The following is a speech written by Jonathan Murrell (M.A. East Asian Studies ‘18), who was selected as a student speaker at the Center for East Asian Studies diploma ceremony on June 17, 2018, at Stanford University.
Thank you everyone for coming today. Thank you to our friends, family, and especially my wife, for your support. Thank you to our faculty and staff for guiding us through this educational journey. And thank you to my fellow students for elevating me to convey our gratitude. I’ll try to do better than an endless stream of Taylor Swift quotes or Orientalized word puns stolen from Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, but don’t hold your breath.
I don’t know why they chose me. I don’t “hang out” or go to things like Full Moon on the Quad. Maybe it’s because I’m less easily embarrassed. They’ve all met my lovely, crazy fast wife Ann Marie and know that I have no one left in life to impress. I’m older than some. Some even call me grandpa or old man. Maybe they think that my age will give my words wisdom beyond what we’ve learned here.
Well I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling twenty-two. Age hasn’t taught me much and extra reps in life are certainly not an advantage. Ten years ago this summer I was a fresh college graduate on one of my first deployments to Iraq and I was fully submerged in warm, wet sewage. It was above my head by a lot. I’m hoping to leave Stanford on a higher, or at least, cleaner, note. We’ll see how this goes.
Throughout my life I’ve had the opportunity to return to school several times and like all my classmates, cherish the opportunity that we’ve received to be here. Each new learning experience blows my mind, but this experience has been unlike any other. It’s miserable and magical.
The time I’ve spent bouncing back to school is precisely what allows me to appreciate so much the unique community that we are a part of here at CEAS. Our faculty are renowned experts and they’re truly committed to our development. They answer emails at night and on the weekends. I can’t count how many times I’ve found one of my professors’ names throughout the notes within a secondary source that I thought I had found all on my own. This level of excellence and commitment is common here, and it’s easy to grow accustomed to it, but it is truly unique.
Our staff — John, Kristin, Kelley — support us, coordinate us, and herd us through the Stanford experience with care and a smile. I bet it’s more like herding cats. I’m sure that the same issues and questions pop up from year to year, but they’re always willing to drop what they’re doing, listen earnestly to our “unique issue,” and help us out. They’re the gate keepers to a world of knowledge here, and without them we wouldn’t even know where to begin.
Comrades. You are the final element. Due to time restrictions and an agreement with Kristin I can’t embarrass each of you that chose me by name, but I would be remiss not to highlight your contributions. This peer group of students, from anxious and energetic undergrads to less energetic but still anxious graduate and doctoral students, make this program incredibly special. We’ve each had different experiences — some longer or shorter than others — but through our own efforts we’ve made a lasting mark on each other. I want you to know that you’ve permanently impacted my life, and I’m sure that you’ve affected each other the same way.
Don’t blame me, but I don’t have any advice or tips to share. We’re out of the woods, so I’ll close by referencing that Semisonic song about endings. Some of us remember hearing it when it was released and some of us might call it a “classic.” That used to be graduation gold and I’m bringing it back.
Just kidding. I’m not actually going to quote pop music. This isn’t an end though, it’s a beginning. I can’t wait to see where this beginning takes you. Thank you.
For more information about Stanford University’s 127th Commencement, click here.