Senior Class Address by Julie Marie Rogers '07
"It's not the destination, it's the journey." Sound
familiar, class of 2007? I'm sure each of us has memories of the
posters, the t-shirts, the booklets, the stationery - that energetic
emblem sneaking slyly into our nervous, first year selves. It was our
class slogan. And as I stand here before you today, on this, our
graduation day, could there be a more appropriate message to send out
to a graduating class? It's not the destination, it's the journey. It's
not the graduation robe, or the diplomas, it's not even the academic
transcripts. It's everything that has happened to us since the day we
first laid eyes on our class slogan.
In thinking about this day and the journey that all of us have taken together, the word "soulquake" comes to mind. Soulquake. It's a word I learned on one of my own personal stops on my Denison journey when I studied abroad in Mexico and El Salvador during our junior year. "Soulquake." A nun in El Salvador enthusiastically repeated the word with vigor. Soulquake: an experience that shakes us to our core. That forces us to re-evaluate ourselves, our place in the world, our set of beliefs. Soulquake: an experience that tears us down only so that we can rebuild ourselves — stronger, more resilient — with more impassioned beliefs and a stronger sense of self.
And what a journey of soulquakes it has been! From the routine to the revolutionary — our Denison careers have been filled with ordinary and extraordinary moments that served as turning points in creating the strong and ambitious group of individuals that sit before me today. Some soulquakes have been personal — whether it was choosing a major, or doubting if we could really take on another leadership position, or of course, wondering if we'd even get to where we sit today, clad in our own academic regalia, about to be graduates of this ever-changing, ever-challenging university of ours. Some soulquakes have been global — when we became passionate and fascinated by something outside of ourselves. Whether it was passion for the study of medicine, or literature of the Victorian era, or perhaps social justice, each of us braved the soulquakes when we were able to engage ourselves in something in our greater global community and truly care about it, commit ourselves to it. Those soulquakes — they've frustrated and confused us. They've impacted and changed us. And most importantly, they've pushed us to burst outside the familiar and into the unknown.
T.S. Eliot wrote, "Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go." As we each step outside the familiar doors of Denison University, know that there will be more soulquakes ahead. They will be the turning points in our lives. The moments where we find ourselves the most vulnerable, the farthest outside our comfort zone; these are the moments that will forever change us, enrich us, and force us to grow.
Class of 2007, do you remember the last time we all sat together? The date was August 28, 2003, and by all appearances, it was a day not unlike today. It certainly was a commencement of sorts, a commencement of this leg of our life journeys. We sat as classmates, strangers, students who, for the most part, had never had the opportunity to work one-on-one with professors, or live abroad in a foreign country. Many had never lived away from our families, nor had we ever lived in a place where we would come in contact with world leaders and scholars. Sure, the soulquakes have been large and small. Some of us have mastered a foreign language. Others have published articles and presented at national conferences. We might look the same. In fact, we might be sitting next to the very same people with whom we sat on that fateful August day in 2003, but each of us has been changed; torn down and rebuilt as proud survivors of the soulquakes of this four-year journey.
And so, friends, classmates of the graduating class of 2007, I wish you a wonderful continuation of each of your journeys. May the road be filled with people who challenge you, events that confuse you, and experiences that impact you so deeply, so intensely that you are rebuilt, stronger and more resilient, and ever-changing, with every step of your journey.
May your life be filled with soulquakes.