May 22, 2016

Karla Hernandez 2016 Commencement Speech

Good morning President Riordan, Trustees, faculty, administration, distinguished guests, family, friends, and of course, the Class of 2016. Today begins a new chapter in each of our lives. This moment, whether you remember it in the future or not, is one of the last few scenes of our Adelphi chapter. I ask that you take a moment to look around you. The sea of faces that you are looking at are all pieces of this university’s story, one that is always changing. At this point in Adelphi’s history, we are lucky enough to be entering great transformation.

2016 marks the year that Adelphi welcomed its 10th and first female President, Dr. Christine Riordan. With a Strategic Plan in motion, a commitment has been made to emphasize student success and to embrace diversity. We can already see these strides being made with the introduction of Gender Inclusive Housing, as well as with the programs hosted through the Racial Justice Initiative. It is awe-inspiring to be part of a university where students and faculty come together to make the world a better place.

I now ask that you take some time to reflect on the chapters of your own Adelphi story. What has changed for you since your first moments as an Adelphi student? Thinking back to my very first day at Adelphi, it was probably one of the worst of my entire college experience; I decided to schedule my driving road test on the first day of my freshman year. Guess what? I failed. All I remember thinking was, I haven’t even started college yet and I have already failed something. On the heels of this disappointment, I thought I’d feel lost at college.

Once I arrived on campus, I was proven wrong. It’s almost as if those who already called Adelphi their home could tell that I needed guidance, as many strangers offered me their help. But that’s my story. What’s yours? Can you recall the way it felt to step onto campus for the first time? It may have been nerve-wracking, exhilarating, confusing, or everything in between. You may recall the first friend that you made, who most likely shared those feelings with you. Perhaps there is a professor whose guiding influence helped you find your way. Or maybe an internship or student organization sparked a passion within you leading to a future career path. Sometimes we don’t realize how far we have come until we flip back through the pages and relive our experiences. We are so distracted by the mundane parts of our journey that we forget to recognize our own growth. I hope that today you are all proud of everything that you have accomplished as Adelphi students with the realization that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

As students, how many times you have willed yourself simply to get through the day, week, or month? Whenever I walk around campus, I always see people rushing from one place to another. We fill the empty pages of our stories with classes, meetings, and endless lists of obligations. Why are we so eager to plan out each moment of our lives? Why do we fear so much of the unknown?

If life is what happens while we are busy making other plans, then the most important lessons you learn are the ones that are learned unexpectedly. While we must take action in our lives, also allow spontaneous beauty to enter your life. As one of my favorite authors, Roald Dahl, puts it: “Watch with glittering eyes the world around you because the greatest secrets are hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it”. The truth is, we fill our empty pages with plans to make our lives feel important, which can be exhausting. My hope for us all is to remember that throughout the challenges that will come with our future plans, we are still able to see the world for its beauty and the significance of our place within it.

So, what comes next? As we turn our pages today, we find an empty space: a blank canvas of what is to come. Whether you have definitive future plans, or you are still in the process of writing your story, I challenge you to be fully in the present. I’ve heard the phrase often that: the decisions that we make right now will affect what happens in the future chapters of our lives. However, whether you are 22, 42, or even 82, you always have the power to rewrite your future. Today is that turning point; as you flip forward to the unwritten pages and see all the empty space, it might seem scary at first. But in time your pen will soon be writing with excitement of what is to come. Thank you and congratulations.

More Adelphi News

About Adelphi: A modern metropolitan university with a personalized approach to higher learning.

Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

Recognized as a Best College by U.S. News & World Report, Adelphi is Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university. It serves more than 8,100 students at its beautiful main campus in Garden City, New York—just 23 miles from New York City’s cultural and internship opportunities—and at dynamic learning hubs in Manhattan, the Hudson Valley and Suffolk County, as well as online.

More than 115,000 Adelphi graduates have gained the skills to thrive professionally as active, engaged citizens, making their mark on the University, their communities and the world.