Georgia football player Aron White was the student speaker at UGA’s fall-semester commencement ceremony Friday. The tight end from Columbia, Mo., was chosen for the honor by a committee appointed by the Student Government Association. White graduated with a degree in management. Here is the text of his speech:
I would like to start by saying good morning and welcome to our friends and family that have joined us to commemorate this occasion. But more importantly I would like to say congratulation to all of my fellow graduates.
Some of you might have recognized my name or face and thought to yourself, ‘What is a football player doing giving our commencement speech? Haven’t we given them enough attention? Surely we could have found a more intelligent or eloquent speaker.’ To which I would reply I am sure both of those things could have been accomplished.
I certainly never dreamed when I called coach Mark Richt and told him I wanted to be a Bulldawg that I would be speaking to my graduating class three and a half years after arriving on campus. But I have always valued my education. When I chose to come to the University of Georgia, I did so not only because of the athletic opportunities that I was offered, but also for the strong academic tradition that I would be blessed to be a part of. That is why I consider every day a blessing that I have spent here at this university.
I’m sure we would all agree that college days were the best of our lives thus far. We have met lifelong friends and formed invaluable connections, spent countless hours at the MLC cramming for tests or writing last-minute papers. We have even cursed the parking services when we’ve found a pink envelope tucked neatly underneath our windshield wiper. We have been both shocked and intrigued as we read the headlines of the Red and Black. We have joined fraternities, sororities and other student organizations.
And though my game-day experience was a little different from all of yours, we’ve all spent our Saturdays at Sanford Stadium bleeding red and black. Georgia truly is everything that one could ask for in a university. From athletics to academics to Greek life to night life, we have done it all.
During our college days we have witnessed disasters such as the Haiti earthquake and the BP spill. We have seen innovations and technologies such as Facebook and the iPhone sweep over the nation and captivate our imaginations. We have seen multiple national championships in various sports. We have been the first class to have four different mascots while in attendance at Georgia. We witnessed three UGA students in just three years be named as Rhodes Scholar, two of which came in a single year. We have witnessed the election of the first African American president of the United States. We are working through one of the worst economic downturns in our country’s history, and we are graduating into the most competitive job market since we have been alive. But I say to my graduating class do not fear or be dismayed.
Our college careers have been no different than our predecessors’. We are still a top 20 public university. We have sat and listened to global leaders in our respective fields of study. We have read from the classics. We have even been named the No. 1 party school in America; given our record this year, at least we are No. 1 in something. Time and time again we have stood up to the expectation placed upon us by those that have come before us.
I personally have stood next to some of the greatest athletes to wear the silver britches. I have played against first-round draft picks. I have heard the crowds cheer from the hallowed sod of between the hedges. I have received numerous academic and athletic awards. But I would not tell you that I am worthy to speak at an occasion such as this — not until today. It is not until today that I feel worthy to speak to all of you because today is the day that I will have the honor to cross under the famed Georgia arch.
I know that my mother and father have not felt the pride they feel at this very moment. I know this because all other achievements and accolades in my life have fallen short of everything that a degree from this great university stands for. A degree from Georgia represents our entire college experience. It represents the knowledge we have acquired through our classrooms. It represents the maturity we now possess. It represents the character that we have demonstrated through on and off campus activities. And for a lucky few of us, the honor of representing UGA through intercollegiate athletics.
Sir Thomas Carlyle once said, “What an enormous magnifier is tradition!” I could not be more honored to be a part of the tradition of commencement and have a chance to share with all of you just how big of an accomplishment you have achieved.
In closing, to all those sitting before me who will receive their degrees today, I applaud you. The world is full of limitless possibilities. And though I cannot predict the future as we make our transitions from undergraduates to graduates, I have no doubt that we are prepared for the world. In my opinion the question should be: Is the world prepared for us? Congratulation graduates.