Stritch student Matthew Seipel addresses fellow graduates

Monday, December 17, 2012 7:20:00 PM

The following is the text of the student commencement address by Matthew Seipel: 

My classmates, my friends, my fellow leaders of this new generation:

Today is the day. We stand here before our friends, family, and colleagues adorned in caps, gowns, cords, stoles, medals, and all sorts of other regalia to be honored for the diligent effort we invested in our education. Some of our degrees were two years in the making, some four, five, or six, and some even close to a lifetime.

But regardless of the time that it took to get here, all that truly matters is that today we get to call our broker, harvest the culmination of our lofty investment, and look ahead to where we will invest ourselves in the future. My friends, this is a profoundly beautiful day indeed.

But let us not get too far ahead of ourselves here. First, let’s take a look back. Do you remember your first day of class at Stritch? I definitely remember mine.

It was August 24, 2009. At about 9:45 a.m., I headed from Clare Hall over to Duns Scotus, big beard on my face and long hair blowing in a warm summer breeze, not knowing exactly what to expect from my 10 a.m. class. It was The New Testament with Fr. Charles Brown, and he told us that we could call him Charlie. So there I sat on that particular August morning, thinking to myself I’m about to learn the Gospels according to Charlie Brown. So this is what college is going to be like.

Before we got into the syllabus or any of the lecture material, the first thing that Fr. Charlie said was “Yes, we will be studying the Christian Bible, but I want you to know that I welcome people of all faith traditions, just as Francis welcomed everyone who wanted to serve the Lord with him.”

Those words made a profound impression on me, and they stay with me to this day. In essence, they capture the very ethos of Cardinal Stritch University. Yes we are rooted in the Catholic tradition, but our cornerstone Franciscan Values transcend any particular religious paradigm. They instruct us to create a caring community, to show compassion, to reverence all of creation, and to make peace in every aspect of our being.

And not only does Stritch teach these values; it is their living embodiment. I challenge anyone here today to find a more caring, compassionate, reverent, and peaceful campus community than Cardinal Stritch. In fact, I’m so confident you can’t, I’ll bet you every last cent I have left after my undergraduate education, although that wouldn’t get you much more than a tank of gas and the early bird special at Denny’s.

This institution and its Franciscan Values have changed me, and I know that anyone here today in cap and gown will say the same. I came to Stritch as a colossus of disorganized, self-serving, raw teenage energy, and I now stand before you as a mature, multifaceted man that has been both humbled and inspired by the incredible people that he has met over the past three and a half years.

I finally know what it means to love, to belong, and to selflessly serve, and much like St. Francis at the little church of San Damiano some 800 years ago, I am ready to answer God’s calling and dedicate my life to his work.

I may be leaving Cardinal Stritch University, but it will never leave me.

So now let us fast-forward again to the present moment. Here we stand, with that magical piece of paper virtually in our hands, and we are ready to celebrate our accomplishments with our families and friends. Eat, drink, and be merry- oh, we will certainly celebrate tonight. But don’t let celebration turn into complacence because tomorrow our work begins anew. As people that possess not only this new degree, but also as servants educated in the Franciscan tradition, we represent a very select group.

Yes, we have worked very hard to get this far, but remember that each of us also has been infinitely blessed. Those to whom much has been given, even more is expected.

And these expectations come at a juncture that is critical in the utmost sense. None of us needs to be told twice that our world is struggling. We have entire nations facing bankruptcy, untold millions without jobs, a moral deficit plaguing the masses, and disease and war are ravaging the earth on virtually every continent.

And what are people blaming for these problems? Extremism. Right wing extremism, left wing extremism, fundamental Christian extremism, radical Islamic extremism… the list goes on and on. The problem with utilizing these scapegoats is that it doesn’t solve anything; if anything it makes the original problem worse.

I charge every individual here to rise above these wrongs that are seemingly ubiquitous, to transcend the petty politics of blame, and to make themselves part of the solution rather than an extension of the problem. For as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “We must be the change that we wish to see in the world.”

I posit that we take back this term extremism, that we take ownership of it and turn it into something positive. Let us be extreme in our living of the Franciscan Values. Let us be extreme in the compassion that we show to others, extreme in the peace we make, extreme in our pursuit of personal fulfillment, and extreme in the glory that we give to our benevolent Creator.

For I dare to say that in this case, there truly is no such thing as too much of a good thing.

You might ask, “But I am merely one person, how could I possibly change the entire world?” My answer to that is this: Francis was just one person. Jesus was just one person. The same goes for Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Cesar Chavez, The Dalai Lama, and all of the other great individuals who have had the audacity to believe that mankind truly is good by nature and that we can indeed leave the world a better place than when we found it.

And the best part about it? Like you, all of these individuals had humble beginnings. If anything, you might even have a leg up on some of them. You have a college education, a Stritch education; you have been instilled with a solid value system at a young age; you have friends and family that believe in you and an entire campus community that has your back every step along the way.

Even if we’ve never met, standing beside me today, I believe in you. Thus, the only thing holding you back truly is your own imagination.

So today, I ask you to take the leap with me. Let us leave behind our worries, our fears, our personal insecurities. Let us live each day with passion and purpose and savor every passing moment. Let us strive to be everything that we were meant to be and never again settle for anything less than the absolute best that the world has to offer.

Let us be that graduating class, that group of individuals, that is remembered through the ages. The zeitgeist is calling for some monumental changes in the world; the time is now for the Stritch Class of 2012 to be the change that it wants to see.

And so I say farewell, Class of 2012, until one day we are all together again. May the Lord bestow you with many blessings, and may you never forget what you learned in your time at Cardinal Stritch University.

In closing, I leave you with the words of the 14th Dalai Lama: “There is only one important point you must keep in your mind and let it be your guide. No matter what people call you, you are just who you are. Keep to this truth. You must ask yourself how is it you want to live your life. We live and we die, this is the truth that we can only face alone. So consider carefully, what prevents you from living the life that you want to live?”