It is difficult for me to overstate the impact the last four years here at the University of Michigan have had on me: personally, socially, and intellectually.
I grew immensely as a person, learning much about myself that will continue to serve me for the rest of my life. I made lasting friendships and connected with persons—especially professors—who genuinely inspired and challenged me. And I cultivated an intellectual disposition ordered toward the pursuit of the best that has ever been written or spoken: the truth. Ultimately, Michigan did for me what a university ought to do. It drew me beyond myself and my narrow conception of the world and introduced me to a variety of different perspectives and experiences, equipping me with the skills and mindset to become a full citizen of this country.
I learned what my intellectual strengths and interests were, what I wanted from a friend, and what I wanted to dedicate my life to. I found out where the best study spots were (looking at you third floor of the UgLi!); I experienced the warmth of a spring sun on my face while spending hours on the Diag looking for any excuse not to finish my last bit of work for undergrad; I discovered what it meant to struggle and to overcome.
Most importantly, I learned a bit more about a life-long project: becoming fully human. To become human means our dreams will be in tension with our past experiences, which will swallow us whole if we let them. It means our abilities are often less impressive than we might think—but we might even surprise ourselves if we are open to being surprised. It means accepting the good and beautiful with the not-so-good and downright ugly. It means continuously reaching beyond ourselves and striving for excellence, for something just outside our grasp which beckons us ever onward. It means getting up when we fall and trying again.
My experiences here pushed me into the public square where I inevitably butted heads with those who see the world completely differently than I do. Despite what any of you might think of those interactions, I really have learned a lot from you, and I hope to carry those lessons forward as I continue dialoguing and pursuing true knowledge out there in the “real world.”
I would be remiss if I did not speak of my time with the Michigan Review. It is here where I gained some of my truest friends and had the most fun. Our bi-weekly, Monday evening meetings were honestly a highlight of my time here. The sorts of writers we attracted and built up are incredible and an invaluable asset to the University and to the country as a whole. Moving the paper in a direction of focusing on fundamentals and campus specifically is something I am certain is the right move, and I know the publication is in good hands moving forward. The people on the paper are some of the bravest I know. America will need them in the future, and I am sure they will be there when called.
I would offer one piece of advice to my fellow graduates and those who will in the future graduate from this esteemed institution. Pursue with a vengeance what you feel a deep calling within yourself to pursue. Strive for a vocation that when while performing your duties you lose yourself. Find an activity that, while you’re engaged in it, makes time melt away. Peter Thiel says it best: “Do that which if you weren’t doing it, then that thing wouldn’t get done.”
I am incredibly blessed to have attended this university, met the people that I did, and learned all that I did. Through all the ups and downs, it is abundantly clear to me that each event—good or bad, amazing or unbearable—had a purpose and added up to create a rich tapestry of meaning. Ultimately, it made me a stronger person, and I think that is the other, dual purpose of the university: to build up morally forthright, intellectually mature human beings with a thirst for real knowledge.
Ultimately, lasting satisfaction won’t come from what we do out in the public square. Of course, some of us are called to a public life, and that’s fine, but it’s critically important to realize that family, community, religion, culture, and beauty are where real happiness lies.
I’ll close with one of the greatest quotes of all time (amended slightly for my purposes): “Great moments … are born from great opportunity. And that’s what [we] have here. That’s what we’ve earned here [these last four years]. … [Right now] WE are the greatest [graduating class] in the world. You were born to be [difference makers]. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here. This is your time. … This is your time. Now go out there and take it.”
For the last time as the Editor-in-Chief of the Michigan Review, this is Deion Kathawa. Best of luck, and Go Blue!