David Tekle '12 - Student Speaker

Do great work. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who once said these famous three words. But what did old Abe mean when he said this? We have heard the phrase “do great work” in speeches, at alumni functions, in the classroom, and written awkwardly around campus. Now to some, “do great work” may seem like a corny slogan that doesn't really make any sense—and that's because it is.

But, as we look back over the past four years I think it is important to ask ourselves, have we done great work? We as a class have witnessed the highs and lows of academic achievement, the victory and defeat on the playing field, and the lasting sentiments of friendship. We have played intramural sports, we have participated in clubs and organizations, and some have joined the fountain swim team. We have seen the highs of chicken nugget day, and the lows of mistakes in and out of the classroom. Personally, I have made mistakes. The Gettysburg community is so close and intertwined that it holds its members accountable for their mistakes, while at the same time fostering an environment that allows us to learn and create something positive from our shortcomings. This dynamic is just one example of how Gettysburg as an institution, does great work. Although we have all done a lot over these past four years, have we done great work?

In terms of academics, as a class we have done great work. Through Gettysburg College we have been given the opportunity to collaborate with Professors on research and gain one on one relationships with numerous faculty members. During this past Fall semester, in a class I had with Professor Jackie Robinson, she called me out for not saying hi to her while walking by her on campus the previous day. I used the defense that it must have been a crowded sidewalk, or that I must have been deep in conversation, but she pointed out that she waved, the sidewalk was empty, and I was walking alone. To this day whenever I see her on campus, I go out of my way to say hello, and we still laugh about the encounter. But something like that would have never happened at a big school, at Gettysburg it feels like these types of interactions become much more genuine.

Speaking of a genuine experience, the Gettysburg Curriculum has pushed us to explore aspects of learning that some of us would never dream of. For example, some of us social scientists had to take actual science courses: which I’m pretty sure I saw most of you in my astronomy 102 class; or completing our language requirement: Termine mi requisito de lingua. As you can tell by my accent, I'm still pretty bad at Spanish. But the point is that Gettysburg has pushed us to explore ourselves through the classroom. So whether you have countless honor cords and patches on your cap and gown, or you are going for the more traditional look of all black with no flair, which GQ says is in this month, the fact that we have all made it here, means we have made a significant academic accomplishment, and we have done great work.

But Ladies and Gentlemen, we have not just done great work, we are also the class of discovery. In the Winter of 2009, we discovered how seamlessly campus can function under 36 inches of snow. In the Spring of 2011, we discovered that Gettysburg College literally has no drainage system. This past fall when power outages ravaged the great state of Pennsylvania, we discovered the bar on the first floor of the Gettysburg hotel. We have discovered that Andrew Ferreira literally knows everyone by name; discovered how great it can be to experience the freshman walk from the perspective of an upper classman. The excitement of reading a good Sunday morning email from Bill Lafferty, and seen how students in Grab can take what they've learned and use it to save someone's life.

We have discovered Mid-Mad and late nights at LDs. Learned that classrooms in the basement of Plank are a great idea...or not so much. We have discovered that you can change the name of a building, but 223 Carlisle Street will always be TKE, and we have been shown by Corey Weissman what it really means to be Gettysburg Great. In all tribulations our class has remained unfazed, and we continue to do great work.

Continuing on this concept of discovery, many of us have study abroad for a summer, a semester, or even a full year. I don't have the specifics but I'm pretty sure about a hundred and fifty of you went to Denmark. Others went to places like England or Australia or Chile to name a few. I went abroad to Greece, and although I could see the Acropolis from my apartment and got to attend some of the finest riots in all of Europe, by the end of the semester I was ready to go back home, home to Gettysburg.

Here at Gettysburg we have each participated in so many great local volunteer programs. We have participated in helping to feed those struggling in the local community through Campus Kitchen, handed out clothes to the homeless through DC Outfitters, acted as mentors to students in the Gettysburg Area School District through Big Brothers Big Sisters. Not to mention philanthropy events such as Phi Delt's Haunted Mansion or Relay for Life. Through Gettysburg College many of us have been given the opportunity to do individual volunteer work that we could never dream of. Last fall, with fellow classmate Ted Broderick, I was able to raise $2,200 for Lou Gehrig’s disease by running in the Harrisburg marathon. Through that experience I can now truly understand the old adage, it’s a marathon not a sprint, and I think anybody who had to experience waiting for me at the finish line would tell you, that I was definitely not sprinting. Gettysburg has given us the opportunity to do great work and enacted a culture in us to continue that work after we have graduated.

Over our past four years at Gettysburg we have witnessed countless changes that the school has undergone. We have witnessed a new President, initiatives on Sustainability and Diversity, and a new fitness center. We have all done our part to help Gettysburg make these changes. We are the changes Gettysburg is trying to make, and through the actions we have done, the things we have participated in, that possibility is becoming a reality.

Alone, all of these things are just that, things. But as a whole, all together...they are the Gettysburg Experience. Gettysburg College has prepared us on so many levels to move forward and grow as people. And no matter how lame it sounds when President JMR says do great work, or how you might feel a little embarrassed when you say you are Gettysburg Great—Class of 2012, that is who we are, and we will be Gettysburg Great in the future.