Today, you find yourself in a building that sits on Boyer Ave, a street that runs right down the middle of a campus called Whitman college. A college that you will be calling home very very soon. How did you get here?

Think back. What was it exactly that helped you get here, to this point? Some of you may say it was your campus visit and that this place “just fit”. Others might say “lots of hard work”. Some might even say, “serendipity”. None of these answers are wrong, but I urge you to think back further.

Did you accidentally knock over an entire aquarium full of tadpoles in pre-school? Were you picked on in elementary school? Did a science teacher inspire you to work harder than you ever thought you could, in junior high?

What about high school?

Did you ever spontaneously decide one night to make a three-hour drive and a one hour ferry ride just to see a girl you’ve been crushing on forever, and have it turn out perfectly?

These were some of the mistakes and experiences that made me who I was two years ago when I was in your place. Yes, of course my visit to Whitman is what solidified why I ended up choosing it. But my experiences before that are how I got to be the person I was that made the decision to come here.

Look back on all the experiences you’ve had. They have all collectively led you here, to this room, sitting in these chairs, in a building on Boyer Ave. Those experiences are now memories that serve as part of the reason you are here at Whitman.

Memories are life’s souvenirs. They are proof that you’ve been places, done things, and had experiences. Experiences that ultimately shape how you see the world and who you are.

Our whole lives, we’ve all been traveling on a road called Memory Lane. Sound cheesy, right? And for the rest of our lives, we’ll remain on this road, making stops at different places, wherever it takes us. Every experience we have, turns into a memory for us to look back on and to learn from. Our whole lives we have been growing as a people; learning from our mistakes, discovering things we like and dislike, realizing our potential, and overcoming limitations we never knew we could.

Your experiences, mistakes, and ultimately—the memories that came from them, all somehow came together to bring you here, to Whitman college. On the corner of Boyer Ave. and Memory Lane.

So what am I here to speak to you about today?

Take chances, get involved, try new things, make memories.

Take advantage of every opportunity that interests you, and overcome the fear of making mistakes.

Have the experiences here that you otherwise would never get a chance to have, so that when you walk across the stage to grab your diploma and graduate, you can look back on your four years here and be happy you didn’t miss out on a single chance you would have liked to take.

The more experiences you have, the more good times you enjoy, the more tough times you go through, and the mistakes you make all will become memories that you look back on to realize where you’ve been, what you’ve done and how it all came together to make you who you are.

Whitman is going to challenge you academically, there is no question there. And you’re ready for it. You were already admitted here, and that says something about your ability to handle the academic rigor. So don’t allow yourself to get buried under your studies to the point where you’re missing out on the college experience.

I want to emphasize this point. Don’t miss out on the college experience.

Parents, I’m not telling your children to go crazy and party every night.

First years, I’m not telling you to go crazy and party every night.

What I am saying is this: you need to take the chances you won’t have anywhere else but college to take, take advantage of the opportunities you might not have again, and become close to people who you otherwise would have never met anywhere but here. If you don’t, you’ve missed out on an integral part of your education here at Whitman.

Your diploma, at any school, is only as valuable the experience you had leading up to it. The good, the bad, the tough, the emotional, and the exciting times are all included. A rollercoaster of feelings that you will experience as you enter your courses this coming year. But also a rollercoaster of feelings, you should experience as you embrace all the other aspects of college too.

Your diploma can have sentimental value added to it. It can not only symbolize how you grew as a student and academic, but how you grew as a person.

Your education at Whitman doesn’t stop at your professors’ office doors. In four years, you will have learned more about yourself than you can even imagine sitting here right now. And I am saying this, only two years into my time here. That is how much I have grown since my convocation.

But you can only grow by having experiences and yes, by making mistakes. Late night study sessions with quesadillas that turn into late night philosophical conversations about life, crying in the arms of your closest friend (no matter how silly the reason), getting caught by security doing something absurd, laying out on Ankeny field at 2 a.m. gazing at the stars with a friend, only to be attacked by inconveniently timed sprinklers.

These are some of my own memories from the past two years.

I see it all as part of my education, as part of what makes me, me. Without them, Without Whitman, I wouldn’t be who I am today. So I’m telling you, don’t miss out on the chance to have experiences and make memories. Because you’re only going to be on the corner of Boyer Ave. and Memory lane for so long before you move on to even bigger things, make the most of it.

Which is why I’ll say again to emphasize this: In four years, you will be walking across the stage to receive a shiny new diploma from Whitman and be on your way into the real world.

The only tangible thing you will have when you leave this place is your diploma! Everything else you will leave with are the memories you made here.

So, let that diploma symbolize an education that has helped you refine your intellectual abilities; but just as importantly, let it symbolize an education that has helped refine you. Life’s experiences have brought you this far, Whitman’s experiences will take you even further if you let them. Go out there and make some memories!

WELCOME TO WHITMAN CLASS OF 2016!

—Kayvon Behroozian ‘14