Commencement Ceremony, May 15, 2020
The following is the text of Interim President Larry Lundblad's address to the graduating Class of 2020. You can view the Commencement Ceremony online on this page.
Good Day! I am Larry Lundblad, Interim President of Minnesota State College Southeast and I would like to congratulate the Class of 2020! We are taking this opportunity to celebrate your success in reaching your academic goal! We want to acknowledge your disappointment in not having a traditional ceremony and celebration. However, we still can acknowledge your accomplishment and the honors that you so richly deserve. Little did we know at the beginning of the academic year in August that the world would be turned upside down by the end of the year in May. You will never forget spring semester 2020! We certainly want to extend our thoughts and prayers to those who have been stricken by the disease, to those recovering, and to the family and friends who have succumbed to this virus.
We all recognize that it has taken a lot of hard work, determination, and sacrifice on your part to complete the requirements for a degree, diploma, or certificate. This year has added many challenges to reaching the finish line. Graduates, this is your time to be recognized. However, some other individuals need to be recognized as well. Your family and friends have been there for you in many ways. If you are watching this with your family and friends, please hit the pause button and thank those supporters who are with you. And, take a some time in the next few days to send a text or call those who helped you along the way.
There is currently a lot of uncertainty. We do not know when the pandemic will end or what a post- COVID-19 world looks like. The impact on the economy is already significant and this is affecting employment prospects. For those of you continuing your education, there is uncertainty around what the next academic year will look like.
I would like to offer two strategies that will be of benefit to you as you navigate the next few months and beyond. The first strategy comes from the Stoics. The Stoics were Greek and later Roman philosophers who developed a practical set of guidelines designed to help individuals cope with life and the perils often encountered -- both big and small. One of the main tenets of this philosophy that has been put into practice over many centuries down to our present day is the "Dichotomy of Control" that encourages us to distinguish between what is up to us, what is in our power and control, and what is not.
In our current situation, we cannot individually control the COVID-19 virus -- where it goes and whom it infects -- nor can we control the economic havoc that it brings. However, we can control our emotional reactions and behaviors. We can chose fear, despair, and disempowerment or we can choose to bravely move forward, follow safety protocols and take positive actions to mitigate the impacts. The serenity prayer written by Rein hold Niebuhr that is used by many 12-step programs embodies this strategy.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.
The second strategy is perseverance. Perseverance means not giving up. Perseverance is persistence and tenacity, the effort required to do something and keep doing it until the end, even if it's hard. Another way to look at perseverance is that it involves the voluntary continuation of a goal-directed action despite the presence of challenges, difficulties, and discouragement. Perseverance is hanging in there - avoiding negative self-talk and not listening to the naysayers.
It is an extension of the Stoic Dichotomy of Control principal.
Winston Churchill, the great British World War II leader embodied perseverance. It was because of his will and determination that the British people withstood several months of bombing by the Germans when Great Britain stood alone against the Nazis. Eventually, Britain emerged victorious along with its American and Russian allies in the end.
An often told story about Churchill is his famous Harrow School speech. As the story goes, Churchill was invited to be commencement speaker at the school he attended as a boy. On the day of the event, the auditorium was packed to hear the famous wartime leader. Churchill supposedly strode to podium in his robe and said "never give up. Never, never, never give up" and then he purportedly sat down.
As stories often go, this wasn't exactly what happened. Churchill was, indeed, asked to give the graduation speech. The place was packed. He strode to the podium in his robes -- and talked for 20 minutes. What he did say in his speech was "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large for petty, never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense."
The backstory is important to understanding the man and this speech. Academically, Churchill was a poor student. His childhood was very unhappy. His parents were inattentive. At boarding schools, he was often the only student at the school on holidays as his parents were busy traveling and cared little about him or his emotional well-being. His military and political careers were punctuated with major disappointments. In the years leading up to World War II, many people had written him off. And yet, because of his perseverance in response to his many personal setbacks, he persisted and is now remembered as a great leader and statesman. He never, never gave in.
So, in closing, as you deal with the effects of the current pandemic and set your course for the future challenge yourself to move forward in a positive way by controlling that which is in your power to do so and persevere! And remember, that this stretch of disruption will pass, and you will be stronger for it.
As the Class of 2020, we need you. Minnesota needs you and your enthusiasm, skills, training, ideas, innovation, and imagination!
And now I have the great honor to confer the degrees, diplomas, and certificates that you have earned. By the power invested in me by the Minnesota State Board of Trustees, I hereby grant you the certificate, diploma, or degree that you have earned.
Now, there is one more action to take. Please figuratively move your tassel from the right to the left side of your cap. Congratulations!!