Student Speaker- Joshua Richardson, BGS Film & Media Studies
Hello! It’s good to see so many of you here, staring at me, waiting for me to speak, eyes boring into me… (beat) Just kidding. It’s an honor to be here. First off I would like to thank everybody in the KU Film and Media Studies department, as well as the American Studies department, who helped me get to where I am today. In my remarks, I would like to tell you about two women, and how important they have been to me, and why.
The first woman is my lovely fiancée, Thea. We’ve been together now for nine years, so I guess we beat out that Jason Siegel movie that came out lately. Thea has had a good deal of adversity in her life… besides being engaged to me, I mean. She is a type one diabetic, and has been since she was very young. Also, when she was a teenager, her father, tragically, died young. Despite these difficulties, Thea has gone on to achieve great things. She recently received her Master’s degree in French literature here at KU, and was accepted to the UCLA French PhD. program. Beset by problems, in a situation where many others would not have bothered to try, Thea found the strength to succeed.
The second woman is my mother. My mother has waited a long time for this day, the day I would graduate. I am, in the parlance of our times, a nontraditional student, which is a nice way of saying that I am old, or at least older than is expected of a college student. It took me a while to chart my path through life. But I think my mother always understood this. When I was born, my mother had a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. She decided that this was not enough for her. She attended night school for years, finally attaining her Master’s in family counseling. I remember, as a child, that mom was always busy, always working on something, though she always made time for her family on the weekend. And even this wasn’t enough for her: when I was a teenager, my mother started a PhD. program in psychology, and darned if she didn’t finish it. Dr. Mom.
Now, my reason for bringing this up is not just to spotlight their achievements, although I certainly am glad that I can do that. It is because, although neither of these women has pursued a career in the arts, I feel that art students such as myself can learn a lot from them. There are a lot of people out there who will tell you how art is a waste of time. How choosing to major in the arts is a waste of money. These folks are not entirely wrong. As a non-trad, I have tried to make it out in the “real world,” and let me tell you, it’s no picnic. After graduation, no one will be waiting to hand you a career; an artist must make their own path to follow. Some of you will head out into the world, seeking to make your way in your field of endeavor. Others of you, like myself, will continue on to a graduate program, where you will begin the process of distinguishing yourself anew.
But those people I mentioned earlier, the naysayers who would have told you to do something else with your college career? They are not entirely right, either. You already have almost all of the tools you need to succeed in the arts, in their practice, or in their study, or both. You have these tools because you acquired them here at KU. In your long hours of study, in your participation in classes and in extracurricular activities, you have honed your craft to a razor edge. Under the tutelage of KU’s excellent instructors, you have learned all of the fundamentals that you will need out in the world.
There are only two more ingredients that you will need to succeed. And you can find these ingredients in the stories of my fiancée and my mother. The first ingredient is the willpower to try. More artists fail from lack of this than anything else. It is not easy to do what you want, in defiance of the cries of the naysayers. But the only way that you will succeed is if you show up in the first place. The second ingredient is perseverance. I saw a commercial once featuring a skater. He said “when you skate, you’re going to fall down a lot. You only fail when you don’t get back up.” This is one of the truest things I have ever heard. Both of these virtues can be found in the stories of the amazing women in my life. And both can be found here at KU as well. You have all made the commitment required to major in the arts. And you all persevered through the trials of your time here. If you remember these lessons, you will find success in your life, although what form that success will take may vary. Just remember the lessons of my fiancée and my mother, and this university. Always make the effort, even when it is scary. Persist in the face of challenge and adversity. And the world can be yours.