In almost every graduation ceremony, whether it's in a muggy stadium that’s too hot or in a stuffy auditorium that’s too cold, we’ve heard basically the same message drilled into our heads: stand out, be different and/or make a change.
Whichever message you get is always specifically tailored to each graduation, but besides the location and level of education, graduation speech’s themes tend to be pretty cookie-cutter. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I honestly heard no distinguishable difference between the superintendent’s speech to my graduating high school class of 2016 (Go Marauders, y’all) and Peter Dinklage’s address to Bennington College.
It’s truly ironic how similarly these messages advocating for free self-expression are fed to us year after year. Unfortunately, these messages tend to carry a sense of urgency with them. They seem to rush students into identities they might not be ready for or aware of yet.
This tainted message of standing out is everywhere; it’s effectively poisoned our waterways and our nation’s young minds. Sadly, it has paved the way for a generation of students actively forcing themselves to be different. College gives students the unique chance to start over. This opportunity gives people room to reinvent themselves, a huge undertaking that comes as both an exciting and daunting task.
At Carolina, this pressure to stand out is partly a result of attending such a large university like Carolina. With a population of nearly 30,000 students, I can understand the appeal of organizing dance marathons or donning a monochromatic wardrobe in attempts to find a clique or distinguish yourself from the mob.