Congratulations on your achievement! You have just celebrated a milestone among many your lives, but this one is special for most of you because it marks the end of your formal education. Life is filled with milestones, but few signify as definitive an ending and beginning as this one. I can imagine that you are feeling various things right now: joy, sadness, nostalgia, anxiety, numbness, and all the mixed emotions that come with freedom.
While your formal education may be over, your process of learning is not. In many ways it is also just beginning. To a certain extent, learning is unavoidable. Our senses and our brains are perpetually receiving input and processing. But I encourage you to think about learning actively. Sign on to a life of learning, and learning for life.
If you were educated in our College, you were trained to make conscious learning a way of living and interacting with the world. Learning how to see and to think historically, conceptually, artistically. Learning how to read and observe, not just accepting at face value, but examining critically, scrutinizing between the lines, peering behind the scenes. The College has introduced you to the human condition in all its dynamic extremes and complexity.
Take all this with you and apply it to the world as you encounter it. Seek to learn and understand just a little bit more every day. And when you interact with people, try never to forget the individual human being behind the façade. That’s why we read literature and go to the movies—to be reminded about our common humanity in powerful and memorable ways.
And when you get the chance, travel. See the world, the people in it, what they have built over time, and the ways they live and interact.
And always take the time to go some place quiet to reflect and to think about what you have learned.
Congratulations again. Now spread your wings, and fly…
Nicholas Vazsonyi, Dean
College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities
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