The fairy tales that forever touch the strings of the human heart have one thing in common: a happy ending. For dramatic effect, the speech you are about to hear begins with one.
When we dare to venture into the past to find inspiration for the future, we are inevitably bound to face the moments we’d much sooner forget. Our repeated experience has shown that we are more inclined to find profundity in our seconds of misery and suffering than in years and years of commonplace encounters. It is with that fact in mind that I ask you to imagine this very room, and this very ceremony as it stood exactly five years ago today –Sunday, June 11, 1995. As I imagine it, the scene is no different than the one that extends before me today: an endless swarm of caps and gowns line the rows before the stage, cameras flash, beaming parents murmur in utter delight, and temperatures swelter in the upper 90’s
The images of this sweet memory are, sadly, but figments of my imagination. On that day, as my sister Lauren crossed the stage to begin a new chapter in her life, I lay at home, ill in bed. Six seemingly endless days before, I had been diagnosed with leukemia.
The details of my illness –at this momentous occasion – are entirely unnecessary. All that remains to be said of the struggle that ensued is embodied here, before your very eyes. As the sole artifact of victory, I unearth the demons of my past not to depress you with sorrow or to impress you with triumph; I hope only to stand here today to bear humble witness to the preciousness of every instant, and to the speed with which the gift of life may be revoked.
As this tale of survival is my happy ending, for all of us, this commencement ceremony must also foretell a new beginning. We must today come to terms with the fact that we all have faced – and survived – one of the most difficult and comprehensive curriculums this nation has to offer. As our reflections of this past prepare us to face the future, whispers of success...