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The Speech That’ll Never Be Spoken

A preface: What you will be reading is the commencement speech I had drafted for Spring 2020. I had made it to the second round of interviews when the university had cancelled/rescheduled their graduation plans for October. Because our virtual ceremony will have no speeches done by students, and I didn’t want to let my hard work go to waste, here it is for you to read. Regardless of where you are in your academic journey, hopefully you find power in these words. 


I honestly can’t believe this day is finally here. Are you happy to be graduating?

Do you think it went by really fast?

Yeah, I didn’t think this day would come that quickly either. One minute I was moving into Skookil….Schukill…Shook… oh, I’m sorry, I mean Schuylkill Hall and having late night meals and snowman building at Tri County to now finishing student teaching and getting ready to embark on my post-undergraduate road trip. Who knew our time to go on our road trip away from Kutztown would come so soon? I remember thinking it was going to go by at a snail’s pace like high school did. Dear Freshman Year Me: you were so wrong.

Over my last four years, I learned a lot of things. I learned to use a black marker when teaching so your color-blind students can see what you’re writing. I learned that Boehm is not pronounced “BO EHM”. I learned that college students will literally take a nap wherever…even in the middle of the hallway in Schaeffer’s instrument storage area. And most importantly: I learned that the third vending machine to the left in the bottom floor – which is actually the first floor – of Sharadin would always be out of Starbucks drinks by 3pm on a Wednesday. You learn the little things while in college.

Beyond factual things from class, funny tidbits and nuances, I’ve learned life lessons and I could physically see myself change. No, I’m not talking about seeing the 15 pounds I gained after being exposed to our all-you-care-to-eat meal plan. But I became a better version of myself. I learned to hold myself and others accountable. I learned to speak my mind, even if it went against the grain. I learned to seek help. But it’s time to move on from our undergraduate years at Kutztown and go on a road trip away from home. And no, not the road trip back to your parent’s house. Take that out of your Google Maps search history. A road trip to new places and experiences. But I’m not letting you go alone.  Here’s some words of advice I’ve gathered as you take your next step in life. Think of it as your supplies you’ll need for your road trip.

“It’s okay to take a break.” Dr. Soo Goh, our former clarinet professor, advised me as a sophomore. You would think that as a music professor, he wouldn’t be telling his student not to practice, where the expectation is to practice 2 hours every day. We both noticed a drop off in my personal growth, and it was due to being burnt out. I had established a great practice routine and then I hit a wall. He told me that it’s okay to take a few days off here and there, and that it might actually benefit my playing. When we take breaks, our body and brain slowly ‘forget’ how to do something, so when you come back to it, you can see errors or fix bad habits you may have, like my bad habit of literally everything when it came to playing the clarinet. So, when you’re feeling burnt out and overwhelmed while on your road trip, hit up a rest stop and eat all the Cinnabon rolls you can. Continue your trip in a few hours or a few days. You might see some new progress you didn’t think was possible or a new path may appear.

“Health and wellness is more than just physical health. It’s everything you do.” Some of you might roll your eyes, not expecting for me to talk about health class in a graduation speech. Trust me, I was in your shoes, not wanting to take health as a senior, but it was required to go on this post-college road trip. I was expecting the class to be a repeat of my multiple years of health in grade school, but it wasn’t. I learned something new from Dr Dina Hayduk; being healthy is more than just exercise and eating right, it’s how you feel. Are you emotionally in a good place? Mentally? Do you love your job or absolutely hate it? Does the environment you’re in foster a positive outlook and make you feel good? I could go on, but you’ve probably already been tested on this in health so I won’t say anymore. But it’s sound advice. If something on your road trip is causing strain, whether it’s eating a lot of junk food, or Google Maps is stressing you out because you won’t listen to its navigation directions, don’t forge ahead without making yourself fully healthy.  

My last quote stems from this past semester while student teaching. All my friends have probably heard me grumble about how much I disliked teaching elementary students. The kids themselves weren’t awful, although I was quite annoyed after they kept asking me if I had a TikTok and caught many of them doing the Renegade while teaching them a song. I didn’t like what I was doing with my lessons and it was obvious I wasn’t happy. I expressed my feelings to my supervising professor, Dr. Ina Grapenthin, who gave me a gold mine piece of wisdom, backed with over 40 years of teaching experience. She told me, “You do love what you’re doing, just not where you’re currently at.” She’s right – I do love teaching and it’s who I am. I know I’m meant to be a teacher in some aspect, and during student teaching was when I discovered that I wouldn’t be happy teaching “the children” as I called them. We all have things we love to do, and sometimes we may find ourselves asking if that’s our true calling when we get thrown into situations that make us hate going to work every day. I questioned if I was meant to teach, and it turned out that I just wasn’t happy where I was. You might feel this way on your road trip – maybe a certain pit stop is making you wonder if this is what you’re meant to do with your life. But just consider this: it might just be the environment you’re in.

I hope that your road trip takes you many different places across the state, nation and world. Stop at cool landmarks along the way, take plenty of photos and don’t use Apple Maps. Roads that do exist in real life don’t exist on there. But do remember that Kutztown is always home. Check in often, either by physically visiting or hitting the ‘check in’ button on Facebook – if you still even use Facebook. Regardless: we, after this day, will be alum of KU, and everyone is still here for us. Your professors, the faculty, and their words of advice will always be there to guide you during your road trip. So as you embark on your road trip, remember these three things:

It’s okay to take a break. Make sure you’re fully healthy. And you do enjoy what you do, just maybe not with your current situation.

Congratulations Golden Bears, we finally did it!

Peyton Williams

Kutztown '20

Music education major who loves film score and writing stories of any kind! Ask me about my favorite piano piece and why I love green tea lemonade!