Colbert jokes, gives WFU grads advice: Set your own standard

Colbert jokes, gives WFU grads advice: Set your own standard
May 21
00:00 2015

In photo above: The future Late Show host, Stephen Colbert, delivers a witty yet insightful commencement address at Wake Forest University on Monday, May 18, 2015, saying that it’s “time to say goodbye to the person we’ve become.”
(Photos by Erin Mizelle for the Winston-Salem Chronicle)

President Hatch says slow down to figure out next steps in life

Thousands of people filled Wake Forest University’s Hearn Plaza, also known as The Quad, from wall to wall Monday morning, May 18, battling the heat.

Almost 1,900 of them were members of the graduating class of 2015, six of them Fulbright Scholars and more than 800 graduate and professional students. Relatives and friends came to watch their loved ones receive their hard-earned degrees.

President Nathan O. Hatch told graduates that they should take this opportunity to breathe before the start of their new experiences and lives.

“Your work is finished. You can now exhale and inhale without glancing at your iPhone to check for the next meeting, lab, paper or test. This is a great occasion to breathe, stop, slow down and savor the moment, all that you’ve accomplished,” he said.

He went on to tell graduates that this is a pivotal moment to invoke breathing spaces by learning to welcome surprises and unexpected opportunities and to stop long enough to ask ‘What is worth giving my life for? Are my aspirations big enough? Are they worthy enough?’

“Give yourself enough breathing room to welcome the unexpected,” he said. “… When you inhale, give thanks for what has been accomplished. When you exhale, make sure you’re not just going through the motions and plodding along on someone else’s treadmill. Breathing deeply might just put you in touch with your own deepest calling.”

That sentiment rings true for graduate Hannah Akpaete. The 23-year-old graduated Monday with a degree in Health and Exercise Science but she teaches at least 30 first graders every day at Rashkis Elementary in Chapel Hill.
“I figured out last year that I wanted to teach and that I wanted to work in a low-income area to help children,” she said. “If I wasn’t in the classroom, I’d teach health education.”

Akpaete said that eventually she wants to work with middle schoolers.

“You can mold them and pique their curiosities while getting them ready for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Late-night television host, satirical comedian and author Stephen T. Colbert addressed the class of 2015, telling them to set their own standards and give themselves grades. After joking about Wake Forest and the graduates’ time there, he reminded them that those days are in their past after today. He told them that while he does not know what their future looks like, he feels it is appropriate that he would be addressing them “because I just spent many years learning to do one thing really well.

“I got so comfortable in that place, that role and those responsibilities that it became how I saw myself. But now that part of my life is over, it’s time to say goodbye to the person we’ve become, we’ve worked so hard to perfect and to make some crucial decisions on who we will be,” he said. “For me, I’ll have to figure out how to do an hour-long show every night and you at some point will have to figure out how to sleep. I’m told the Adderall wears off eventually, good luck.”

Colbert said that the graduates should not be new to uncertainty and that they may miss being graded on all their work. He told them to have the courage to accept what’s right and what’s wrong while making the world right around them.

“When you’re out of school, there is no objective criteria for the work you do. People my age will say that thing you did, that thing you said, that cause you championed, it’s not good,” he said. “Having your own standards will help you weather moments like that. Having your own standards allows you to perceive success where others may see failure. Any standard worth having will be hard to meet and most of the time you will fall short. What is nice about having your own set of standards is that from now on you fill out your report card. So do yourself a favor, be an easy grader, score yourself on a curve and give yourself extra credit.”

Closing with a quote from the new “Mad Max:Fury Road” movie, Colbert told graduates:
“All you young folks really need to succeed in the future is a reliable source of fuel and a fanatical cadre of psychopathic motorcycle killers. May you ride eternal, shiny and chrome.”
The university also presented Colbert with an honorary Doctorate of Human Letters degree.

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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