Good afternoon.

Mon, 01 May 2017

My name is Caleb Gwerder and I am humbled to have this opportunity in representing the graduating Jimmie class of 2017 and speaking before you all today. As our excitement settles in and us students are about to become alumni, I ask only one thing from administration, that is, please refrain from requesting donations from us for at least one week, thank you. 

I must let you all know that this speech is not for everyone here. For as well as they do their job, this speech is not for the administration or the board of trustees. And the staff here at UJ is made up of extremely intelligent cultured people, but this isn’t for them either. Parents, I’ll say it now and again afterward; we love you and in most cases, couldn’t have made it here without you. Thank you. Having said that, we are about to reach a new level of adulthood and as scary as that is, please do your best to not let us move back into your basements. And parents this speech isn’t for you either. This speech is for the 176 students sitting right here. 

Most graduation speeches include inspirational quotes and wisdom but I am not going to stand up here and quote successful people that some of us have never heard of. But Steve Jobs once said… “the only way to do great work is to love what you do” and Forrest Gump once said “that’s all I have to say about that”. 

Words cannot describe what we experienced, but let us recount some of the things we remember. We came in as timid freshmen and college hit some of us pretty hard. But we made it through our first classes and then through our first semester and then our first year and by that time we were in the groove of things. We went to jersey dances, we met new people and we weren’t afraid to talk to anyone. We misbehaved in the halls and snuck alcohol around our RA’s. We broke plenty of dorm rules only to receive a slap on the wrist. We lost bets and were humiliated in front of our peers, but it only brought us closer together.

In return we made memories that will never be forgotten. We took trips with our respective organizations across the country and across the world. Choir made it to England and the Czech Republic. Nursing goes to Kenya every year. The bands traveled to Scotland and Ireland. And all the sports teams made very lengthy journeys across the U.S. on a bus or a people mover. We received awards for outstanding performances and we won and lost conference championships with just minutes or seconds remaining. 

Some tears were shed in celebration, but others were shed at moments of weakness. Tests, sports events, and relationships caused some pain. We even endured losing some of the people closest to us like family members and former teammates.  On Thursday October 20th of last year, we lost an alumnus who was still very close to the University and its members. As we gathered in the Chapel that night to have a celebration of life for Cedric Smith I witnessed incredible comradery amongst us students. We were able to come together in a time of mourning and understand one another’s vulnerability, loss, and love for one person who had touched a significant amount of us and was taken too early. We took our differences and disputes and left them at the door because we knew this was the time to honor someone else in pure selflessness. In that hard time, we were able to help heal; we forgave and didn’t forget; and we can forever recount the memories that we had with Cedric and with the others we may have lost. 

And that won’t be the first hard time we face. This situation we face now is difficult. We are about to graduate from college and go our separate ways. Some of us have jobs, some of us are pursuing further education, some of us are moving back home whether that is in Jamestown, in North Dakota, or our native states or countries. A vast majority of us re never going see each other again. That causes a lot of emotion: excitement, fear, elation, angst, dread, helplessness, apathy. Whatever you are feeling right now is something you shouldn’t forget. As much as this is a celebration I do not particularly enjoy it. I may have not been able to talk to everyone here or been able to make a friendship with everyone, but you have all made it into my memory somehow and I thank you for that.  

What I remember is Watts and Hammer getting put-backs in the paint and Logan Brown pulling up for a cheeky three. I remember Janna and Brittany belting out notes on stage and then being joined by Alphonse and Aaron Paulson at choir concerts. Uetz was slamming homeruns while Dunnigan was providing strikeouts. Kim Cardenas made nationals a few times. Michael Hust and Austin Mack cruised to first and second place finishes on the track. Krista and Brooke ran away from the competition on cross country courses. The Hagenson twins played golf. Monica sauced people with quick scissors. Reid and Tyler were kicking it in Jazz Band. Tony Smith and Kaleb Garcia scored touchdowns while Chase Johnson came up with big hits on defense and all three helped bring back the paint bucket. And I remember Destiny showed no remorse in last man standing. One of us got in a snowball fight with President Badal, and one of us tried to pass statistics five separate times. 

As life moves on and this significant milestone closes, I ask that you please thank the people who helped get you here. Whether with handshakes, hugs or tears, we all owe someone a significant amount of gratitude. At this point I would like to extend a thank you to everyone behind the scenes that helps keep this university up and running. Thank you to the professors for showing up and teaching us stuff. Parents, thank you again for your support through our years here at Jamestown and thank you for being here today. And to all you soon to be alumni, I can’t help but comment on the severe irony of this situation. In a generation trying so hard to be different, we showed up today and were required to dress like clones, but I thank you for achieving your differences. We brought diversity and uniqueness to this school and did a damn good job of leaving our legacy. To the Jimmie class of 2017. Thank you.