2022 Convocation Address

The following address was delivered during 2022 Convocation, on Monday, August 22, at the Schottenstein Center.

 

Welcome to The Ohio State University!

Welcome to our new transfer students and our new graduate and professional students — and welcome to our freshmen, the great Class of 2026 — and to our first-year students watching in Newark.

Convocation is special in that it is the only time you will gather as a class — until you graduate. All of you are on the edge of discovery. Our freshmen, especially, are voyaging into the unknown.

Over the next four years, you will learn more fully what college means, what freedom means, what deadlines mean, what adulthood means.

Tomorrow, your first classes start. You may be wondering, will they be more difficult than my high school classes? They will.

You may also be wondering, will I be able to keep up? You will. Our First Year Experience Staff and the entire Buckeye community will help you succeed.

Will there be a lot of distractions here? There will! The Student Involvement Fair on the Oval will give you a sense of the embarrassment of riches that is the student experience at Ohio State.

We have over 1,400 student organizations. And if you don’t find a club or society within all that plenty that appeals, we encourage you to start your own.

I urge you to do two somewhat contradictory things during your time at Ohio State: First, learn as much as you can. Make as many connections as possible. Participate in everything, whether in athletics, community service, internships, research, or art-making — or all of the above.

Go to events, as well as to classes. Meet people in your residence halls. Talk to the classmates you pass on the Long Walk. Broaden your horizons in every possible way. I had never been to a modern dance performance before college. I attended one in my first semester in college and it sparked a lifelong love of all kinds of dance.

And I urge you, also, to carve out some of this most unique time in your life for the quiet stuff: thinking, dreaming, reading, re-reading, tinkering, researching, observing the sky reflected in Mirror Lake, or the wind in the ancient trees on the Oval.

Four years from now, when you are once again all together at graduation, you will look back on this day and realize that you have gotten a great education.

But I want you to be able to look back and realize something else as well: that you have discovered who you are as an individual and have begun to think about your place in the world.

I can’t possibly describe the joys of quiet observation as well as the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, who was in your shoes about 70 years ago as a newcomer on our Columbus campus.

In one of Oliver’s most famous poems, “The Summer Day,” the narrator contemplates a grasshopper that has landed on her hand — and then defies anybody who might say that she is wasting her time. Please allow me to read a few lines:

"I do know how to pay attention, how to fall 
down into the grass, 
how to kneel down 
in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

"Tell me, what else should I have done?

"Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Here in the United States, we have a culture of striving and doing, and it is wonderful — the reason why, for example, our economy is so innovative, so knowledge- and technology-intensive, so full of creative industries that lead the world.

And four years from now, all of you are likely to be strivers and doers, heading off to a career or to professional or graduate school.

So, I want you to make sure you appreciate this special time when you have the chance to be “idle and blessed” and to think about what “you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.”

Every day will offer you the opportunity for new explorations. The Ohio State University is one of the most exciting places on the planet to live, learn, and play.

But as you explore — please pause, observe, and contemplate, too.

Take the time for those feather-light, pointless, circular conversations that mysteriously lay down the solid foundation for lifelong friendships.

Be thoughtful about the people you meet and the knowledge you gain, and what those experiences tell you about your own values, who you intend to be, and the impact you’d like to have on the world around you.

Because the world needs more than just the skills you will develop here! It needs the unique things only you have to give — the “wild and precious life” that belongs only to you — your personality, your courage, your ideas, your inventions.

Fortunately, The Ohio State University is one of the greatest laboratories for self-discovery on Earth. If you look at it that way, you are already launched on the adventure of your life. And beyond yourself, look for opportunities to take care of each other and understand how your actions influence your classmates "wild and precious” lives too.

I hope you enjoy every minute of this academic year and every single possibility unfolding in front of you! We are so happy to have you here with us.

Thank you.