Even though nothing about your last semester, or even about our world, is conventional these days, I still say, “Congratulations and Forever to Thee.” These are the time-tested things that Gamecocks have heard from their friends and loved ones over our 200+ year history, and you deserve no less.
It was an honor to serve you as president for three of your four years (and even longer for those of you who are graduating “On Your Time,” if that was more than four years). Just like I hope your time here was for many of you, they were the best years of my life.
I reviewed my nearly 50 eblasts to students to find a kernel of advice for you at this culminating moment. I wrote to the students in the classes of 2008-2019 about subjects as varied as civility and respect for all; finding focus; finding your rhythm; willpower; optimism; learning from nature; communicating with your parents and family; looking out for others; dealing with stress and anxiety; practicing safe and healthy behaviors; and voting, among other matters. I also spent a lot of time telling you about the floods and hurricanes that were on the way. Then I found one from last year that was about “Moving On.” I wrote that one as much about my own experience as yours. Moving on from this university will be hard and, because you were “cheated” out of the immense fun and sentimentality of part of your senior year, it’s likely to be extra-hard. Maybe this will help.
Don’t think of leaving the University of South Carolina as the closing of one door and the opening of another. Think instead of stepping through a glass door…so that, once through, you can turn around and still see where you’ve been. See the things that made you happiest, be they large or small things. See the times that brought you great joy.
When I do that, I see you. I see you storming the court at the Colonial Life Arena; there you are jumping in the Thomas Cooper Library fountain after victories that took us to the Final Four; I see you dancing and volunteering at Dance Marathon, Relay for Life and MLK Day of Service; I see you at our Town Halls and Dive-in Lunches; I see you studying for finals as Patricia and I brought you trail mix and apples; I see us snapping selfies and “high fiving;” I see you stopping me in the Mini Cooper. And, now as you graduate, I see you proudly joining the 117,662 fine young men and women who preceded you at the 181 commencements that I presided over in 11 years as President.
That’s what I will see. Now it’s your turn…what do you see?
Class of 2020, keep in touch with Carolina and remember what Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”