Jonathan Stickel’s Speech
Classmates — what a moment we find ourselves in. Today, the 26th of May, we become graduates of Hamilton College. I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by a sense of joy in knowing that today marks the official end of four years of hard work. Yet, it also saddens me to know that later today, when I drive down this hill, I will never return to the same dynamic that I have grown to love. That dynamic has been shaped by great people who have both challenged and supported me in many ways during my time here. It’s been molded by a special combination of rigorous academics, an outstanding athletic experience, and a plethora of opportunities to meet and engage with superb people.
But while today marks the end of that dynamic, it does not mark the end of my, or any of our, relationship with the college. Because at the end of the day, this institution is the people who comprise it — and that includes each and every one of us.
You see, today feels more like a convergence or a sealing of fate than a separation. It reminds me of a particular spot in our beautiful Root Glen. As you follow the trails downward, you reach a point where two little streams of water meet and form one. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for these types of spots in streams. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I grew up outside of Pittsburgh and the confluence of two bodies of water reminds me of home, or if it’s my passion for fly fishing as these confluences are particularly good places to catch trout, or maybe it’s simply the natural beauty of this point in the Glen that tends to ensnare my attention.
What I find really cool is that if you stand at the point, you can turn and look up the one stream a ways, noticing some of its twists and turns, but you can’t see the beginning. Likewise, you can turn and look up the other stream a ways, noticing some of its twists and turns, but you can’t see the beginning. You can also turn and look downstream a ways and see where the newly formed body of water is headed. But you can only see so far.
And if we turn back and reflect on our own lives prior to our arrival here, we can see some of the twists and turns that life threw our way. Maybe even some of the big events in life, the tributaries, that helped shape us into who we were when we arrived here. In a similar sense, we can look back at Hamilton College as an institution prior to our arrival here and see some the people and events that helped mold it. But, as we look back, we really can only see so far with clarity.
For the last four years, we’ve been in that spot where the two little streams pour into each other, mixing their contents. For us as individuals, this surely started as a shock to the system as new people, interests, and responsibilities came to dominate our lives. The process of mixing our contents with those of Hamilton has certainly been a unique experience for each of us, as we represent a diverse group of people with diverse backgrounds, diverse interests and diverse ideas. But no matter how different our experiences were, and no matter how different the confluence may look, we all were forced to undergo this process of combining all that we are with all that Hamilton is.
And as our streams merged, we were changed by Hamilton yet we also have changed Hamilton. Because, Hamilton is the people who comprise it, and as of the last four years, the people who comprise Hamilton has included us, the Class of 2019.
And, of course, today marks the moment when we officially seal our fate, just a bit downstream from that initial confluence as things begin to settle out and look more like a unified body of water. When we each walk across this stage and receive our diplomas in a few short moments, we will forevermore be graduates of Hamilton College.
So from this little moment that we find ourselves in today we can peer downstream and we can see a little ways. We can see the next job, the next city where we might be headed, the next people we might live with, or even just the plan for the next year. But as we look downstream, we can only see so far. There may be sharp bends or waterfalls further down the stream that we don’t see coming. There may be storms that overwhelm us and there may be droughts that make life seem a bit mundane.
But really, that’s okay. Because we, as individuals, will keep on flowing downstream. And we, as an institution, will keep on flowing downstream. And as of today, we will keep on flowing together. So it doesn’t really matter what life throws our way, because we have each other to lean on. Our personal accomplishments will be shared with the Hamilton community and all of our institutional accomplishments will become sources of pride. It’s our new dynamic.
So congratulations, my friends, the class of 2019. I’m going to miss the old dynamic for sure, but I’m excited to begin this new one. I truly can’t wait to see where the currents will take us.