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"Get Smart"
by Lisa DeVries

DeVriesI sought out a good deal of advice for this speech. Someone said, "You should definitely quote Emily Dickinson."  Another suggested that I recite the song lyrics to Queen's "We Are the Champions."  And my friend Dean Tuck said, "Whatever you do, don't use any life-changing metaphors."  I will try to oblige all parties.

Largely, I want to comment on what an oddity it is that I am even standing here with you today.  My sister Sarah and I were the first generation to attend college, and with our family's working-class background, it is equally surprising to me that neither of us were pressured into pursuing a fast track moneymaking career, like Finance, or Accounting, or Business.  Actually, when I was a kid I really wanted to be a secret agent like Max Smart on the "Get Smart" show. I wanted one of those rotary shoe phones, but my Dad said that spy agencies probably didn't offer good retirement plans.

happygrads9But I always knew that I wanted to learn about as many cultures as I possibly could, and I can think of no faster route to that knowing other than the study of multicultural and multiethnic literatures.  In this time of globalization, it is detrimental not to be culturally aware.

Several of my friends bemoaned telling their parents about choosing English as a course of study. "So what are you going to do with it?" is the inevitable question.  Truly, embarking into English Studies requires a great deal of courage.  In our society, we are engaged in a constant struggle between valuing the creative, or valuing the practical -- but rarely both.  The moneymaking strategy of collegiate study is preferred and revered in today's world, instead of the search for knowledge, beauty, truth, humanity, and hope.

For your courage and unfailing dedication to the creative, I want to thank you.  To the future teachers, writers, linguists, and rhetoricians, I want to thank you.  To the parents for their continual support, I want to thank you.

happygradsI also want to extend my gratitude to Tom Douglass for traveling with me into unknown waters without paddles or compass, but equipped with a pretty strong flashlight.  Heartfelt thanks go to my parents who had faith in me, even when I had lost my own.  Thank you also to Carol Woodruff, my sister Sarah DeVries, my boyfriend Nitesh Patidar, and my friend Kat Mills for keeping me laughing.  Thank you as well to Allison Green, Kim Harper, and recently Lakesha Rhodes for providing comfort food and great company.

To the graduating class of 2008, and my fellow soon-to-be-unemployed compatriots, I want to tell you that your magical dreams will come true.  I want to tell you to be ready for amazing things to happen because you can handle it.  And because I appreciate good advice, Emily Dickinson wants to tell you that "Hope is a thing with feathers," and Queen wants you to know, "We are the champions -- my friends."  Thank you.

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