= Catalyst for Change

 I love to write. I also love to talk.

To anyone looking for an energizing activity, I highly suggest writing and giving a speech. Presenting your voice to the world is the most exhilarating feeling, and the applause and laughter along the way is much more  fun than even the most encouraging comments on a blog post!

Click on over to the video  (on youtube), and read the raw text from my commencement speech as the chosen student representative at Carnegie Mellon University’s 112th Graduation Ceremony on May 17th, 2009.

I auditioned for this role and was selected by a panel of my peers. I was assigned a speech writing coach from the Tepper School of Business, but truly it was the eight years of Mock Trial that helped the most. That, and seeing my friends and family’s smiling faces in the sea of thousands.


“Thank you President Cohen. And thank you to my family, especially my parents, for always believing in me.

Welcome family, friends, faculty, staff, guests of the University, and Class of 2009.  THIS is our TIME!

Today, I would like to talk, about the buzzword of the past year: CHANGE.  Climate change, social change, economic change, change in the aesthetics of our campus – Thanks to “Walking to the Sky” and the Gates Hillman Complex, it is near impossible to take a breath without the word change coming up in conversation.

And we are all the better for it. Bruce Barton, author of personal success guides in the roaring twenties famously said: “When you are through changing, you are through”.   We may be “through” with many things: late nights painting the Fence, building booths for Carnival, and Loop Adventures to the Southside – but certainly, we are not through with change, especially at Carnegie Mellon, where we are the catalyst for change.

Looking back at photos –  the first ones ever to be posted on Facebook – we can all laugh at how young we looked.  And in the not so distant future we will look back at today’s photo albums and joke about how we brought in the largest crowd Gesling stadium has ever seen – and how much we have changed.

Some of my favorite anecdotes come from alumni.  They talk about how things have changed with such fondness and curiosity.  I can only imagine how we will perceive this campus in years to come.

I knew Carnegie Mellon was the right place for me after just minutes of having unpacked the last of my clothes hangers and computer cables freshman year.  A new neighbor of mine in Forbes House came bounding into my room and without hesitation began to gush about how thrilled she was to be in Pittsburgh.  Being at Carnegie Mellon was like the Steelers’ winning the Super Bowl – twice, in four years, no less! Needless to say, my family thought she was crazy.  I knew she was a sign of just how great the next few years promised to be – and my intuition was proved right.  She is just one of the many people I have come to know and love because YOU have so much passion and dedication for what we do at Carnegie Mellon.

There are many reasons why each of us is at once thrilled and devastated to be leaving this campus.  Where else do people celebrate four days of Carnival with a Sweepstakes Race – pushing buggies through Schenley Park? Where will you ever be given the opportunity to ride a brightly spray painted bike from class to class for free? Where else would the entire Greek community come together to put on Broadway quality performances in memory of Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture?  Where else can you listen to melodies drifting out of CFA and witness “Mobots” crawling on the lawn.  Only at Carnegie Mellon.

In 1900, Andrew Carnegie proclaimed,  “My heart is in the Work”.  Today, we talk about “Pioneering Solutions for the World”.  Yesterday each of us was one of 10,000 students.  Today we make up a sliver of the 70,000 alumni proud to bear the name of Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon.

The first citizen of Athens, once said to the Athenian public “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”  Each one of us has influenced more people than we now know – your friends surrounding you, your family in the stands, your professors, and people who have yet to step foot in these HAllowed halls.  We are who we are because of Carnegie Mellon – a little piece of Tartan plaid forever stitched in our hearts and work.

Once upon a time we arrived in Pittsburgh for orientation, unpacked, filed out to this field and sat on the laps of strangers born in the same month.  Somewhere in all of this we went from being roommates to best friends, IM sports players to significant others, freshman floor mates to sorority sisters – a sampling of highly intelligent and genuinely passionate people from around the world who now share a profound and lasting bond.

In these past few weeks – replete with our last reading days in Hunt and our last professor made omelets in Rangos, filled with bittersweet goodbyes and reminiscing – we have hit the rewind button – where squeezing years of memories into the U-Haul has only just begun.

Freshman year the School of Architecture made the front page of the Tartan.  We hung a sign in the window of the Margaret Morrison studios late one night that read “Help, Sleep Needed”.  Little did we know as young, naïve freshman that sleep is never needed at Carnegie Mellon.  Continuously ranked in Princeton Review’s top ten “Students never stop studying”– my fellow graduates, HERE and NOW is the reward.

As you process out of the stadium today, I challenge each of you – every single person listening to these words –  to “be the change you wish to see in the world”. Gandhi said it best.   We MUST embrace CHANGE if we are to be the leaders, thinkers, and innovators of the future.

The only way to conclude the final chapter of our time at Carnegie Mellon is to end it the way it began, just to prove that some things never should change –  WE are the Class of 2009 and WE WANT A STANDING OVATION!!!

Thank you and Congratulations.”


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