Convocation 2011

Jerimiah Booream-Phelps '12
August 29, 2011

Hobart and William Smith faculty and staff, President Gearan, Darell Hammond, members of the Geneva community, returning students, and the Classes of 2015, it is an honor to speak with you today.

Why am I going to college? That's the question that I asked myself during the gap year I took four summers ago. A lot has happened since then, and I'm a completely different person because of everything I've experienced. Your particular answer to that question will depend on your own personal story, but I'd like to take this chance to impart a few shreds of what might be something worthwhile so that you can look back in 10 years and say with a straight face that you have no regrets… At least, no major regrets. I'll be the first to admit that despite my good choices, I've also made my fair share of poor ones.

But that's what will make this the most impactful four years of your life. Not the poor choices, but the way you handle them and the manner in which you conduct yourself here. One of the most meaningful things I learned during my time at HWS is that you should treat your short years here as a juncture to grow, flourish, and find your passion. Because after all, what is a life devoid of passion?

If you're like I was when I was sitting in your seat, the only thing you know for sure is that you don't have the answer yet. I don't think there's any 100% right way to find and follow your passion. However, I can tell you right now that you're starting your collegiate life at an institution that can and will facilitate your transformation from high school grad to a fully-grown embodiment of success – if you let it.

So don't wait for your passion to come to you – go hunt it down. Take every intro class you can. Get involved. Get REALLY involved. We have a club for everything – one of them is bound to be something you love. If your club doesn't exist, create it. If you can't find a major you want, make that too. Maintain a healthy balance in everything you do. In my experience, there are no limits except those that you impose on yourself. This school is begging you to live your life beyond the barriers that you currently think are holding you back. So embrace what you're here for.

Personally, I found my passion second semester of my first year here thanks to my adviser, Professor Drennen… and I don't think I've gone to sleep since then. In my case, it's been bridging the gap between the business and environmental worlds – so hopefully you'll indulge me when I remind you that a reusable coffee cup looks a lot classier than one of those paper cups.

Thank you so much – I can't wait to see how you'll change the world.