Blake Johnson's Remarks
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August 8, 2008
Good evening friends, families, distinguished members of the Eckerd College community, and class of 2012. As President of the Eckerd College Organization of Students, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to your new home here on the sunny shores of Saint Petersburg.
I can imagine this experience has already been overwhelming for many of you. From the moment you received your acceptance letter, through the months leading up to this day, everything culminates in this one moment, as you sit amongst your peers and prepare to embark on an adventure unlike any other.
You begin this journey at a very special time for Eckerd College. You join us as we celebrate our 50th anniversary, a time when we can look back on how our college has evolved and also look forward to what we are yet to become.
It was 50 years ago that Eckerd College, then named Florida Presbyterian College, began to open its doors to faculty and new students alike. It was a very different time then, and our founders sought to offer something special, something innovative, something powerful. Their vision was to create a place that was not just another college, but rather a unique learning environment where students would grow as complete individuals, a place where learning did not stop at lecture's end, a dynamic community where students could chase their dreams and reach their full potential. And chase their dreams they did, side by side with the Eckerd College founding faculty who picked up their lives from both near and far, and committed to following a vision regardless of the uncertainty of the future. Eckerd College was, at that time, a non-accredited university with a curriculum that had never before been tried. They weren't afraid to take a chance, to place their feet on unsteady ground, and assert themselves as a catalyst for change in an atmosphere of higher learning.
That vision and ethos remain at the foundation of Eckerd College today, and just as this is a time to look back on our college's history, it is in this moment that I encourage you to look back on all you have accomplished thus far. Think back on your own personal history. Amongst you are students who have shown great courage, and I'm not talking about the kind of courage it takes to summit a mountain or skydive. I'm talking about the kind of courage it takes to help a single parent raise younger siblings, the kind of courage it takes to risk one's life to save another's, the kind of courage it takes to overcome extraordinary obstacles and persevere. And in this magnificent moment, at the beginning of this powerful chapter in your lives, look forward to all you have yet to learn and all you are yet to become in the next four years.
As you begin your time at Eckerd, I have but one word of advice to give you. It is simple and straightforward, but if followed, it can truly enhance your experience. Live a deliberate life. Enter each day with purpose and conviction. Do not be idle or complacent. Do not follow the trends, but set new ones instead. Friends, we live in a time and world that is often unreflective and un-reactive, a time plagued by slow responses and excuses. So often we hear the reasons why we cannot accomplish things, rather than the possibility that we can achieve anything. You are different. Our generation is different. Own it. Be Bold. And in the words of Ghandi: "Be the change you want to see in the world." It is our responsibility to be a generation of scholars, to be inspired and active participants in the world around us.
Famed photographer and designer Cecil Beaton once wrote, "Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that asserts integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary." This is your time. I congratulate you as you become a part of the Eckerd tradition and I welcome you as the beginning of the next 50 years of this great institution.
Class of 2012, welcome home and best of luck. Thank you.