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Presidential Speeches

05/22/2010
Commencement Remarks by President Andrew J. Matonak, Ed.D.

2010 Commencement Remarks
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Joseph L. Bruno Stadium

  • Thank you all for being here today to celebrate the achievements of the Hudson Valley Community College Class of 2010.  Parents and guardians, friends and spouses, siblings and children--it is because of your support and encouragement that your loved one has arrived at this important day in their lives. Graduates, please stand, turn to your loved ones and help me thank them for all of their support. Thank you. 

(APPLAUSE)

  • Our graduates are also here today because of the dedication of our faculty and staff, who have inspired and supported them.  I am privileged to work with this extraordinary group of people, and I thank them, as I'm sure you do too.  Will all Hudson Valley employees please stand?

(APPLAUSE)

  • Graduates: today you have reached a personal milestone. Take pride in your accomplishment: you have achieved something you worked hard to do and you are about to graduate from one of the finest community colleges in the United States. You are about to enter a new phase - another path - in your life, or as the preeminent philosopher Yogi Berra once said….. "When you come to a fork in the road….take it."

  • Becoming who you really are, though, is a life-long undertaking; it does not end with the attainment of a certificate or degree. What we hope for you is that as a result of your Hudson Valley experience, you will accelerate the process of becoming who you are truly meant to be, armed with a new sense of confidence, curiosity and adventure. As you think back on your time at Hudson Valley, you will recognize how much you learned--not only about the subjects you studied, but also about yourself. Your Hudson Valley education has provided you with a solid foundation upon which, as the old Quaker adage says, to "Let your life speak."

  • Exactly what does that mean? It means to live from within your heart, guided by your personal values. It means to live your life with integrity, and to share with others through your words and actions; through your friendships and commitments.

  • Every day at Hudson Valley, we try to let the life of this college speak by living and teaching the principles upon which it was founded.  Last fall, President Obama chose to come to Hudson Valley.  He heard our College's commitment to equality and access, to environmental sustainability, and to the preparation of a diverse work force for a 21st century economy.  But that's only part of the reason he chose Hudson Valley—he came here because of you, and those who came here before you. He heard loud and clear the tremendous contributions our students make to our community. In short--the President heard your lives speak.

  • Today you join an outstanding community of more than 65,000 Hudson Valley alumni, most of whom live and work right here in Tech Valley. Many of our alumni are here with you today. Can I ask anyone who has attended Hudson Valley to please stand?  

(APPLAUSE)

  • Look around you. Hudson Valley Community College alumni are business leaders, artists, engineers, construction workers, clean-energy workers, teachers, social workers, health care professionals, and law enforcement officers. Hudson Valley graduates are leaders in every sector of our community. Every day, Hudson Valley graduates inspire us, comfort us, and sustain us. It is not hyperbole to say they are the life, the heart, and the spirit of Tech Valley. Again Yogi said it well: "You can observe a lot by watching." As you begin your new life as a Hudson Valley alumnus, observe and learn from those Hudson Valley graduates who preceded you.

  • Your friends, parents, professors, and employers also have great advice for you to consider. My advice to you is to listen thoughtfully, take it all in, and then ask yourself:  What do I want my life to say? 

  • Today you may have an idea of what you want to be doing tomorrow, but what does the future hold? Again Yogi was profound when he said…."The future ain't what it used to be." You are going to find many challenges along the way and you will make your share of mistakes. Keep your eye on the ball and let your actions reflect your true values.  You have prepared yourself well for the next stage of your life, but that does not mean that your path through life is now determined. My recommendation to you is this: stay curious and "observe a lot by watching." Be open to new opportunities throughout your life, and be sure to check in with yourself from time to time, not by asking yourself: "What should I be doing with my life?" but rather:

  • "How can I make my life speak (with conviction)?"

  • I recently learned of a young Hudson Valley student whose story suggests to me that he understands completely "How to make his life speak." Mr. Sibbo (SEE-bow) Sengabo (sen-GA-bow) and his brothers fled their native country of Rwanda in 1994, the year that 800,000 of their fellow countrymen—10% of their country's population—were brutally murdered by the Hutu Militia. Sibbo spent the next dozen years of his life in a refugee camp in neighboring Tanzania, before being granted refugee status here in the United States, whereupon he started a new life that finds him today graduating from Hudson Valley Community College. As a boy in Rwanda his life had spoken to him—and he had listened. It told him to flee his homeland, and he did that.  It told him to become educated, and he did that. His life revealed to him his own need to devote himself to helping others, and so he did, working as a social worker in the Tanzanian refugee camp. Sibbo had the ability to hear his own life speak clearly to him, and a willingness to let it guide him on his way. That, every bit as much as the degree in Human Services he earned from Hudson Valley Community College, is what makes me confident that Sibbo will be successful. Sibbo has a second home here at Hudson Valley.

  • It is a precious gift that all of you take from Hudson Valley.  And it is a gift I hope you will consciously choose to pass on to those who will follow you. How can you do this?  Stay engaged with this College. This is your home too. Talk up your alma mater wherever and whenever you can. When you become an employer, hire Hudson Valley graduates. They are the best. Join your alumni association, and support this institution to the best of your ability. The community cannot do without this College, and this College cannot do without you.

  • Today is your day: I salute you. I congratulate you. And we are all very proud of you. It is my sincere hope that each of you will realize in your lives the full benefit of your Hudson Valley experience. So listen to your hearts.  Listen to what calls you.  Let your actions be guided by your true beliefs.  And let your life speak eloquently.

  • Today is not an ending; it's a beginning. Continue to grow, to learn, and to contribute, because as Yogi Berra says, "It ain't over til it's over."  Thank you and congratulations!