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Loyola University Chicago

Commencement

Lauren Lapinski

Student speaker: School of Communication

When I was 8 years old, in second grade, I was summoned to the principal’s office. As I walked down the hallway with sweaty hands and shaking legs, I raced through my memories from the past week to prepare myself for what was in store. I walked in, sat down, and he told me I was in trouble for fighting.

I just stared back at him in utter confusion. I never got into fights. Not because my 8-year-old moral compass was above it, but because I was pretty certain everyone in my class could easily beat me up.

Then, my principal explained to me how a few days earlier I had physically put myself in between two fighting girls in line, and by doing so I was just as guilty for getting involved. I was told that it wasn’t my place, and I should have remained uninvolved and left it to someone else, namely my teacher, to stop the altercation.

Fast-forward to 18 years old, a senior in high school, where I realized the injustices and the cruel ways people treated each other at school. While I occasionally wrote an opinion column in my high school newspaper, I never actually did anything about it. I always hid behind my writing or just looked the other way and stayed uninvolved. Because of those words my principal told me when I was 8 years old.

Now at 22 and a few short hours from graduating, I realize two important lessons from this story.

The first, and this is a really big moment for my 8-year-old self, my principal had no idea what he was talking about. When in the position to do what is right, we should always do it. As students of a Jesuit university, we don’t just have the ability to work towards social justice, but the responsibility to.

And I think it’s safe to say, during our time at Loyola we’ve risen to the occasion. Together we helped Aramark employees form a union, we worked to end the sale of bottled water on campus, and a whole slew of things I would love to list, but I know you all want get through this and graduate already. Whether you personally agree with the changes we, as a student body, made or not, it is still incredible that we were able to accomplish so much. If we can do those things within the walls of Loyola—it’s going to be extraordinary to see what we can do once unleashed on the rest of the world.

This brings me to my second lesson. As students of communication we have a special responsibility to promote positive change. As I described earlier, the words of my principal left a strong impression on me. As simple as this may seem: words have an impact. And since we’re in the business of words, whether it be writing them, speaking them, or tweeting them, we have an immense amount of responsibility to choose our words wisely. We should use them to educate, promote the truth, and unite groups—never to restrict, mislead, or divide.

As we move on to the next chapter of our lives, we’re not always going to find ourselves in places that promote the same ideals of honesty, social justice, and community. Sometimes we’re going to be pressured to do things that completely contradict those values. We’re no longer going to have Loyola constantly reminding us of Jesuit values, and we’ll be responsible for living them out on our own. We’ll need to trust our gut on what is right and wrong and follow the lessons we’ve learned here, even if that means going against what someone else is telling us to do.

The past four years we’ve compromised many hours of sleep to finish projects and compromised our health by drinking dangerous amounts of coffee during midterm weeks. But from now on, as graduates of Loyola University Chicago, we will never compromise our integrity.

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