Hello class of 2020. I am glad to be here with all of you to celebrate this special day. Let me ask you a question. Did you think you would make it this far? I had no idea that I would have made it through all that I have to be here today. If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be here giving a commencement speech, I would not have believed you. But here I am and here are all of you. I know what you have done to make it here, the hard work, the determination and all the sacrifice, because I’ve done it too.

Many people don’t understand the determination needed to make it here. To some, when we’re logged into class on our computer, they may think: Oh, there you are playing on the computer with your friends. In reality, we are in the middle of a classroom discussion or deep in concentration listening to a lecture. Students are like ducks. Yeah that’s right I said ducks.

Why are we like ducks? Well let me explain it to you. Like a duck above water we look cool, calm and collected. Sitting in front of the computer looking like we just get it and we have all the answers to solve all life’s deepest questions. But like the part of the duck under the water’s surface, those little legs are going a hundred miles a minute. Same is going on with a student’s brain, the wheels are burning up. So much is going on in our brains: learning all of the new information, retaining information, and projecting it out into real life. We do all of this, while working, maybe taking care of children or elderly parents. We give up our free time to focus and put forth our attention and energies to our goal of making it to this point in our lives. What we have, what we have exhibited is our determination.

Along with determination, we have all been driven to push forward through any obstacles that have tried to slow us down, even when those obstacles are ourselves. There have been times and there will be more times in our lives where self-doubt will stand in our way, keeping us from getting through that next open door, but when those times of self-doubt come our way keep this in mind–one of the greatest minds of our time, Albert Einstein, didn’t even speak until he was four years old and over the course of his youth, he was told he would not amount to anything. Beethoven’s music teacher told him that he had no hope. And, did you know that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team?  Abraham Lincoln lost eight presidential elections, but he never quit? Instead, he pushed forward and exhibited the drive and determination he needed to become the most inspirational president in U.S. history. He, along with each of these other examples, was like Coeus, the Titan god of intelligence and far sightedness, whose inquisitive mind and desire to learn gave him the innate knowledge and understanding to see beyond the obvious. So, when someone tells you that you can’t, think of every great example that did succeed and then, I want you to look at them, smile, and say watch me.

Along with determination and drive, the last key element, at least for me in getting to this point in my college career was family and friends. I want to thank all of my family and friends for always being there for me. I am thankful for all of those who encouraged me each day to do my best. I thank those who are closest to me, my sister, her kids, and my cousins who had to hear me complain about having to finish my homework almost every term. My family is so strong and close. I know they are proud of me because they let me know. My mom is the proudest of me, but the truth is that I wouldn’t be here without her. After my dad passed away when I was young,  my mom did her best to raise me and my sister. I know it was hard, but because of all of her sacrifices and her dedication to me, I am here instead of all the other places that I could have wound up. Because of my mom, I am standing here with self-respect, determination to always do better, and I am humbled by the happiness and love that fill my life.

In conclusion, I want to say, that as I think of all of my fellow graduates, I see greatness–greatness learned, greatness earned, and greatness achieved. I am proud to be here with all you on this wonderful occasion. Friends, I thank you for being awesome classmates and to the instructors, administrators and staff thank you for being our mentors and guiding us along on our path to greatness.

Here’s to the class of 2020! Congratulations to all of us–we made it!

Thank you.