Student Commencement Speech
Emily Rose Zeytoonjian ’20
May 15, 2021
Wow, what an honor it is to be standing up here among all of you as a member of the graduating class of 2020! What a wild year this has been! We should have been here a year ago, but how lucky we are that this university has deemed us worthy of a graduation, no matter the date. It’s exciting to see so many of us here today. And I thank President Davis, the faculty and staff, and this amazing community for making this day possible. This is just another reason why we are lucky to call ourselves members of the Furman family.
Furman was our home for four years, or to be more accurate, 3.75. It was the place where we laughed, cried, explored and grew.
Our experience can be broken down into an acronym: FURMAN.
F: is for FUN. And boy, did we have our fair share. Each of us brought our own unique styles, ideas, interests and talents to our classes, campus and now to the “real world” even if it is from the comfort of your home. These differences are what made Furman an exciting place to live. We worked hard dedicating much of our time to our studies. We spent countless nights in the library deciding whether we had to hide ourselves downstairs in a cubicle or if we got to study upstairs, where for some of us there was definitely more socializing going on than studying. Formed meaningful relationships with friends that will last a lifetime, had crazy adventures, spin-biked our way around the lake, took late-night trolley rides to and from downtown, spent hours in the Dining Hall people-watching, got tossed in the lake on our birthdays. And to top it all off, we even finished our senior year amid a global pandemic, still finding the pride in our unbreakable purple and white bond.
U: is for the UNSTOPPABLE students of the class of 2020. We are fearless. We take action. We stand up for what we believe in, and most importantly, we take control of our own lives, asking for help when help is needed, advocating for ourselves and others, and never giving up on the principles we stand for. The fact that we have all gathered here today proves that we are unstoppable survivors determined to finish this journey together. You can’t be unstoppable without being resilient.
So R: is for RESILIENCE. For four years, we were on a roller coaster, which brought us through many highs and lows. We picked up the tools necessary to guide us through all of life’s challenges. I’d like you to imagine you’re finishing a May X, one of our Study Away opportunities, in Rwanda, Africa, when all of a sudden your safari bus gets stuck in the mud. Water buffalo are less than 50 feet to your left. Giraffes linger in the distance. And your group of 15 has to decide: Will you panic or logically get out of the situation? I was on this trip, and our small fearless group of Paladins banded together in the wild and pushed the bus out of the mud, united. Each one of us has overcome obstacles and setbacks during our time here, but though it all we are ready to face any adversities that come our way.
M: is for the indelible MARK we have made on this university, both on and off campus. Together, we experienced brilliant TED Talks, CLPs, sport championships, students traveling the world, concerts, shows. Some of you were a part of groundbreaking research projects. Others gave themselves generously to outside causes, being the catalyst for change. I challenge all of you to keep that Furman fire alive forever.
A: is for AMBITION: In my 23 years of life, I have never been surrounded by a more ambitious group of people. What is unique in this Furman ambition is it is not just to boost a resume. The students of the class of 2020 are involved in what they are passionate about. And the interesting thing about passion is that it is catchy. It spreads and attracts more people. Our Furman community always showed up for one another no matter the event! Honestly, it was hard to keep up with all that was going on in this little world of ours, but it was a privilege to support the success of our classmates. I know that you all will continue to take your ambition and make a difference in this world, knowing that you always have your Furman family to cheer you on!
And last but not least, N: is for the NURTURING that we have received from our Furman staff. These dedicated men and women were our cheerleaders and challengers. To our professors, FUPO, food service workers, groundskeepers, coaches and staff who led by example, thank you!! YOU taught us how to respect others’ opinions and ideas and helped mold us into the people who are sitting here today. WE promise to pay it forward and remember what you have taught us: Everyone has something good to offer, and it is important that we find that good in everyone.
We won’t remember the tests or the quizzes, and there were a lot of them. But what we willremember is the drive and perseverance to do better.
As you look to your left and right, you see familiar faces, classmates and friends. The people in these rows are special. The community of Furman is one in which people truly care about one another, and that is unique. I have said it multiple times, but it is true: This right here is family!
As we head out of the Furman gates today, one year later than expected, remember to explore, find new passions, make new friends, say yes to something you wouldn’t normally do, and be spontaneous. Living life to its fullest is living a life worth sharing. Love someone, forgive someone, and, most importantly, give something away of yourself.
To the Furman University faculty and staff and to the class of 2020, I am honored to know so many of you. Thank you for changing my life in so many positive ways. And to the class that has made history here today: Congratulations, and Roll ’Dins!