Video: Valedictorian Becca Wilson’s Commencement Speech

Becca Wilson ’18, Rollins’ 2018 College of Liberal Arts valedictorian, challenges her fellow graduates to go out into life with an open mind and be brave enough to embrace opportunity without fear of failure.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)


(Video by Simple Thought Productions)

The following is a transcript of valedictorian Becca Wilson ’18’s address to graduates during Rollins’ 2018 College of Liberal Arts commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 13.

Welcome President Cornwell, Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, staff, family, friends, and most importantly, the graduating class of 2018. Congratulations!

A few weeks ago when I received the email saying I was valedictorian and would be speaking in front of all of you at commencement, I began to think, “Is it too late to get that A-?”

I say this, but it is truly a wonderful and humbling honor to stand before you today as your 2018 valedictorian and representative of this diverse class.

Four years ago we arrived at Rollins with different pasts, motivations, and aspirations that brought us all here today. While we have shared many memories over the years, the individual paths that we created for ourselves were vastly different.

We all experienced Candlewish, the famous Fox Day, used our R-Card to order Doms at 1 a.m., and realized the majority of our tuition goes to landscaping. While these shared experiences have bonded us as a class, it is our diverging paths that have made our years at Rollins so memorable and shaped us into the people we are today. Whether it was the amazing theater department, RLE, prestigious academics, study-abroad programs, or the lifelong friendships we made, we all came and stayed here for different reasons, discovering our passions along the way.

Personally, I came to Rollins because of the competitive athletics but stayed for the academics, people, and opportunities that this school could give me. I was lucky enough to pursue my passion as a part of the volleyball team. Being a part of this team taught me more about myself and life than any class could have—no offense to the econ department. My experiences as a volleyball player made me realize that life is just like a volleyball game.

First, volleyball is a game of ups and downs. No matter how prepared you are, you can find yourself losing to the worst team in the conference or going on a nine-game winning streak. It’s a game where at one point you can be in complete control and everything is coming together perfectly, and the next, you find yourself literally taking a volleyball to the face. If this doesn’t describe life, I don’t know what does.

Life will throw obstacles your way—whether it’s getting rejected from a job or being told you have a career-ending knee injury—but perseverance and relentlessness will allow you to succeed. Follow your passions and don’t give up because life has a way of working itself out. It might not be exactly how you planned, but who knows, maybe it will be even better.

Second, volleyball is not a sport that you can play alone. It’s literally in the rule books that you can’t touch the ball twice in a row, so you have to depend on others to help you succeed. In volleyball, these people are your teammates. In life, they are your family, friends, mentors, and colleagues who support you every step of the way. I mean, you could try to play volleyball alone, but it would be pretty tiring and boring, and you probably wouldn’t win much.

The same goes for life, so surround yourself with people who push you to be a better version of yourself and cheer you on even when the odds are against you, and in exchange, be that same person to others.

Finally, volleyball is a game of mistakes—every point ends on a mistake. This is life: full of mistakes and little failures that you can attempt to avoid or accept as a part of life. In reality, you cannot avoid these mistakes, so you might as well embrace them as a way to learn, taking with you the lessons they teach you along the way.

Like in volleyball, mistakes are natural in life, but it’s not the fact that mistakes occur, but how you react to them that matters most. Rather than dwelling on what could have been, think of life mistakes as an opportunity for growth, changing your game plan one point at a time.

This might be one of the hardest facts of life—that failure is inevitable, and while painful, it is one of the best ways to grow. If you know me, you know it’s definitely not something I’ve mastered, but especially now, we cannot fear failure because the decisions we make in our next step are nowhere near final. We have so much time to learn from and correct these mistakes that are unavoidable in life.

As J.K. Rowling said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”

So go out in life with an open mind, remembering the amazing experiences that we have shared as a class and taking with you the lessons you’ve learned. Recognize opportunities that come your way and be brave enough to take them. Find your passion, create your own path, and thank those who have helped you get to where you are today: about to walk across this stage to receive your college diploma.

But most importantly, as we embark on the next step in our journey, remember this is only the end of game one in the five-set thriller that we call life.

Thank you, happy Mother’s Day, and congratulations, class of 2018! Go Tars!