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Kevin J Worthen|Apr. 27, 2017 It is customary for speakers at a graduation ceremony to give advice to the new graduates, to share with them words of wisdom to inspire them in their next stage of life. Perhaps because such sage advice is in somewhat limited supply, much of what is said at these events has been said before and will likely be said again. With that in mind, let me give you graduates a two-part charge that I doubt you have heard in any graduation ceremony you have attended. First Charge: Be Awful The first part is a simple two-word admonition: “Be awful.” Yes, you heard right. My advice to you is be awful. You can see why I was so confident that you would not have heard this message at any prior graduations that you have attended.1 Before you dismiss my advice as a completely inappropriate effort to be unique rather than helpful, let me explain what I mean by that charge. Linguists know well that the meaning of words can change dramatically over time. One form of change is what is called pejoration. “Pejoration is the process by which a word [with a positive or neutral meaning] acquires negative connotations”2 over time. One classic example of pejoration is shown by the history of the word silly. In the thirteenth century the word silly meant “worthy, good,” and “pious, holy.”3 Over the ensuing centuries, however, the meaning changed first to “innocent” or “harmless,” then to “deserving of pity or sympathy,” to “weak/feeble,” then to “ignorant.” By the sixteenth century it had descended to “foolish,” its current meaning.4 The same thing has happened to the word awful. It too has pejorated. Centuries ago the word awful had a very positive connotation. Its original meaning was “awe-inspiring,” “worthy of . . . respect,” and “profoundly respectful or reverential.”5 But as one author explained, “Since what inspires awe isn’t always so pleasant, [over the centuries, awful] came to mean something negative.”6 The word had pejorated, linguists would say. And so today awful has come to mean “terrible, dreadful, appalling”; something not just bad but “exceedingly bad.”7 Hardly the kind of thing you would expect a graduation speaker to advise you to be. My admonition is that you be awful in its original, unpejorated sense—that you always be aware of things that are awe-inspiring. I am urging you to be full of awe, if you will. “Psychologists have described awe as the experience of encountering something so vast—in size, skill, beauty, intensity, etc.—that we struggle to comprehend it.”8 It is the kind of thing that Moses experienced when God showed him the purpose, creation, and history of this earth. Struggling to comprehend the grandeur of all he had seen, Moses “greatly marvel
Su Ge|Apr. 21, 2016 Dear Elder Clayton, President Worthen, faculty, fellow students, and friends: two months ago President Worthen kindly informed me of an invitation to receive an honorary doctorate degree in recognition of “outstanding life and contribution to society and the world.” Aware that this is the highest honor that the university confers on individuals, I replied in my email, “With full appreciation in my heart, the only uneasiness in mind is whether I have done enough to deserve this singular honor.” Then my daughter exclaimed, “What? I always thought that honorary doctorates were given only to people without a PhD!” This is not only my own honor but recognition for the work of all Chinese students at the Y, past and present. I first came to BYU on an exchange program between the College of Humanities and the Xi’an Foreign Language Institute. Then a BYU scholarship enabled me to pursue my further studies. Therefore, it may also be regarded as a little fruit of educational exchange between China and the United States. As the Chinese saying goes, “Whenever one drinks water, he must not forget those who dug the well.” Coming to mind is a microcosm of BYU faculty, including Erlend Peterson, Todd Britsch, Frank Fox, and Paul Hyer—now with friendship extended on by his son Eric. Also, I want to include Marshall Craig, Briant Jacobs, Ray Hillam, Spencer Palmer, and others who have passed away but who will forever live deep in my heart. Last but not least is Neil York, the mentor for both my MA and PhD programs. All in all, my heartfelt appreciation goes to my alma mater—in Chinese, “the mother school.” For my assigned speaking time, President Worthen advised me, “As our graduates will be going out into an increasingly global world, any connection you make between their BYU experience and what they will likely encounter in that global world will be valuable to them.” Indeed, the world is undergoing complicated and profound changes. In an age of peace and development, both globalization and multipolarity continue to deepen. Nontraditional security challenges keep rising amidst traditional problems. Interdependence and connectivity make international relations no longer a zero-sum game. Global governance calls for international cooperation and, I emphasize, talents. To recall my experience, the BYU motto “Go forth to serve” has exerted boundless inspiration, courage, and guidance. The elapse of time has only accumulated understanding and appreciation of its meaning and significance. First, “go forth to serve” could mean confidence and dedication in the pursuit of one’s undertaking. In my case, I have always had a strong belief in the need for a constructive and cooperative Sino-American relationship. In this new century it is vitally important for the United States and China to build up a new type of relationship between major countries based
Amy Fennegan|Apr. 21, 2016 Wow, graduates! You look great. I have never stood before an audience as full of promise and potential as this one. As president of the BYU Alumni Association, it is my privilege to hereby confer on each of you graduates lifetime membership in the Brigham Young University Alumni Association. I offer you congratulations and welcome you into this great association of more than 420,000 alumni. Our alumni association has an ad campaign that prompts us to remember our time at BYU with the tagline “Remember when; remember why.” We all have a BYU story. Recently I asked some of you graduates why you chose to attend BYU. Your answers included: Both of my parents went to BYU. Hearing their stories and seeing the relationships they built here made me want to have that experience for myself. I could have gone to any university in the country to learn how to read and write and think well, but it is at BYU that I learned to center my storytelling around the familiar ideas of charity and patience. I chose BYU because of the concentration of goodness I found when I first visited the campus. I can relate to these reasons. I fell in love with BYU at a young age, when my family lived in Heritage Halls for a couple of summers while my dad worked on his doctorate. But some of you might have had very different reasons for attending BYU. My husband came here on an athletic scholarship. He knew very little about Mormons then. Imagine his surprise on the first fast Sunday when the Cannon Center did not open for breakfast. Regardless of why we chose to attend this university, we all now have in common a BYU experience. Here are some of the fond memories that you graduates have shared with me: Professors knew my name, wanted to hear about my life, and cared about me as a person. I will always be grateful for my semester in Washington, DC, and talking to generations of alumni there who showed me what I could do because of my BYU degree. We would meet for church every Sunday in the Clyde Building foyer. I will never forget watching from the long windows as the snow fell when I received the prompting that I should serve a mission. Our BYU stories have played a major role in shaping us. We all leave this place with memories and experiences that impact our future for good and serve as a springboard for the next phase of life. The alumni association is really all about this next phase. Our purpose is to help you stay connected to BYU. We want to know how your story continues. You can tell us your story at rise.byu.edu. A visit there will introduce you to inspiring alumni and give you the opportunity to share your own personal and professional experiences and successes. We want to see the realization of the potential for good contained in this audience. Congratulations, graduates. Your fellow alumni are rooting for you. We love you and w
Terry R. Seamons|Apr. 23, 2015 Congratulations to all of you newly minted BYU graduates! You have just graduated from one of the greatest universities in the world. My name is Terry Seamons, president of the BYU Alumni Association. One of my privileges as alumni president is to officially welcome all of you into the BYU Alumni Association. So I hereby confer on each of you lifetime membership in the Brigham Young University Alumni Association. Welcome to this great association of more than 407,000 living alumni. As you know, the mission of BYU “is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life” (The Mission of Brigham Young University and The Aims of a BYU Education [Provo: BYU, 2014], 1). This mission does not end today at graduation. Your learning doesn’t end, the quest doesn’t end, and our relationships don’t end. Our mission is to extend the BYU experience beyond graduation and to build lifelong relationships with alumni and friends. Consider those spiritual and temporal lessons that you learned while you were here. We hope you will stay connected for good throughout the rest of your lives. Check in with us from time to time and let us know what you are doing and how you are doing. Do that through our BYU Alumni RISE campaign. Through that campaign we have collected the stories of more than 3,000 of our former students. We have heard from a mother and a father whose greatest joy is having each of their eight children attend BYU. We have heard from a scientist who uses a specialized machine to extract DNA in forensics cases in a way that has never before been possible. We have heard from an alum who initially struggled but who used the business principles he learned here at BYU to launch a lucrative business. We would love to hear your stories. We invite you to share them at rise.byu.edu. I would like to leave you with one final thought. Some of you may have seen the musical The Wiz. At the end of the movie, when the Lion realized he had developed courage, the Tin Man had recognized his heart, and the Scarecrow had recognized his brain, Dorothy was disappointed because she didn’t know how to get her wish, which was to return to Kansas. It was then that Glinda the Good came to her and sang what is so appropriate for us today: “Believe in yourself as I believe in you.” It was then that Dorothy realized that she had the power to return by believing in herself and clicking her red shoes together (“Believe in Yourself,” The Wiz ). Well, we believe in you, my dear brothers and sisters, and so does our Heavenly Father. I pray that you will follow His counsel for you throughout the eternities because He sees in you the power to become perfect and to dwell with Him eternally. This is my prayer for you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. Terry R. Seamons was president of the BYU Alumni Association when this commencement address was given on 23 April 2015.
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