Convocation 2008
Convocation 2008

Student Response
Return to Program and Remarks

Blake JohnsonBlake Johnson
President, Eckerd College Organization of Students
September 3, 2008

Good afternoon members of the Eckerd College community, and welcome. Welcome back, or perhaps welcome for the very first time. For the class of 2009, this day and this Convocation mark the formal beginning of the end. We've spent years preparing for what this year will bring, and so it begins in this first week of September. For others of you, this is just the beginning. You will step onto the court in teal and navy for the first time, or you will meet the professor who by the end of this year will be so much more than a teacher. They will become a friend, a mentor, and a partner in your scholarly endeavors.

Whether you're a freshman or a senior, no matter where we are in our intellectual journey, we return to this place for a number of reasons. The small classes, the curriculum, the beach: they all play important roles, but there is something more that brings us back each year. It's something unique; you won't find it in brochures or magazines; you find it in the late nights with good friends; you find it in the calloused hands of students who would rather build homes and schools than go on vacation for Spring Break; you find it in a professor's eyes as they speak about their life's passion. Most importantly, you find it in a community that challenges you to be a leader, a community that asks you to look deeper into the great questions of our time.

As we step into this new year, a year distinguished by the continued celebration of our 50th anniversary, it's important that we look back. The last 50 years of Eckerd College have been defined by a willingness to take risks. Take for example the founding faculty of Eckerd College, the great intellects who left their successful careers, picked up their families, and answered a call to create an institution unlike any other. The place you see today is a product of their efforts and vision. But arguably more important than looking back is that we continue to look forward.

I could step up here today and wish you all well, say this year will be as good as the last, as good as the last 50. But where is the risk in that? Today I'm asking you to not settle for last year, or the last 50 as great as they may have been, because on this 3rd day of September, 2008, we begin the next 50 years of this college. This year can be different, this year can be better, and it's up to us. This challenge does not rest on the shoulders of President Eastman, it doesn't rest on the shoulders of the faculty and staff or Residence Life, we as the unique, talented, and inspired students of Eckerd College can actively decide to give it all we have got to set this year apart.

I'm not saying everything will be different. ECOS will continue to sponsor your favorite events and the Presidential Lecture Series is already shaping up to be the best we've seen. I'm saying look around, see what needs to be changed, and take it into your hands. You know Andy Warhol once said that, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself”. And it's true. Ask the questions, do the research…if we stop talking about what's wrong and start doing something about it, we will see extraordinary things happen. It's simple and it can be something small. Use the kickstands on the yellow bikes, go out and support your sports teams, speak up in class even if you never have before, and if you see someone struggling don't hesitate to lend a hand.

So today the challenge is to take the last 50 years of risks and accomplishments, and bring that ethos into this year, as we resolve to strengthen these traditions, with an eye ever looking towards where are yet to go. So I wish you luck, and may this year be better than any we've had before.

Thank you.

Eckerd College Eckerd College's 50th Anniversary
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