Three years, one month and three days ago, I had a conversation with my father. We had just gotten back from colonial inauguration and he was rewarding himself for surviving three days of D.C. summer heat with a pint of Haagen Daaz. I was talking about how excited I was to be beginning this part of my life, reveling in all GW had to offer. I was lost in my own thought about what classes I was thinking about taking, what student orgs I wanted to be involved in and so on and so fourth. My father looked up from his ice cream and asked, "So you're excited to go?" I said of course, annoyed he was asking obvious questions. To which he immediately responded: "Good, just don't waste it."
I took the advice to heart, but what I realize now is I didn't really need it. To be a GW student is antithetical to "wasting it." We're perhaps best known as those that don't just seize opportunities, but make our own. We are the students who internalized best at our time at the university the words of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendl Shneerson, the Lubavitcher rebbe: "In each journey of your life you must fully be where you are. You may only be passing through on your way to somewhere else seemingly more important -- nevertheless, there is purpose in where you are right now."
We are the students that after an internship on the hill and a federal work-study job at HelWel, spend hours in Gelman researching a paper or studying for a midterm.
We are industrious.
We are not just college students.
We are GW Colonials.
We do not sit idly by and reminisce about the better days behind us.
We do not mope and wait for the world to deliver better things
We know never to take the present for granted. That life does not begin till we say it does.
My father never got to see his son follow that advice. He passed away a little over a month after that humid June night. But I can look out today at this crowd and see proud parents, beaming at the sight of their children in their caps and gowns. I can whole-heartedly say that none of us have wasted the amazing opportunity that it was to be given an education at The George Washington University. I can look at my mother and my sisters faces and I can say to my father now he should have known I would make the most of these four years. I'm a colonial after all, it's in my blood.
Now, I want you to think back to that first day and think of every morning you greeted this campus, sleepy and with a cup of Gelman Starbucks in your hand. Be grateful for every professor who taught you to stand up and be heard. To every mentor that pushed you to lead and not follow. And to every advisor you have had for his or her endless help in ensuring your education was the best it could be. More than anything, be grateful to your parents, who have selflessly support you your entire life. Be proud of the men and women you have become, because you will change the world for the better. This moment is ours but it isn't our only one, just one of many.
And I for one cannot wait to watch us seize them all.
Congratulations, L'Chaim (to life) and Mazel Tov to the class of 2014.
Now let's take a class picture!