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Zack Ford – Student Body President Ithaca College Convocation – August 28, 2006 Good morning. We meet at last.

It is truly my pleasure to stand before you and officially welcome you in person: the Ithaca College Class of 2010! You have been welcomed many times, and you will continue to be welcomed, because not only are we excited to get to know each and every one of you, but we are also just so honored that you are joining our community. At May’s Commencement Ceremony, the 2006 senior class president, Eric Nagy, said that Ithaca College is more than a school for students; it’s a place where peers become family. Even as I begin my senior year, I am still in awe of the respect, support, and kindness that all members of this campus community consistently express to each other. So, you can imagine the pride I have to stand before you welcoming you to be a part of that. Thomas Ehrlich said: “A college education should equip one to entertain three things: a friend, an idea, and oneself.” I like this quote because it’s relevant to what I want to say to you today, and it’s funny, because I can think of some other things that involve entertaining a friend, an idea, and oneself. Some quick googling revealed that Thomas Ehrlich is not only a former President of Indiana University but a leading scholar on civic engagement and how to get the most out of the undergraduate experience, so I thought, “What the heck? I’ll email him for advice for my speech!” He responded the very next day, and told me that though he has used that quote, it wasn’t actually his, and he doesn’t remember exactly whose it was. As for my speech, he advised that I should share personal anecdotes. I was honored to have received an email with advice from such a respectable and wise person. I was also glad he didn’t try to interpret the quote for me, because as I continued to think about it, I realized it wasn’t enough… “A friend, an idea, and oneself?” It’s so broad, it says too much, and by confining the college experience to three words, it says way too little! So, I thought I’d ask you: Why are you here? It’s one of those questions you should always ask yourself, but never really answer. If you try to come up with one solid answer, you’ll just box yourself into your own expectations.

But you should always think about it, so I want you to think about it right now: why are you at Ithaca College? Right now, your thoughts might include “to earn my diploma” or “to have a rockin’ good time.” These answers are quite reasonable, but they hardly allow for the full range of opportunities awaiting you at IC. You really won’t come up with a good answer for about another two million minutes. It’s actually about 1.96 million minutes from right now that President Williams will confer upon you the degrees which you will have earned. Between now and then, you’re supposed to experience “the best years of your life,” so how are you going to make every minute of your college experience count? To tell you the truth, I don’t know. When you get to that fateful end—and let me tell you, it goes fast—only you will be able to look back and finally answer that question: “Why was I here?” But, I hope that when you do, you can say the following three things about your time spent at IC: 1) I accomplished things I never believed that I could. 2) I grew as an individual in ways I never imagined I would. 3) I have already begun to make a difference in the world like I know that I should. Accomplish, grow, make a difference. To best explain how powerful these three goals are, I’ve decided to take Thomas Ehrlich’s advice and share my own experiences, so here goes. The third week of classes my freshman year, I was walking through the Campus Center when I saw my friend Julie Zeldin sitting at a table. I knew Julie from Community Plunge, but she was also the Student Body President. Three years ago, she stood right here and gave a speech just like I am right now. On that particular day that I saw her, she wanted me to vote for my Student Government representatives. At that time, the School of Music had two. “But Julie,” I said as I looked at the ballot, “There’s only one name here. How do I vote for two?” Her eyes lit up, and she said, “Oh my gosh, Zack, you should totally write yourself in! You would be so great!” I tried to explain I had never been a class officer or been on student council, and I had no idea what student government even did. None of that apparently mattered, because she told me that all I needed was to enjoy serving others, which I did. She instructed me to go back over to the Whalen Center and

tell people to vote and write me in. I still hardly knew anybody, so I walked up to random people and said, “Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m Zack Ford, and you should go vote for me for music school representative right now!” I expected a lot of strange looks—and I got some—but most people just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Okay.” It worked, and thus started my unplanned and unexpected journey through student government. Trying something brand new ended up shaping the course of my experience at IC. Who knew that thanks to Julie’s suggestion I would one day fill her shoes? I certainly accomplished things I didn’t know I could. The next goal is growing in ways you didn’t imagine you would. I should explain this: You will likely grow in ways that are not only surprising to you, but in ways you had never even considered and didn’t know were possible. Here is my slightly extreme example. When I first arrived at IC, I still believed that I was straight. I had grown up in a small town that had a lot of conservative values, and I had a lot of internalized homophobia. Being from a small town is no excuse, so I confess I was simply quite ignorant when it came to the topic of homosexuality. That first summer I served as an Orientation Leader and had the fortune of serving with a very diverse and encouraging staff. Being part of this uniquely tight group of friends finally gave me the strength and freedom to accept what I had been feeling, and to not be ashamed of who I really am. Little did I know that coming out to a few close friends and family would be the first step in a huge journey. It would not have been possible if it weren’t for all the warmth and support of the people here at Ithaca College. I’m proud to share that IC was actually recently listed as one of the top 100 LGBT-friendly campuses in the nation. And needless to say, thanks to IC, I have grown in ways I never imagined that I would. There’s no excuse to not get involved during your four years here. Find a way to give back to the community. Take a little time to visit the residents at the Longview Retirement Home across the street. Spend your Spring Break in Florida or New Orleans helping with hurricane relief. I spent my last Spring Break volunteering and living in a homeless shelter with 10 other IC students in Washington, DC. There are too many rewarding opportunities on this campus to not take advantage of at least a few. Set out

to make a difference and you might end up changing the world, but only if you take the first step. Our generation has been given snazzy nicknames like the “Millenials” and the “Dotnets,” but I think a better title is “Generation Screwed.” Like every generation, we have been handed a world full of problems, but unlike our predecessors, very few of us have the inspiration to create change. We care more about voting for our favorite American Idol candidate than voting for our favorite Congressional candidate. Our lives are comfortable in the present, so it’s easy to not care about the future. We are the most interconnected, web-savvy, socially and environmentally conscious generation ever, but we’re also the laziest, and the least inspired. I saw a bumper sticker recently that said, “If you’re not outraged, then you must not be paying attention!”, but I don’t think that’s true for us, because the sad part is, we do know better. Social security is going to run out. Oil already is running out, and global warming is a real present threat. You shouldn’t discriminate based on race, gender, or religion, and certainly not age. Sexual orientation is not a choice, but whether or not to have an abortion or is. We’ve all lost loved ones to cancer, and we all know individuals who are fighting for our country in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world. We all were accepted to go to a great college and we all know how to use Instant Messenger and Facebook. Whether we all agree on every issue in the world is irrelevant. We have all of the knowledge, experience, and tools that we need to work together—to accomplish things we never believed that we could, to grow in ways we never imagined we would, and to make a world of difference, like we know that we should. Ithaca College gives us 2 million minutes to do it, plus it equips us for the rest of our lives. Prove to the world that the “Dotnets” are not glitched, that we’re not so apathetic that we can’t rise above the problems we’ve inherited. Use your time at Ithaca College to find yourself and begin to make your mark on the world. The key to it all is teamwork. You all have amazing talents, and there are so many faculty and staff eager to assist and encourage you, plus the support of a wealth of campus resources. I’ll be the first to personally offer my support. The Student Government Association represents your needs and concerns while you’re at Ithaca College. I implore you to stop by our office, whether it’s to seek help, ask a question, get involved, or just visit. We can

chill. If that’s not enough, over 150 other student groups are waiting to help you grow and enjoy your time spent here on South Hill. The greatest thing I can promise you is that you will make some of your life’s best friends over the next four years. I’ll leave you with a story about one of my best friends who I actually met three years ago today. After Convocation, I was enjoying the picnic on the quad when this girl, a voice major, walked right up to me and practically assaulted me, in desperate need of my piano accompaniment skills. I helped her out that week, but that was only the beginning. Lindsay turned out to be that other music school representative on the student government ballot, so because we worked together so much, we quickly became BFFs. This summer, Lindsay was smitten with a new boy in her life. They both cared deeply about each other, and one day, he told her that he really liked her—he more than liked her—but he wasn’t ready; he did not want to spoil anything by saying he loved her yet. Linz felt the same way, so she got witty and decided to combine “like” and “love” to create a special word they could use. At first, she thought “loke” was cute—“I loke you!”—but then she realized that “live” was a much more powerful creation. When you care about something so much that you don’t want to spoil it, you live it. You dedicate yourself to it so fully that it truly becomes a permanent part of who you are. You can live for your favorite movie, you can enliven a garden, or like Lindsay and her sweetheart, you can live through a special someone. Today, I challenge you to live up Ithaca College, live out your dreams, live your life to its fullest, and bring new life to the world. Your 2 million minutes start... right now. Thank you.