Ceremony of Lights 2005
Ceremony of LIghts 2005

Craig Altemose's Remarks
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Craig Altemose
President of ECOS
August 12, 2005

Distinguished guests and new members of the Eckerd College community: Welcome.

My name is Craig Altemose. I hail from Morris Plains, New Jersey, majoring in International Relations. As the President of ECOS, the Eckerd College Organization of Students, our student government, I have been elected to serve you by the student body.

Three years ago, I sat where you are sitting today, full of excitement, trepidation, and anxiety. Sitting in the same room as I were two young men who I would come to know very well: Kyle Sullivan and Ray Vasilas. Today, I am going to tell you their story.

Kyle and Ray came to Eckerd eager to learn, ready to explore, and filled with a common passion for the sport of lacrosse. They had in their favor the fact that they shared this passion, as well as knowing the identity of their passion. Unfortunately, they also had a large disadvantage: Eckerd College had no lacrosse team.

Faced with this fact, Kyle and Ray had two choices: first, to complain for a while and then move on, abandoning their passion or second, to transfer to a school that had a lacrosse program, abandoning their love for Eckerd College and all the opportunities it had awaiting them.

Kyle and Ray chose option number three: to do something about it. Together with a handful of other interested students, they practiced freshman year. At the end of the year, they formed an ECOS club. Their sophomore year they managed to field a team in the Florida Lacrosse League, and what a team it was. Entering a well-established league, the Eckerd College Men's Lacrosse Club finished the season undefeated, winning the state championship. To prove it was no fluke, they won states again in their junior year. In their upcoming senior year, Kyle and Ray will lead the Eckerd College Lacrosse Club in the Southeastern Lacrosse Conference, playing against regional powerhouses like Virginia Tech, Davidson, Florida State, Emory, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest.

So, why am I telling a story about lacrosse, when this is an academic institution? Because in the end, this story is not about lacrosse; it is about passion. The undefeated season, the state championships, those were natural consequences of passion. Ray Vasilas and Kyle Sullivan had the unique advantage of knowing their passion before arriving at Eckerd College. Most of us, myself included, are not so lucky.

What lessons, then, does this story provide to the rest of us? That in the end, college is about finding and furthering your passions.

Some of you, like Ray and Kyle, already know one or more of your passions. That is exceptional. But it does not mean that you have to stop exploring. I stress the word passions as opposed to the singular passion, because we all have more than one passion. We don't always discover multiple passions, but we do possess them. Ray Vasilas also has a passion in caring for and learning about the environment while Kyle Sullivan finds delight in the culture and language of China. These were not passions they entered college with, but passions they discovered along the way.

College is a unique period of exploration and discovery. It is the one time in your life when you can truly do the unimaginable. Explore new horizons you never thought you would. Branch out. Discover your passions. Do what others would never expect. In my three years at Eckerd, I have debated politics with Elie Wiesel, been put in charge of over $350,000 of student's funds, learned how to play lacrosse, unwittingly found myself in the secret underground layer of the Castilian Youth Revolutionary Movement, swam with manatees, marched alongside Martin Sheen at a rally for justice in Georgia, traveled to the continent of Antarctica, and unlocked the secrets of International Political Economy. Very soon I will be able to add to that list having given a speech to an audience of more than 1,000 people. Any one of these things would surely have shocked anyone who knew me in high school.

I tell you these things not to flaunt my own accomplishments, but to point out that I came to college armed with enough DVDs and Nintendo 64 games to never have to venture outside my dorm room. Thankfully, they only took up space. I have explored, I have discovered several passions, and I have changed immeasurably for the better as a result. I had the time of my life, I had some crazy, wild adventures, and on a side note, I did it all without the aid of alcohol or drugs.

As you venture forward into your college career, look at every experience as a new opportunity. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Embrace life. Do the unthinkable. Every class, every book, every service project, every club, every team, every trip abroad, every leadership position, every program and activity that Eckerd College has to offer is an opportunity for you to discover your passions. Do not let these opportunities pass you by. I can affirm to you as a senior that college goes by in a heartbeat.

Before you know it, you will be a senior, looking ahead to your options after graduation, and looking back upon your time at Eckerd. When you look back, will you say, "I did it. I explored Eckerd, I embraced Eckerd, and it was spectacular" or will you say: "I spent too much time at the beach."

The choice is in your hands. Right now. Explore life, embrace Eckerd or let it pass you by.

Good luck and welcome to Eckerd College.

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