Every semester when chapel nears its conclusion, the student body listens to several speeches from graduating seniors. Without fail, I’ve always pondered what I would say if I got the chance to reflect on my time at Harding from the Benson stage. Would I talk about the big picture? Would I focus on specific memories? It was fun to consider.
Over the past year, I became more seriously intrigued by the idea. I desired just a few minutes to address the Harding community in person as I wrapped up four formative, powerful years. I sincerely hoped I would be honored with the opportunity.
As we all know now, I did not get the chance to give a senior speech this year — no one did. Still, I wondered what I would have said if I had gotten to stand in front of you all, wrapping up four years in five minutes.
I think it would have gone something like this:
There’s something special about a place that becomes home in just a handful of semesters to a ragtag group of students from around the world. I’ve felt it over these last four years, and I certainly feel it now as I say goodbye.
What was it? What was it that made some small school in Arkansas so special to me?
It might have been the big things. There were a lot of experiences that definitely would be classified as highlights in my Harding career. Maybe it was my time in the Thundering Herd Marching Band, which gave me my first place to belong on this campus. Maybe it was the semester I spent studying in England, which taught me confidence and independence. Maybe it was the two social clubs I was part of that provided hours upon hours of fun, or Student Publications that gave me a voice and a safe place.
Perhaps that special ingredient is the smaller moments — the little things sprinkled through every day. Was Harding so special because of the late night chats in Cathcart Hall? Was it the walks across the front lawn or long afternoons on the white swings? Maybe I feel so attached to this school because of the quick lunches in the caf that turned into hours or the study groups that involved a lot more laughing than studying.
But the special thing that made these last four years so powerful isn’t a thing at all. Harding is special because of you — because of us. When you take away the people, we see that it’s just a campus, albeit a beautiful one. We’ve seen that with shocking clarity over the past eight weeks, scattered across the world and missing one another. Campus is great, but it’s not special without the people who belong there.
The big experiences and the small moments that comprised my time at Harding were wonderful, but only because of the people who were there with me through it. Studying abroad was great, but without the people, I would have just been a very lonely girl in a foreign country. I’ll happily relax on the Harding swings any time, but they are best enjoyed with a friend and a good conversation. The people at Harding are the ones who saw me through the good days and the gloomy ones, the triumphs and the heartbreaks. It would have been an empty four years without you all being there with me.
I wish we could live here together for another four years, but there is work to be done. There are other people who need a community and a friend, just as you all have been to me. There are people who need to hear good news and people who need a shoulder to lean on all around the world, so we can’t all stay here. Saying goodbye is bittersweet, but I’ve seen over the past eight weeks that special people and special relationships stay special, even from miles away. If that’s not remarkable, I don’t know what is.
Thank you for being the people who make places special.
You are dismissed.