President Coppola’s speech from Keystone College Commencement 2015
What a wonderful day to celebrate 144 years of graduates finishing their time at Keystone College and stepping out into the world to make a positive difference.
Parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, neighbors, and companions; thank you for supporting these graduates in their quest to attend Keystone College. The sacrifices you have made both emotionally and financially will have a long-lasting and positive effect for the next hundred years on your families and communities. In particular, parents, when you let your sons and daughters go, when you let them come to Keystone, you gave them a chance at a life now full of possibilities. You trusted us, and now we see the marvelous transformation before us today. And it looks great from where I am standing.
Students, thank you for trusting in the Keystone Promise and selecting us. Thank you for choosing to persevere when others left. Thank you for giving your best, even when you weren’t sure what your best was, or which direction you wanted to go. Thank you for making this College—your college—a bright beacon of “progress through effort” (our College motto). You believed in us, you belonged to a thoughtful community, and you have been transformed into young adults full of promise and promises kept.
In the mid-1980s, a musical debuted on Broadway based on the novel, Les Miserables by the French poet and novelist, Victor Hugo. One of the duets sung by the love-struck characters, Marius and Cosette, is called, “In My Life,” where the lyrics proclaim, “A heart full of love, a heart full of song. . . I do not know what to say. Then make no sound. I am lost, I am found.”
Today I invite you to be “full of it.” A liberal arts and sciences education, a Keystone College education, is for hearts full of love and life—enabling people not merely to know, but to learn how to learn, and learn how to live meaningful lives. We are all “full of it,” the Keystone spirit, the Keystone College experience. Such an education leads us to certain convictions that it is better to live a generous life, an examined life, an interdependent life, a caring life, and a virtuous life, rather than one that is selfish, thoughtless, careless, or greedy.
Today is a day of fullness and the appropriate words to describe this day are: wonderful, colorful, playful (Hogwarts doesn’t offer financial aid?), graceful, careful, thoughtful, hopeful, mindful, and grateful.
This last word—grateful—may I suggest that you make a special effort today to show your gratefulness, your fullest gratitude to your parents, family, friends, teachers and all those who made this day possible. And remember, no matter how grown up you are, wherever you go in life, call home, your mother worries.
Graduates, you have grown and your soul’s plate is full with your talents and personalities, and you have helped us to grow, too. If along the way you or we have been careless, thoughtless, or we have let you down, then let us know so that we can try to make it right. It is never too late to repair a wrong, and it is never too late to reconcile, to choose wholeness and fullness.
We have hearts full of love, and we are hopeful you will have a heart that is willing to learn, is open to surprises, thinks critically, forgives quickly, and is unafraid to wrestle with impasse. When we stop learning, we stop living fully. So live life fully in a profession, a career, a cause, a community, a promise. Keep in touch with the friends you have formed here. Many alumni tell me that the friendships they made at Keystone have lasted a lifetime and have brought humor and depth to their lives. And when one of you succeeds, invite others into your success. And when another fails or suffers, be there to help and support each other. Make your heart and home full of love and full of song, as we have tried to do here in this small, caring, and powerful College.
Only about one third of young adults in our country earn a bachelor’s degree. And you will soon see that it was well worth the effort, time, and money. The unemployment rate among college graduates ages 25-34 is barely 2 percent. The pay gap between college graduates and everyone else is near a record high and over a lifetime will cover many times over your student debt, if you have any. You are ready to take on new challenges because you have already proven yourself when confronted with challenges here and you have succeeded.
The wheel of life now comes full circle, where so much time and energy has been invested and happily given to you, so that you can go forth and live life to the fullest. So wherever you go, know that you are full of it. That’s right, you and we are full of the Keystone spirit, a Keystone heart, full of love, full of song, and full of life.