THE BLOG
05/23/2014 10:45 am ET Updated Jul 23, 2014

How USC Prepared Us for Our Lifetime Backpack

My fellow members of the class of 2014, on this day of celebration and reflection, I would like to ask you all an important question. What was in your backpack on the first day of kindergarten? I for one have no clue, but I imagine my mother packed some Lisa Frank folders, those scented markers, and of course, a pizza Lunchable. Now fast forward to our first week at USC. What did our freshman selves look like? What did we carry with us as we crossed McCarthy Quad to that first Writing 140 class? For many of us, we unknowingly subscribed to a distinctly freshman uniform. We wore our welcome week tshirts with pride, our lanyards swinging joyfully from our necks, and at least one hand was always carrying an ice cream cone from the finest eatery in town, EVK. We carried confidence, knowing that of the thousands of applicants, we were the ones chosen to attend this remarkable university. Many of us carried fear. Suddenly, we were not the most accomplished students in the classroom. But this fear was tempered by excitement. We had a new place to call home, a new community of diverse individuals and limitless opportunities.

Four years later, I believe it is safe to say that we have all changed from our freshman selves. For starters, I don't see anyone wearing a lanyard around their neck today. While the details of our USC experiences are unique and varied, together our class seized the privilege of a higher education. We conducted research with world-renowned professors. We dedicated our time to student organizations that could teach the US Congress a thing or two about efficiency and collaboration. We learned that success isn't always about the trophy, and that even under sanctions, a 50-0 victory feels just as good as a BCS Championship win. We learned to Fight On. Today, we emerge from our experiences at USC as critical thinkers and lifelong learners, ready to take on the next challenge. But unlike in kindergarten, this time we are responsible for packing our own backpacks. So as we box up our apartments and embark on the next chapter of our lives, we might all benefit from a uniquely Trojan packing list for the future.

The first thing we must carry with us is a strong sense of humility and gratitude. Today, we are celebrating the accomplishment of graduating as a Trojan. However, it must be acknowledged that we did not arrive here alone. For the past few decades, countless individuals have invested in our growth. Through their time, energy, and of course, financial assistance, these mentors instilled in us that we are valuable investments; our happiness and success matters. In between the countless toasts and photographs taken today, let us remember to thank the people who have always believed in our potential to succeed.

And after today, it is our turn to return the favor. Wherever our careers take us, there will be new opportunities to invest in the lives of others. We have much to give, and even more to learn, by engaging with the communities around us. USC and its many student organizations have set a great example. Yet there is more work to be done. We have the power to contribute beyond charity and service from a distance. Rather, we can engage communities, and work toward collaborative solutions with compassion and respect driving each partnership. By investing our time and resources in the lives of others, we can affirm that their wellbeing matters. And with that, we have added another necessity to our packing list: involvement. Let's cultivate a Trojan culture of action, and spread it wherever we go.

Ok, so I know what some of you are thinking: gratitude and involvement are intangible things. What can I actually pack along with me? Don't worry, I've got you covered. Recent studies have shown that a four year diet of Chano's carne asada fries and bacon-wrapped Victory Dogs, is in fact, great for the soul but not for the body. So please, let's all pack a nutritious lunch, our arteries deserve a break. While we're at it, let's all bring a real, point-and-shoot camera. Our future memories deserve to be savored for more than ten fleeting seconds on Snapchat.

By now we have realized that we could create a packing list as long as the 9-0 line on a Thursday night. But, the final and most important thing that I will carry with me is an undying pride in the community we have built here at USC. Looking back on our four years together, I realize that the relationships forged at USC are just as valuable as the lessons learned in its lecture halls. USC introduced me to a community of individuals whose passions are as diverse as their backgrounds. Students who are committed to their studies, their Trojan identity, and enjoying the full, college experience. These are the individuals who would never skip a class, or a home football game, who pledged fraternities and sororities while setting the curve in their physics classes. The bittersweet feelings of commencement are tempered by my confidence that each one of us -- talented actors, biologists, coders, and journalists -- will be the future leaders and innovators of our fields. Class of 2014, I will always carry you with me, and I hope that you will do the same. Congratulations everyone, and Fight On!

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