Below you'll find further images from this year's Honor's Day celebration as well as excerpts from two powerful speeches. Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop and holder of a bachelor's degree in English from NYU, delivered a powerful keynote address, in which she reflected on her own path from student to business owner and writer. The student address was given by Emma Murphy (UGA English BA 2018), who took the opportunity to explore the sacrifices and rewards of her time in Park Hall. You can read Janet Geddis's address in full on the Avid Bookshop Facebook Page.
These days, I frequently encounter people who are on a precipice like you are, people of all ages who are about to graduate or are looking to make a major life change. You may be getting the message—from our society, from your family, from your mentors, from your friends—that you need to have already planned out your life by now. That the decisions you make in the next few months will dictate the rest of your days. I’m here to tell you what someone told me as a senior, something I didn’t really believe then and you’ll probably not believe now: you have plenty of time to explore, plenty of time to try on different hats and cities and professions and friendships. Time flies, sure, but most of us are fortunate to have a lot of it left. ~ Janet Geddis
Storytelling grabs a hand and guides a person through new experiences, unfamiliar thoughts, diverse perspectives. I, for one, grew up surrounded by stories. I think most children do in one way or another. I didn’t learn about positivity and problem solving from a manual. I learned it from the Baudelaires in A Series of Unfortunate Events, which my mother read to my brother and me every night. I didn’t learn about humor from an instructional webinar. I learned it from Shel Silverstein, author of Where the Sidewalk Ends. ~ Emma Murphy
In the last many years, you’ve read for hours on end; you’ve sharpened your composition skills and learned to workshop your writing. You’ve engaged in lively debates about the phrasing in a poem or an author’s decision to use first versus third person. You’ve learned to communicate in ways that make you strong job candidates, exceptional students, and remarkable friends. ~ Janet Geddis
Poetry, in fact, has often been quite sufficient a teacher. Writer Mary Karr says, “Poetry is for me Eucharistic. You take someone else’s suffering into your body, their passion comes into your body, and in doing that, you commune, you take communion, you make a community with others.” This past semester, I took a poetry workshop with Dr. Maggie Zurawski. Every week, the students met to discuss each other’s poetry. Over the course of the semester, I saw young poets show total vulnerability through their words. They brought some of their most intimate work, sometimes written as early as that morning, and they opened it up to all of us to discuss. We shared our thoughts and fears. / We shared our stories. / And incredible things happened when we did: we read each other’s work and nodded. We related to one another. We felt with one another. That’s the power of telling stories. It’s the power of connectedness, of converting our experiences into words and pinning them up for others to see. Language is the thread that knits us together. Sometimes imperfect, sometimes treacherous, but always an attempt at unity. It’s the greatest gift we have. ~ Emma Murphy
Novels, memoirs, critical studies, investigative reporting, poetry, essays, travelogues, and more can give readers access to situations we’ve never seen before—or, perhaps just as importantly—situations we’ve been in but previously saw only from our own perspectives. Reading is a form of listening, a way to safely explore ideas from the confines of our own armchairs. Literary fiction is my go-to genre, and I will never be able to adequately thank novelists who have triggered my interest and curiosity in subjects I might’ve dismissed had I not been introduced to them via the written word. ~Janet Geddis
And so to my fellow graduates: what are the stories that have changed your lives? What stories will you tell to change the lives of others? And just as importantly, what stories will be told of you? Who will reach out one day, grab someone’s hand, and tell a person about knowing you? ~ Emma Murphy
Just as you can learn from others’ writing, I invite you to create—or continue creating—your own work so that we readers can get to know you better. Your chapter at UGA may be coming to an end, but we’re excited to turn the page, to hear about what’s next for you, to read about the adventures you embark on, the failures you face, and the flourishing successes that will follow. Congratulations, class of 2018. ~ Janet Geddis
Emma Murphy concluded her address with lines from Maya Angelou's "A Conceit", which ends with the lines:
Let others have / the privacy of / touching words / and love of loss / of love. / For me / Give me your hand.