Baccalaureate Ceremony

May 13, 2022
President Robert W. Iuliano
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

As Delivered.

Members of the Class of 2022, families, friends, and colleagues—it is my pleasure to welcome you here today for a beautiful and time-honored Gettysburg College tradition: our annual Baccalaureate ceremony.

We gather together on the heels of a whirlwind couple of weeks for you, between final exams and our many year-end festivities. It is our hope that tonight’s ceremony will serve as an opportunity for you to slow down. To catch your breath. To reflect upon this special milestone in your life—and on the people who helped you to get here.

Tomorrow, you will walk across this stage and receive your diploma. It will undoubtedly be one of the happiest days of your life. Before too long, I’m sure that Gettysburg diploma will find its way onto your wall at home, proudly displayed as a symbol of all that you accomplished and became here.

But remember, no great accomplishment is ever reached alone.

Long before that diploma, I bet there was a crayon drawing, a game of tic-tac-toe, a homemade Mother’s Day card that likewise found its way onto your family’s refrigerator door, and that was proudly displayed by those who first believed in you and in what you could one day become.

Again, no great accomplishment is ever reached alone—and today, you are joined by the very people who have loved you, supported you, and believed in you on your journey to this moment. They deserve our deepest thanks.

Graduates, will you please join me in extending a big round of applause for your parents and loved ones? Thank you!

While my adult children are a bit too old these days to put their pictures on the refrigerator, it’s not true for my grandkids. Centrally located in my study is a colorfully painted plastic lion that my oldest grandson, Leo, and I painted this winter. “Leo the Lion”—you get the symbolism there. And I have no doubt that before too long Leo’s exhibit will be accompanied by that of my youngest grandchild, Ari.

Ari was born just a month ago, much to the excitement of my wife, Susan, and I. For the parents in the audience, I suspect you had the reaction I had when Ari came home to meet his older brother, Leo. Suddenly, Leo, who is only two and a half, looked so big, in ways that he didn’t the day before. Now, of course, Leo wasn’t bigger, but, in reference to a newborn, he suddenly seemed so grown up.

I knew intellectually that Leo hadn’t suddenly grown up. He had been growing one day at a time, but these changes occurred so gradually and so subtly that it was hard for us to realize it. It was only by changing our frame of reference—by viewing him in contrast to his new little brother—that we were able to see and appreciate more fully the remarkable changes that had taken place.

Graduates, we have been through a challenging couple of years. It would be easy to think back on these COVID years as our second stint of the “terrible twos.” A window of time filled with struggle and changes and the occasional emotional outburst! Yet, in doing so, we would also lose sight of how much progress we have made over this time, as individuals and as a community.

As the analogy about Leo points out, growth is incremental and change is a process. But if we alter our frame of reference, we can begin to see and appreciate more fully just how far we’ve come.

Class of 2022, we can see this growth in you. In your understanding of yourself. In your understanding of the world and how it works. And in your ability to see, understand, and care enough about a problem—and the people it impacts—to step courageously forward and rally to solve it. It is captivating to witness.

As you move forward, and you continue to grow and develop—in your life and career—you also extend what I will call your “radius of radiance.” This is the light you share with all of those around you, and the light you gain in return from those you learn from: your classmates, your colleagues, your friends.

When you were young, this radius was small, consisting mainly of your parents and immediate family. Yet, with each passing year, as you grew, so did your radius. You attended school. You joined sports teams and music programs. You pursued new activities, and ultimately, you made your way here to Gettysburg College. And, together, your class illuminated our campus.

Now, upon your graduation tomorrow, your radius will grow once more. New communities and new workplaces will benefit from this best version of yourself—this great light you’ve gained and given here.

This is what growth makes possible. Even when it is hard to see. Even when it is simply one day at a time.

Class of 2022, we are so proud of the people you have become. I know the light you share—this radiance—will be a source of inspiration for everyone you engage with and grow alongside in the years to come.

On behalf of all of us here at Gettysburg College, we wish all the best and we look forward to your celebration tomorrow. Again, congratulations!