Saturday, May 8, 2010

What is Education?

Because several people have requested it, here is the text of my graduation speech.

We have gathered here on this most auspicious occasion in celebration: to celebrate our accomplishments and the Montevallo experience that has given so much to us. However, more importantly, we have gathered in recognition of the education that those accomplishments and that experience have bestowed upon us. Yet, how can we define education or explain the uniqueness of our Montevallo education. To that question, I submit the following answers. I believe that education exists more in the questions asked than the answers given. Education is less about memorizing facts than analyzing facts. Education exists more in new ideas considered than old beliefs reaffirmed. Education is more about knowledge found and truth searched for than grades earned or assignments completed. Indeed, I hope for each of us graduating today that our education will continue long after we cross this stage and receive our diploma, the very symbol of our education, whether through working on a new degree or simply living as a critical thinker and logically-empowered skeptic.

I would also be amiss if I did not once again pay tribute to those who assisted in our education, both inside the classroom and out. We owe a debt of gratitude that we cannot repay to these individuals. To our professors who did more than require that assignments be turned in and material memorized, but challenged us to search for deeper meaning and find connections between academic disciplines. To our family and friends who were our support system and gave us the encouragement we needed. To the alumni of UM for making so much of our experience possible whether by creating the firm foundation on which we stand or whose contributions funded the scholarships that allowed us to learn. To the staff and administration that were ever vigilant in not only serving our needs but making sure we were equipped so that we may serve the needs of others. And certainly to our President, Dr. Philip C. Williams, whose vision and dream for Montevallo wove all of our aspirations into a bright future for our beloved university. The leadership and guidance of all of these individuals have served not only to instruct us in our chosen disciplines but also to help us discover the wellspring of wisdom and understanding within ourselves.

One of my favorite writers and thinkers, Khalil Gibran, once wrote, “No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge. The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness. If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” We have been led to the thresholds of our own minds and now our task is not only to dwell there but to assist others in that same journey. Lastly, I would not be true to myself if I did not invoke the Beatles by reminding us all that “All you need is love” and we can always make it “with a little help from [our] friends.” It has been my pleasure to serve you this past year and I wish you all many more years rich and fruitful. Thank you.

- The Apprentice Philosopher