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Senior Class President Calvin Kagan's 2010 Commencement Speech

Note: Text of the speech was provided by Calvin Kagan.

Good morning classmates,

At a high school commencement ceremony in 1992, then president of Santa Monica College Richard Moore delivered the keynote address to the Santa Monica Crossroads School.

Here was his speech (and I’ll do my best to deliver it as he did):

Feelings... Adventures... Ideas...

That was it. The L.A. Times characterized it as the shortest commencement speech of all time. Yet, despite its brevity, the speech packs a great deal of meaning and can be well adapted to the Pomona College Class of 2010.

We live in a time when change is occurring exponentially. To exemplify this fact, there were 31 billion Google searches last month. In 2006, there was a monthly average of only 2.7 billion searches. The first commercial text message was sent in 1992 and now, only 18 years later, there are more text messages sent each day than there are people on the planet. And it is common knowledge that the internet has transformed how we shop, how we research, and how we live. The world has entered a stage of technological innovation that is impacting everything from politics to farming. And here we are, about to graduate from Pomona College, leaving the bubble in which we have become so comfortable and entering this rapidly evolving world.

“Feelings,” as used by Mr. Moore in his address to the Crossroads School, is a great first word for a commencement speech. I’m sure that we, the Class of 2010, are right now full of “feelings.” We are all a little sad to be leaving our classmates. More than a few of us are probably frustrated to be moving back home where the family does not understand the necessity of going to bed at 2 AM and waking up at noon. And whether we admit it or not, we are all experiencing angst about how our lives will be once we enter the real world.

As a soon-to-be college graduate, I can’t provide insightful advice on how to survive in that scary place outside the college gates. But, luckily, as president of the senior class, I have come to understand the Class of 2010, the students who compose it, and, most importantly, what we are capable of.

While I can’t tell you what the real world will be like, I can reassure you that we are prepared to jump into its chaos and thrive. During our short four-year stay in Claremont, we have been published in prestigious science journals, organized labor rallies, managed a farm, penned articles in well-respected newspapers, produced a film that was entered into the Cannes film festival, earned Watson, Fulbright and Goldwater Fellowships, achieved high athletic successes, and turned in theses that, as one professor noted, are typically of the caliber of a Masters candidate.  Some of us already even have jobs! Our time at Pomona College truly has been an “Adventure,” as Mr. Moore would say, and the achievements I just listed more than adequately illustrate the sheer potential of the students who compose our class. We truly have the motivation, leadership skills, and perseverance required to not just keep our heads above water, but to seriously impact the world we are about to enter.

And if you remain unconvinced, have faith in the education that we have received here at Pomona College. As I stated earlier, today’s society is in flux. Indeed, the top ten sought-after jobs at the start of this year did not even exist in 2004. Yet, our four years at this institution have taught us to think critically, learn independently, and budget time efficiently. The College’s faculty and staff, in addition to our time simply spent living in this rich educational environment, have prepared us for jobs that might not even exist yet, to use technologies that have yet to be invented, and to solve problems that we won’t realize are problems for many years to come. And here I will backtrack once again to Mr. Moore’s speech, where he chose his final word to be “ideas.” Ideas stem from the ability to think freely but also innovatively, which is exactly what we have learned to do at Pomona College. Our time here in Claremont has indeed prepared us to excel in any career we might choose to pursue.

We are now at the end of the beginning of our lives. College is over and we must find our niche within that other world. But realize, as I have, that we are not only prepared for tomorrow, but also have the potential and capabilities to seriously impact what the following days will bring, both for ourselves and society as a whole. I encourage each of you to live up to your potential and to take advantage of your education. It’s okay to have “feelings,” we all do. But remember what I said about “adventures” and “ideas.” Classmates, we are truly capable of remarkable things.

I look forward to learning about your accomplishments at our upcoming reunions and I’ll see you in five years!

Thank you.