Scott Roedersheimer '04
It is an honor to have been selected by my fellow graduates to welcome you to the 41st commencement ceremony at Eckerd College. Good morning and welcome.
I have a story from the book "Ishmael" written by Daniel Quinn that I would like to share with you. It is the story of an encounter between an anthropologist and a jellyfish that takes place half a billion years ago on an otherwise barren earth.
A time-traveling anthropologist, keen on learning about ancient life on the planet, asks a jellyfish, the earth's most complex life form of the time, to describe its creation myth. The jellyfish responds indignantly by telling the anthropologist that its people are a strictly rational species who accept nothing that is not based on logic and the scientific method. Their creation story is no myth. He explains that over many millions of years, single-celled organisms evolved into more complex creatures until finally, the pinnacle of evolution appeared in the form of itself, the jellyfish.
Challenged by the jellyfish's vanity, the anthropologist asks if the evolutionary process happened on land or in the sea. The jellyfish, baffled, asks, "what is land?" The anthropologist responds simply by pointing to the shore. The jellyfish contemptuously replies that "the dirt and rocks over there are simply the lip of the vast bowl that holds the sea." The creature was clearly too proud to realize anything but its own self-importance.
I chose to share this particular story with you today because it illustrates three points about our experiences at Eckerd.
The first theme is perspective. Throughout our time at Eckerd, our perspective has shifted; we have been urged to discover that there is much more that lies outside the sphere of our personal experiences. Unlike the jellyfish's limited view of the world, we have been exposed to myriad issues and ideas through classroom discussions, activism, service learning, world travel, and academic research. This exposure gives us an edge in incorporating other views into our lives and helps us to treat others with empathy and compassion.
The second theme is humility. As students of the liberal arts, we have been privileged to experiment with courses as diverse as our own personal stories. Although the specific knowledge that we have gained in our own fields will serve us well as we pursue our goals, we also keep in mind that the true reward from our experiences here is the realization that there will always be more to know and more questions to be asked. Though we have become comfortable within the infamous Eckerd Bubble, let us interpret our diplomas as the first step on a path of life-long learning, rather than a reason to feel as self-important as the jellyfish.
The third theme is responsibility. The jellyfish assumed that it was the end all and be all of creation. The condescending attitude of the pompous invertebrate is something we as humans must discard if we are to care for our planet and respect its inhabitants. This may seem like an overwhelming task, however, as graduates of the Quest for Meaning course we are all familiar with the idea that we can make a valuable and positive impact as individuals.
President Eastman has said that improving our school has been the result of doing a thousand little things the right way. As graduates of Eckerd College, we know that all of our individual contributions will add up into something even greater.
Good luck to all of you and thank you.
Scott Roedersheimer of North Parkersburg, West Virginia, graduated with a double major in both History and American Studies. He has contributed to the life of the Eckerd community as well as the larger community in numerous ways. He served as a member of the Council of the Letters Collegium and was selected as the delegate to the Expanded Faculty. In the local community he has served as a volunteer for Equality Florida, the Sierra Club, and the Colonial House Assisted Living Facility for the elderly. Scott is a Presidential Scholar, the highest honor the College confers on entering students, and he is a member of the Honors Program, as well as Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Beta Kappa.