I have been given the great honor to speak before all of you tonight, the night of our graduation from the University of Kansas School of the Arts.
First and foremost, as most of you can imagine, I am extremely terrified. Despite “grown ups” telling me for years that learning the skill of public speaking would be something I would be grateful for later on in life, I still insisted upon avoiding public speaking as much as possible. I even went as far as to take a condensed summer speech course in high school, so I wouldn’t have to present speeches in front of too many of my peers. And in college, I completed the “oral communication” requirement by taking a philosophy course on the logic of developing a speech, but not actually having to present one.
However, here I am, standing before you… giving a speech.
What is leading me to my first point is that apparently someone, or apparently more than just someone, thought that it was a good idea for me to give you all a speech tonight on behalf of the Department of Theatre.
I never would have imagined that I would have been the one to stand before you tonight, to follow so many incredible individuals that have spoken at this ceremony throughout the years… But that is what I think is the most beautiful aspect of KU. KU is an extremely special and supportive place, and I think that we have all experienced that support in one way or another.
Personally, I never thought when I first became a student at KU that I would be speaking at my graduation, I never thought that I would be an officer of multiple student organizations, that I would stage manage 6 shows on this very stage, that I would be the leader for two volunteer trips through alternative breaks, that I would be accepted to two study abroad programs in Greece and in London, and more.
And I’m not saying all of this in my attempt to persuade you all to believe that they made the right choice in having me speak in front of you, but because I think each and everyone of you can relate to me in this.
At KU, we are pushed to be our greatest, our best selves if you will, because here, others see in us what we may not see in ourselves.
My hope for us is that we do not forget the greatness that our KU peers, faculty, and staff have pushed us to, because from what I have been told, the “real world”, may not be as observant of our talents.
Which leads me to my second point, our talents. We are an extra special part of KU because, as of tonight, we are not just graduates from KU, but from the School of the Arts.
When I was a sophomore I took a course through the dance department with a few other theatre majors and lots of great dance majors in arts administration with the Chair of the Department of Dance, Michele Heffner Hayes. Early on in the course she spoke to us about how incoming students and parents often ask her the question,
“but what can I (or my child) do with a degree in dance?”.
I believe that we all, as students of the arts, have had this question asked of us many times, as if our degree is somehow of less value than others. What I want to tell you all tonight is what Michele said to our class and what she says to those incoming students and their parents, that with a dance (or theatre, or visual art, or film) or whatever other degrees you receive, you can do
whatever you want because
We are not limited by being students of the arts, in fact, we are freed. As beautifully put by Dr. Amber, “remember your nest; return to it often. And never forget this unique bird that has set you free”.
We have a special way of seeing the world and a special desire to change it for the better through art.
And as we make our way into the “real world”, I think that we need to remember the greatness that we were pushed to by being a student of the University of Kansas School of the Arts, and that we can do whatever we want to do, in fact, we can do whatever we want to and we can do it better because we are graduates of the School of the Arts, and I think that’s something pretty damn cool to be proud of.
So, with that being said, thank you all, and congratulations to the University of Kansas School of the Arts class of 2015.