Erin Rebecca McVay: MBA Valedictorian Class of 2019
Good morning and welcome fellow graduates, faculty, and guests.
When I was asked to speak today, I was both honored and excited. I really wanted to write a speech that would be thought-provoking and profound. Maybe it would have a few jokes or witty comments for comedic effect, possibly ending with an inspiring statement leading to a standing ovation—just an idea to keep in mind for later! It was not long before I realized that a speech like that wasn't going to be easy. So I started by thinking back to my undergraduate ceremony, hoping for some insight. I quickly realized that over the past ten years since that day, I had forgotten not only who spoke at my graduation but also what, if any, inspiration they may have instilled in me. All I could remember feeling that day was how unsure I was about the next steps in my life. I had no idea where I was going or how I was going to get there. That made me realize, it was less important to inspire you today and more important to offer a piece of useful advice that may help calm your nerves regarding the future. Advice that I have found to be helpful in both my career thus far and in life.
That advice is always to take the leap. Even if you have made a five-year plan and think you have it all figured out, if a new job opportunity is in front of you, or the chance to move to a new country or to start a new business, or even to go back to school...take the leap. When life offers you something new and exciting...take the leap. I like to use the word leap instead of jump or some other synonym because it has a deeper, connotative meaning. Taking a leap requires a level of confidence and optimism that your landing—though scary and unknown—will be worth it.
I have found, and am telling you today, that it is always worth it. New things and change are scary and inevitable, as you're well aware, looking towards the next step in your life. But I'm sure that same feeling presented itself when you decided to attend SolBridge. For many of us it not only was a big step for our education, but it was a move away from friends and family and perhaps even on the other side of the world. And look where we are now. That leap of faith has provided us with so many amazing learning experiences and opportunities. Regardless of what grades we have received or the networking connections we've made, we have the experience of living in a different culture, studying and working with people from all over the world. In a globalizing workplace, that skill is something to be proud of far more than an A+ on your transcript.
The leap may be hard, but nothing great in life is easy. Failure is not the worst thing in life. I repeat, failure is not the worst thing in life; as they say, sunshine all the time makes a desert. Failure is simply a guiding step telling you to go another way. It is a learning experience, and you shouldn't be afraid to fail now and again. If you live your life as planned, then what happens when you get to the end of the plan? Let life happen. Enjoy it, and another opportunity will come along, trust me.
So enjoy this accomplishment. Appreciate all that you have achieved throughout your time at SolBridge. Be enthusiastic about what comes next and don't be afraid to try new things that interest you. Enjoy the roller coaster of life. This is my advice.
But what's a graduation speech without a famous quote, so I'll end with one by T.S. Elliot that I am very fond of. "To make an end is to make a beginning." I wish you nothing but endings with new beginnings and lots of happiness in your lives. And if you're feeling that standing ovation I mentioned earlier, no one's stopping you!
Congratulations to you all. Thank you.