The week after Thierry Henry came to town, I was food shopping in Walmart through the pouring rain. While waiting in the checkout line, I received an email telling me I was selected as the School of Media and Communication’s winter commencement speaker. While I wanted to tell everyone I knew, I told only my two best friends and my mentors, choosing instead to keep it a secret until the big day.
Connor and Dom, Niki, Adge, and the Owl Ambassadors were my biggest cheerleaders. Every week, Connor and Dom were checking up, seeing how practice was going, and the night before the big ceremony, they surprised me with a Google+ date they’d named “Sarah’s Pep Talk.” Really, it ended up being much more a make-Sarah-laugh date. There wasn’t much pep-talking going on! Knowing how excited they were for the next day and how excited they were for me meant so much and I really couldn’t ask for two better best friends.
While I wanted to share the day with the boys, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins, I knew how impossible it was to get everyone to Philadelphia. Instead, SMC streamed the ceremony online, and I was so excited knowing that so many of my favorite people were still sharing my big day.
I drove with my parents and grandparents down to the Baptist Temple, the whole time trying to keep my mouth shut while downing copious amounts of tea to keep me calm. As soon as we walked into the building, one of the ushers offered my mom a program. Knowing my name would be in it, I ran off without saying goodbye, darting downstairs to the Chapel of the Four Chaplains. I was definitely getting nervous. I’m a history nerd and I know who’s spoken on that stage. I know Russell Conwell founded the university in that very building. I know Martin Luther King and Helen Keller and Harry Truman and FDR had all stood on the same stage I’d soon be standing on. I knew the people who loved me most would be watching; I knew I was ready.
I shared the stage with Marc Zumoff, the alumni speaker, who is the voice of the Philadelphia 76ers. He was so engaging and quick-witted, I was quickly put at ease. As I took the stage, it was hard to believe the moment had finally come. I never got a chance to look at my family, as I was afraid I’d lose my composure. Thankfully, there were three people I could look at in the house…my mentors Kimmy, Adrianne, and Niki, who were screaming for me in the upper deck. To be honest, I can’t remember any of it now. I wrote a five minute speech, and those five minutes just disappeared.
I remember the hugs from my family, the surprised look on their faces, the “gotchas!” I repeated over and over again, the first time I checked my phone (which was blowing up with texts and tweets and posts from Connor and Dom and my family watching online), the feeling of accomplishment. I was done. I was a real Temple alum.
One of the most rewarding moments for me was as I walked back through the Baptist Temple, looking for my family, I was stopped by classmates I’d never met, families I’d never seen, professors I’d never interacted with, who all complimented me on my speech, my accomplishments…and, of course, a fist-bump from Marc Zumoff was the icing on the cake! The day was exhausting, and by the time I got home around 5, I was dead tired. It’s still entirely a blur, but something I’ll never forget. I couldn’t have done it without so many people and I’m so thankful for all the support and encouragement I received…and for the utterly shocked look on my family’s faces!
Congrats to the Class of 2012! Hey Aunt Lori…we did it!