May 2018 Graduation Address by Madison D. Slover

During our time at the University of Memphis, we have learned that tiger blue looks good on everyone, $300 dining dollars will never last us the entire semester, and if you're in need of some quick entertainment then you can just scroll through President Rudd's twitter. We have also learned a lot about who we are and hopefully what we want to do in the world. While all of these are extremely important, there is one thing that I want to make sure everyone here knows. You are not just one person. All of you, each of you individually, are made up of your own dreams, secrets and desires. You are completely capable of creating change - especially when you work together. We are empowered. We are aware. We are brave. And we are going to change the world.

Someone very close to me once said that a better future is made by better individuals. I know how easy it is to become discouraged when you see all that's happening in the world. Of-ten times I find myself wanting to turn off the news and ignore all the problems that come with it. I'm just one person, what can I do? I challenge you to use that feeling and let it motivate you. Work towards becoming the best version of yourself and surround yourself with people doing the same. Because you may be just one person, but so am I. Your best friend, your professor, the guy who takes your order at Central BBQ - they're all one person too. Now instead of it just be-ing you, you have five people. Your odds just got a little bit better.

A few weeks ago I was in a bit of a slump. Senioritis was hitting me pretty hard and I had just been asked the question that all seniors dread - what are you doing after graduation? I was in need of motivation and I needed it fast. So I did what any college student would do and turned to Twitter. While scrolling for my motivation, I came across a tweet that someone had made about the word sonder. For those of you who aren't familiar with this word, sonder is the realization that each random passerby is living a life just as vivid and complex as your own. Keeping this in mind, if there are billions of people in the world with differing opinions and beliefs then why do we tend to base ours off of the people around us? I challenge each of you to not just look to the people or outlets or environments around you because it's so easy to forget that we don't exist in a bubble. Everyone can teach you something if you're willing to listen and you'll learn even more if you step outside of that bubble.

I have been amazed with the amount of students here who have used their freedom of speech to peacefully protest and stand up for what they believe in. In the past year, students, individuals who recognized their potential to make a difference, have held silent protests regarding issues like sexual assault cases and racial injustices. They have also participated in movements like the National School Walkout and the Women's March. Graduates, it doesn't matter if you use your voice on social media, in protests, or even in casual discussion. All that matters is that you find it and use it to stand up for others who don't have a voice.

I'm not here to reassure you about the future because no one can guarantee how that will be. I'm here to inspire you to create the future and change you want. Our commencement today reminds of another commencement speech by David Foster Wallace. His speech reads the fol-lowing quote: "the really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day." As we move into this new stage of be-coming alumni of the university, I encourage you all to think about how you can also make a change within your community. Memphis has instilled a little bit of grit in all of us. It's important that we use that passion and perseverance to give back not only to the city of Memphis, but the University of Memphis and future alumni as well. Our whole lives we have been told one day. One day we will be the ones making the decisions. One day we will be the ones in the positions of power. One day we will be the ones making the difference. That day is today. How will you use it?