"The world isn't Teflon," Outstanding Senior advises

“The world isn’t Teflon,” Outstanding Senior advises

web-commencementThis year’s Outstanding Senior, Patrick Kennedy, is the first to tell you that as a freshman, he had no idea how much he would grow and change during his four years at Presbyterian College.

As the son of parents serving as Mission Service Corps volunteers, Patrick learned early in life about the importance of service to others.  This made PC the perfect place to continue his education.

“Looking back, I see how much I have changed and my friends have changed,” Patrick said.  “I see the value of service and honor in all that we do.”

In his address during this year’s graduation ceremony, Patrick recalled attending the freshman seminar where English professor Dr. Dean Thompson told the students not to be like Teflon.

“He told us that we couldn’t just glide over the surface of our PC education,” said Patrick.   “we should let it change our character for the better.”

Patrick described the PC experience as living in an environment of trust and community acceptance that’s not reflected outside of the college campus.  The “PC bubble” creates a safer, better and more caring place than the rest of the world, while providing an education that becomes the foundation for a life of learning.

Patrick told the audience that it was nice to have had the experience of living within this protective space, allowing students to focus on individual growth and learning.  He speculated about what it would be like if the PC values and beliefs were those of our wider society.

“What if everyone actually did hold themselves accountable to honesty and treat others with individual respect?” he asked.  “What if everyone did challenge and inspire each other to actively serve others?”

Patrick said although it may sound idealistic, he doesn’t think it is too unrealistic. If he and his fellow graduates could “make it work at PC,” Kennedy said they could do the same in the real world, all the while making a real impact on others and the world we live in.

“Our PC experience should be a blueprint for the journey ahead of us,” Patrick said.  “Because the world isn’t Teflon. We have the chance to shape and mold those around us and make the values that PC instilled in us become the values of society, wherever we are.”

He encouraged graduates to be honorable in all they do, to know that the value of their work has meaning, and to seek opportunities to continue to learn.

“I see in my classmates the potential to take the PC culture and our collective experiences out into the world to make a real difference,” he said.  “The experiences that have changed us while here at PC are the same ones that will empower us to do great things wherever we find ourselves.”

Patrick credits his experience at PC and the personalized approach to learning for preparing him for his first job with the Peace Corps, where he will serve as a Youth Promoter in Guatemala.

“The professors at PC show up to class every day genuinely excited about they’re teaching,” he said.

Patrick praised the faculty for modeling open-mindedness and curiosity and for challenging all their students to explore new ideas.

In closing, Patrick challenged the class of 2013 to take the values from PC and implant them in their future endeavors, from graduate school to the work environment, and in whatever city, state or country they find themselves in.

“I would love to see a world where people hold themselves accountable for their honesty and respect one another as diverse individuals, and where people never stop seeking to learn and grow and build their character,” he said.