Commencement Remarks by Daniel W.T. Hood ’11
No score and four-ish years ago we came to Guilford with wonder, fear and hope. All of those things we brought in with us have shaped our time at Guilford. Some of us wondered if the cafeteria food would destroy us (well, all of us wondered that), but we all survived. Some of us feared we would not find friends, but the best of friends are here with us today. And some of us hoped that Guilford academic life would be easy. How quickly was that expectation dashed?
Now, I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that it hasn’t been hard for us to get to where we are today. It has been hard. We have had to struggle every day, to work almost continuously, to get the opportunity to be here. And it has not just been rigorous academics that have challenged us. We have spent four or more years here wrestling also with the things that divide us, and we have been divided. In our time here, we have often segregated ourselves between athlete and non-athlete, between adult and traditional students, between psychology majors and history majors and chemistry majors—and the list goes on. But here, today, we are united. And, in a little while, after they hand us our diplomas we will all have one title: Guilford College graduates!
Becoming one united group is exciting and worth celebrating, but I would like to speak to something else for a moment. We have been taught that sentimentality is merely one of the cheap tricks used by filmmakers and advertisers to elicit our sympathy. Some of our professors here at Guilford have even taught us that sentimentality can lead to violence—thank you Maria Rosales. Wallace Stevens even claims that “Sentimentality is a failure of feeling.” Sentiment, though, is not; sentiment is earned, and we have earned the right to feel. Today, on this milestone in the pathway of our lives, I find that a little sentiment is justified. It may just be worth it to let a little moisture coalesce at the corners of our eyes as we look around at all of the people here today who are sharing this with us. Consider the parents and families that supported our decision to come here. Consider the friends that, while they may not have always kept us on the straight and narrow, definitely helped us get through this without losing our minds. And consider the professors who were the guiding hands and the swift kicks in the butt that we needed.
When we leave here today we join a family of college graduates across our country and the world at large. We deserve to congratulate ourselves. You did it. The person sitting next to you did it. We have all been prepared for this moment. We have spent the last years honing our skills in hopes that when this day came we would be ready. Eisenhower once said, “In battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” These past years have been devoted to that planning process, helping us prepare for whatever may receive us after we leave this happy and sometimes difficult place. Our time here at Guilford has been a gauntlet we have had to run for four years, but now we’ve come out the other side.
But my friends, this day has come, and we are ready, whether we know it or not. I know that you are ready because you are sitting here, wearing these vaguely comic robes and looking up at me from under the brims of your mortarboards. I’m not here to tell you that we’ll escape getting our butts kicked, but Guilford has taught us the skills we need to overcome any of the challenges the world could throw at us. We may be wounded, but we will not be destroyed. We have learned the complexity of working toward community. We have learned to be passionate about things that don’t come easily to us. We have even learned that struggle is necessary.
I started talking about sentiment, though, and that is what I want to finish with. It is no sign of weakness to be sentimental today, to be nostalgic, and to be fearful of the days ahead. I know I am. But it would be a discredit to all of us if the time we have spent here meant nothing. This place has changed my life. I imagine it has changed yours too. God bless and good luck.