Valedictorian Shelby McGuire’s Commencement Speech

Valedictorian Shelby McGuire ’15 implores fellow graduates to find their anchors and strive to create a better world.

(Photo by Laura J. Cole) (Photo by Laura J. Cole)


President McAllaster, members of the Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, Sstaff, honored guests, family, friends, and especially mothers—happy Mother’s Day to you all—on behalf of all the Valedictorians and the Class of 2015, I would like to welcome you to Rollins College on this beautiful day of celebration.

Good morning. Amakuru. Guten morgen.

I greet you this morning in three languages, English, Kinyarwanda, and German because I wish to recognize the diversity of the Rollins community. Nearly 10 percent of our class is comprised of international students and three-quarters of us have studied abroad at some point in our college career. My Rollins education granted me the privilege of spending a year studying abroad in Rwanda and Germany. As for many of my fellow graduates, this opportunity would not have been possible without the Rollins commitment to global citizenship and responsible leadership.

Dear Tars of 2015,

We are all here today because we found our anchor—our home—at Rollins. Maybe it was on the soccer field or the basketball court; maybe it was the day you got your bid and ran home to your new brothers and sisters in Greek life; maybe it was in that life changing class that made you decide to become a theater major, biology major, or international relations major; maybe it was while you were on a study abroad experience or an Immersion, or maybe it was simply because of the friends you made and the late nights you spent chatting with them at the Grill over one of Miss Mae’s fantastic milkshakes. Whatever it was it kept you here, it kept you here through the uncertainty of freshman year; the sleep-deprived, caffeine-driven nights in Club Olin; and days that we played—and probably lost—Fox Day roulette (not that any of us would have ever actually played that).

Shelby McGuire delivers the valedictory address during commencement on May 10, 2015. (Photo by Scott Cook) Shelby McGuire delivers the valedictory address during commencement on May 10, 2015. (Photo by Scott Cook)

I was fortunate enough to find my anchor freshman year. By sheer luck, I was employed by work-study in the Center for Leadership & Community Engagement (CLCE). The first day that I walked nervously up the stairs of the Mills building, I thought I was only starting my new job. But over four years, this office gave me the opportunity to lead, to serve, and to grow. Most importantly, it gave me a sense of purpose and a family here at Rollins. And for this I could never truly express my full gratitude. To everyone in CLCE: Thank you for being my anchor.

So here we are today… We did it.

After 4 all-too-short years, it’s over. And now we are faced with the alarming task of lifting our anchors and sailing off into the daunting uncertainty of the future, of starting new lives; finding new anchors. After walking across the stage today, some of us will continue our studies in graduate and professional school, others will spend time living and traveling abroad, many will begin exciting new internships and jobs, and some of us are still just figuring it out. What is certain is that each and every one of us facing an ambiguous future. To say that this is intimidating would be a wild understatement.

However, when I become overwhelmed by this sense of uncertainty (which is often), I find strength in the words of Albert Einstein, who said, “A ship is always safest at the shore, but that’s NOT what it was built for.” And that’s not what we were built for either. Our time at Rollins has prepared us to lead dynamic, engaged lives. Lives that embrace the challenges of our generation; lives that do not shy away from risks that are worth taking. We are well prepared to step boldly into our futures. We are leaders, thinkers, changemakers.

As we celebrate all of our accomplishments, we are compelled to recognize that none of us could have made it here on our own. Each one of our lives has been profoundly touched and transformed by the work, dedication, and love of many people. By our professors, who have inspired us to think freely and challenged us to see the world in different ways. By our mentors, whose guidance and encouragement has pushed us to explore our own boundaries. And by our parents, whose unwavering love and support have given us the courage to chase our dreams, no matter how far they take us. You are our original and enduring anchors, without which we would most certainly be adrift.

Just as we did not make it to this day on our own, we must remember, as we continue on our voyages, we are also never alone. Even after we move our tassels to the other side, we will remain members of the Rollins community, which like a lighthouse, will continue to guide us through rough waters. In the spirit of friendship and camaraderie, I encourage you to please keep in touch with friends, professors, and mentors, be active alumni, give back to the school that gave you so much, and remember: we are Tars for life.

In closing, I would like to recall the Rollins motto: Fiat lux, meaning, “Let there be light.” According to Edith Wharton, “there are two ways to spread light: be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” So wherever the winds take you and whatever horizons you explore, carry Rollins with you in your heart and in your mind. And whether you are the candle or the mirror, endeavor to create a brighter world.

Thank you. Murakoze cyane. Dankeschön.

Congratulations, Class of 2015. We did it!