Friedman urges fellow students to enjoy the present moment

Winston Churchill once said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. We have been on the footpath leading up to the road ahead. Beginning now…”

Chancellor Wrighton, members of the Board of Trustees, distinguished faculty, friends, family, and of course, members of the class of 2005…welcome. It is a humbling honor and privilege to have the opportunity to speak with you today and share my thoughts on the past 1,362 remarkable days we all have shared.

Many people tell you, “You better enjoy those years at college—they’re the best years of your life.” Wow, thanks. So I’m working really hard to graduate and go down hill for the next 50 years. Super.

College is a unique opportunity that will most likely never be afforded to us again. Where else can we take something pass/fail? Also, no jobs meet only Tuesday/Thursday. There are no retakes, very few TA’s, and I’ve heard that the meal plans are extremely expensive.

So…are they right? Will college be the best years of our lives? Don’t get me wrong, they were pretty darn good but personally….I think we’re just getting started.

The Class of 2005 has been through a tremendous amount in its four short years but that is easy to forget. In the very first months of our arrival we witnessed the terrible attacks on the world trade center in New York. We saw first hand how our small community banded together where support was needed. In our very last months, we experienced the sit-in by the SWA in this very quadrangle. We saw how the passion of a few could change the lives of thousands. We also saw our nation go to war and dealt with heated debates and disagreements. We saw history in the making and had the chance to host a presidential debate. And though it could be said we were divided on some issues, we all came together as an intellectual institution and shared our views, thoughts and ideas.

When you’re in college it’s very clear what you have to do to succeed. And I imagine everybody here knows exactly the number of credits they needed to graduate, where they had to buckle down and which class would pad out the schedule. You knew what you had to do to get to this college and to graduate from it. But the unfortunate, yet truly exciting thing about your life, is that there is no core curriculum. Life is an elective. The paths are infinite and the results uncertain. And it can be maddening to those that go here, especially here, because your strength has always been achievement. So if there’s any real advice I can give you it’s this:

College is something you complete. Life is something you experience. Life is not a series of sequential steps needing to be overcome. Life is a constant opportunity waiting to be realized. Be present to where you are instead of always grasping for what the future might hold. Take those precious few moments to realize where you’ve come from and what you have accomplished…really look back to everything you have completed because I bet, looking out at this crowd, you will see something extraordinary. If you plot your life so well and complete, your next ultimate goal, before you know it, will be to have a healthy retirement. And from what I’ve learned from my personal finance course, when we’re 70, a hamburger is going to cost 12.6 million dollars. Not something I’m looking forward to.

Before I wrap up, I want to thank the faculty, the administration, and everybody else behind the scenes that make Washington University this superb institution. I also want to thank some people who have helped make me the person I am today and I urge you all to find those special people in your life, and do the same.

Mom: you would sacrifice anything just to get me to smile. Thank you for teaching me how to stop a train with my teeth for someone I love.

Dad: You would sacrifice anything just to get me to agree with you. Thank you for teaching me that being a man does not always mean being the best; it just means that you have to try so damn hard that the best finally gives up.

Brooke: You would sacrifice anything to protect and advise me. Thank you for teaching me…how to teach and how to be taught.

And last but not least, my girlfriend Kim and all my friends: Thank you, thank you…I couldn’t have made it here without your help.

We are not the same people we were four years ago. We have come together and flourished. We have derived inspiration and motivation from one another and have learned how to think, how to react and how to succeed. During a time in our lives when uncertainty reigns supreme, it is with complete certainty that I put faith in us, the Class of 2005 to continue to be active, motivated and passionate for whatever we choose to pursue beyond the walls of this institution.

Oscar Wilde always said, youth is wasted on the young.

Let’s prove him wrong.

Thank you all for making this place, this experience and our time here, as memorable and rewarding as it has been. Class of 2005, I want you to stand up…one last time, stand up together, and look around at your fellow classmates, your fellow warriors in academia…Ladies and Gentleman, without further ado, I present the graduating Class of 2005…congratulations!