MITCH THROWER'S COLLEGE GRADUATION SPEECH AT ST. LAWRENCE UNIVERSITY
Patti McGill Peterson (President of St. Lawrence University, '87-'96): And now I’d like to introduce Mitchell Thrower. President of the class of 1990, he cites as his career objective to obtain and develop skills in international relations, public policy, and business. It is apparent, though, that Mitch has wasted no occasion during his college career to move toward that objective.
A few examples. Mitch served as President of the Forensics Society debating team in 1987 and 1989. His team represented St. Lawrence at the World Debating Championships these last two years, at Princeton University and in Glasgow, Scotland.
In fact, his team has the distinction of capturing first place round rankings at the Harvard Debate Tournament, competing against the likes of Princeton, Yale, Goucher, Columbia, University of Toronto Law School, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Australian Debate Federation.
During his semester in our international program in London, Mitch interned at the Small Business Bureau of the Conservative Central Office. He wrote a comprehensive guide for small businesses in Great Britain who wish to apply for small business awards.
At St. Lawrence, Mitch has received the Dana Scholarship and has been named a Who’s Who in American colleges and universities. Mitch has served as a delegate to the Honors Committee of the Board of Trustees, on Chapel Board, on the Festival of Nations Committee, as a resident assistant, and as an officer of his fraternity.
He is to be commended especially for his work creating a newly structured senior celebration with its sensational fireworks display last night, which I thought allowed me to think about the class of 1990 not leaving with a whimper, but with a bang. Mitch leaves St. Lawrence with a baccalaureate degree in philosophy and a legacy which will be remembered for many years. I’m pleased to introduce to all of you, Mitchell Thrower.
Mitchell Thrower: Salutations and welcome. Mom and Dad, members of the board, President Peterson, and last but definitely not least, the graduating class of 1990. Wow. If you could only see how funny you look from up here. Do you think we could possibly arrange to have the processional hymn play one more time? What ever happened to pomp and circumstance?
Some of you may know me--some of you may know me as the type B personality that I am. Regardless, senior week is over and today has arrived. Look at us. We have studied at Stratford-upon-Avon the works of Shakespeare. We have debated absolute morality. We have mined the materials with which we are building new personal foundations. And we have used an orange cup.
The scarlet and the brown used to be the two colors I disliked most. Now, they still are. Not because of lack of meaning, but because they’re very strange colors and they don’t go together. However, the candle in the wilderness they call St. Lawrence will always hold a very special section of our hearts.
I was thinking the other day. Not an uncommon occurrence for a philosophy major. I was thinking about time. It seems like yesterday we were arriving in this town for the first time. Some of us did find Canton small. In fact, my roommate during freshman year, Tom, thought that the streetlights would dim when he plugged in his electric razor.
But time is a very curious thing. As we all sit here in our bodies, which are the ultimate time machines moving us second by second into the future, we grasp and try and grasp the present moment. There is a famous concept that the end of the sentence I am speaking right now is still in the future, but after a few more words it will be in the past.
Do you remember that sentence a moment ago? Do you remember the first time that our legs hit the swings on the swing set? Or how about the peeled mass of Elmer’s glue that we took off our palms when we were little? The matchbox cards, the tooth fairy, the smell of Play-Doh. The back of cereal boxes. The times of fruit-striped gum, Crayola crayons melted on the radiator, and giant leaf piles that were more fun than bugs.
Do you remember coming to St. Lawrence and being told to go for it in the chapel? Well, we went for it and we made it. And if we didn’t, we have a little star next to our name in the program. Uh-oh. Do you remember Whitman Hall before it became the North Country Hilton? Do you remember the first snowball fight? The hassle of registration prior to computerization. Or the hassle of registration after computerization.
The second place hockey team who lost because their goalie cheated. The vacuum cleaner in the library. I’m going to miss that thing. Hulett and Jencks when they were not connected, off limits, and lacked that Pizza Hut. When Lee Hall was just a short drive from Whitman. Did you know that I’ve recently seen documentation that a mountain bike company helped fund the walking campus?
These were the times before security had hats and a Bronco. These were the times when [unintelligible] took his clothes off on the campus to show us how to let down our walls. These were our college times. The times we will be quoting as “When I went to college” to our children.
Speaking of children, they say that a high number of St. Lawrence graduates marry each other. Is this because of the tight bond we formed, or was it the cold Canton winters? Or is it perhaps the cold Canton summers? Or is it just a rumor, like the lady who left a large amount of money to the university, as long as dogs were allowed to roam on campus and ice cream was served at all three meals?
Well, the administration does know what it’s doing here. Look at Carnegie. They knew that the entire building had to be gutted, so they let us, as freshman, pay to begin its demolition in 1983.
Well, what are we going to do with our lives? That’s a good question. The actual answers for this crowd will be as diverse as they are exciting. It’s like the very question everyone asks high school seniors, “Where are you going to college?” Or undergraduates, “What’s your major?” And now, “What are you going to do with your life?”
Well, it is my firm belief this has become the mental equivalent of sharing M&Ms. But it does make us think. Life doesn’t start now. We’ve been living it all along. Life indeed may not be a destination, but a journey. We’re almost one-fourth of the way through our lives. And how do our feet feel? And where is the map of this journey?
If we were forced, however, to pick a recent destination, it would have to be the senior week for the class of 1990 which, by the way, is the best class St. Lawrence University has ever had the honor of educating.
On our journey, we must attempt to put back into life more than we have taken out. We must seek laughter, friendship, enrichment, health, and love. Because so many think life ends too soon, while the real problem is that so many people wait so long to begin it. Begin your life today. Begin four seconds ago when I said begin your life today.
On a kitchen refrigerator magnet at home, the quote stands. “There are two things we give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” Our wings have all now been made strong. It is our time to fly higher than we have yet ever imagined.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Ralph Gangi once said, “Smile now, cry later.” Good advice. We will have years to cry about our graduation, but it’s now down to hours before we hug the best of friends at the conclusion of the best of times. Celebrate now, smile now, and hold onto this present moment before it slips through your fingers onto the pages of the gridiron.
Often, the most impressive and meaningful achievements are overlooked. Yesterday, without our knowledge, the class of 1990 received the best possible graduation present. Thanks, in great part, to the efforts and care of the class, as well as the entire St. Lawrence community.
Lauren Matura, class of 1989, is making dramatic strides. Lauren, who suffered a serious accident causing paralysis several years ago, is the barer of this gift. For the first time since her accident, Lauren used her own hands to write. She chose to do this in the form of a congratulations to Byron Martin, class of ’90, a close personal friend of hers and an individual who’s made a large commitment to her recovery.
This is nothing short of a miracle, and we should realize two important things from this. How lucky we all are, and that our love, prayers and effort as a community can help. We love you, Lauren.
Now, as we approach the end of my speech, I’d like to give a special thank you. And in a way, I’m speaking for everyone here. The pride in this audience is immeasurable, overflowing, and overwhelming. At this point, I’d like to ask briefly the class of 1990 to arise. Now, for a moment, please turn around and face your parents.
Please give your parents, for all they have done for you, a standing ovation. Thank you Mom and Dad. That smile, that photo. The laugh that says, “That’s my child. God I’m proud.” That smile can be seen miles from here. That’s because Clarkson is graduating today, as well. Mom and Dad, thank you for giving us the world and our wings with which we will see it. I love you.
In conclusion, I would like to give you all a very special gift. The gift of perspective. It’s a secret and a bit complicated. 10 years from now, you were all given a very special gift. You looked back on your life and realized that you wanted to start again. You made a wish upon a star. You wished that you could go back and relive everything without making any mistakes or without making as many. That you could go back to your college graduation day and start again.
To make it simple, your wish was granted. And when you walked down that aisle, you stepped back into your past. You stepped right to the point where you now stand, or now sit. Your memory of what happened is buried deep inside your mind. I would like to be the first to welcome you back.
I would like to say, in conclusion, that I wish the best of all for all of you. Bidding you all the best, I am proud to know you and it has been a pleasure to address you today. Thank you very much.