On my 30th birthday, I will be delivering the University of Maryland, College Park commencement address to the graduating class of 2010. Ok, fine, that’s a massive stretch but in reality I will be speaking in front of a room of about 120 people during the university’s LGBT graduation ceremony. You see one of my current volunteer hats in life is to serve as the chair for the university’s LGBT alumni club, Lambda Pride. This is a role in which I currently throw an annual holiday party and that I’m looking to expand. For instance, I’m currently coordinating a GLBT alumni table for the Capitol Pride Festival in mid-June and addressing the 35 or so LGBTA Terrapin graduates. Go me! I rule!
The last time I had to give a speech during a graduation ceremony in the Stamp Student Union it was 2006, I was 25 pounds heavier, and possibly feeling the effects of a rum and diet coke my stepfather made to calm my nerves. While I’m tempted to include that comical reflection in my remarks, I’ll simply get it out of my system by including it within the confines of this blog. Check! The draft of what I’m planning to say is as follows. Constructive feedback welcome, as are phone calls alerting me to what I’m saying is akin to professional suicide.
“On behalf of Lambda Pride, the University of Maryland, College Park LGBT alumni club, it is my privilege to congratulate you on this milestone in your life. Interestingly enough today marks somewhat of a milestone of my own. You see, today I have officially entered what is to some a frightening era. To some it marks the beginning of the end. Yes, it’s true. As of today, I, Joey DeSanto, two time UMD graduate, am officially 30-years-old.
While that event is a special one for me, I fully recognize today, especially in this space, it’s not about me. It’s about you – the graduates. Yet, I cannot think of a better, more appropriate birthday present, than to come home to Maryland and recognize those of you attending Lavender Graduation. As I mentioned a few moments ago, I’m a proud two-time UMD graduate. One might then assume that this is my third Lavender Graduation. That couldn’t be farther than the truth. This is actually my first Lavender Graduation.
Back in my day, which really wasn’t that long ago as I’m talking about 2002 and 2006, I didn’t have the self-confidence, the bravery, or the pride in myself to sit here as a graduate. Your being here is a celebration of the hard work you’ve done these past years. It is a time of joyful, perhaps bittersweet transitions, as you enter into the next phase of your lives. It is also, very truly, an act of bravery. In being publicly recognized here you are fully celebrating your graduation not just a graduate but as a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Allied graduate. And, in doing so, you are leaving this fine institution as a more authentic, and complete, person. In doing so, you are leaving this institution, a better place.
You are going forward into the larger world to make impacts both large and small. As you do, I implore you not to forget the people you met at Maryland who shaped you – your favorite club advisor, the fantastic professor who made you want to go to class, the crush who floored you when they poked you on Facebook. All of those people matter. They all contributed to defining who you are today sitting in this ballroom, about to turn the page on a new chapter in your life.
These people, they all impacted you. As you move forward, I encourage you to think about the students not yet in these seats. The current GLBT students who’ve yet to graduate, or the closeted high school kid sitting in his bedroom in New York looking forward to the promise college may bring. You can honestly shape their experience and their future here. I can’t offer you the one definitive path to do this. I can encourage you to give back, in whatever way you can, to this wonderful institution through Lambda Pride. Giving back may be simply signing up for Lambda Pride via the alumni association, joining our Facebook group, volunteering your time at the Capitol Pride Festival Booth, coming up with your own event, and yes, donating of your financial resources to benefit a current student. Whatever way is best suited for you, I encourage you do it. It helps. It makes an impact, just as your experience here has been impacted by others.
So with that, I thank you, and congratulate you. Thank you for giving me the birthday present of attending my very first Lavender Graduation, and congratulations on this very worthy milestone of your own.”