My Speech to Graduates: Stevenson University

Photo credit: Stevenson University/Maumi Chatterton


I had the great honor of being tonight’s faculty speaker at Stevenson University’s Baccalaureate ceremony, which is scheduled only a few days before graduation. I was selected by the senior class, and I can’t tell you how that made me feel warm and fuzzy.

We gathered tonight in the Greenspring gym…it looked so beautiful in there. I was touched by the graduates sitting in the front row, and I tried my best to talk directly to them.

Andy Gepert was the student speaker, and Ellen Roskes was the celebrant.

To be completely honest, I’m on cloud nine. Despite having the jitters before I spoke (the waiting can get to me sometimes), I am so happy I was included and a part of the ceremony.

What follows is the speech I gave. Thank you, graduates, for making me feel wonderful tonight. I wish you all the best, and I’ll see you on Friday for graduation.

THE SPEECH: Reflections for Baccalaureate/Stephanie Verni: Break the Ice

Good evening, and thank you.

Graduates. This is your night, a celebration of you. I am here on behalf of the faculty at Stevenson University to congratulate you on four years of success and accomplishments. My name is Stephanie Verni, and I’m a full-time faculty member in Business Communication. I’m honored to be speaking to you all tonight.

Before I begin the daunting task of imparting a meaningful message to you, I’m going to ask you to indulge me. You see, before I came to Stevenson, I worked in corporate America for 15 years, and there’s one thing we love in the world of business, and that’s an ice-breaker activity.

So graduates, I’m going to ask you to participate in an ice-breaker and it comes in the form of Simon Says. I’m sure you all remember this game we played as a child. I’ll be Simon, and you’re to follow directions, but only if I say Simon Says. Got it? So channel your inner child now, graduates, and stand up. Good. You didn’t do it. Now, Simon Says, graduates please stand up.

Simon Says graduates turn to your right.
Simon Says, pat your classmate on the back.
Simon Says, graduates turn to your left.
Simon Says, pat your classmate on the back.
Great job.
Now, Simon Says, graduates face front.
Simon Says, reach your hand straight up. Simon says reach behind and pat yourself on the back.

Well done. You did it. Congratulations. Now sit down.
Ah! Simon Says, please sit down.

Parents and caretakers of these graduates, you also deserve a pat on the back. Tonight is a happy occasion and one to celebrate.

I began tonight’s talk with an icebreaker. So often in life what we have to do is break the ice. Do you remember your first days on campus? Do you remember wondering where your first classroom was or if you would know anyone in the room? Do you remember that first night in your dorm or commuting to campus and wondering where you would park? Do you remember your first class or the first time you talked to that person who is now your best friend?

Often, you have to break the ice in order to begin your journey. Your undergraduate journey is coming to a close. But what about the exciting journey that lies ahead? With so many new experiences and adventures to tackle, all you have to do is break the ice.

I teach a course here at Stevenson called “The Advertising Campaign,” and so I thought I would offer you some words of wisdom, in the form of Advertising slogans, as you move on to the next journey of your life. In the interest of time, I’ve created The Eight Commandments of Ad Slogans to live by, both old and new slogans. And don’t worry—these don’t come in the form of jingles, so you won’t have to endure my horrific singing. If you’re skeptical whether life’s wisdom can’t come in the form of ad campaigns, I’m here to persuade you that they certainly can…Let’s begin…

Number 8: As McDonald’s said many years ago in its most famous ad campaign, “You Deserve a Break Today.” Tonight, relax. Enjoy time with your family and friends as they are here to celebrate with you. It’s one of life’s lessons—there are times when you need to take a break. Stop and smell the roses and enjoy it.

Number 7: You Are Now Free To Move About the Country. (Southwest Airlines). It’s a big country, a big world. Take it on. Make the most of the jobs you get, the friends you make, the connections you hold dear. Visit people, tour the world. Now is the time to do it. When you earn an income, put a little money aside to explore and move about the country, the world.

Number 6: Never forget to Think Outside The Bun. (Taco Bell). I tell my writing and advertising students all the time—where would we be without creativity? Apple computers told us to think different. Think outside the box. Put aside some time to channel your creativity. Paint, draw, write, take photographs, journal, act, dance…whatever it is, your journey relies on your ability to unleash your creativity.

Number 5: The Road Will Never Be the Same. (Acura). Look back on your life and who you are today. Are you the same person you were four years ago? Your life at Stevenson has helped you grow as people, and though you are about to take a drive down a new road, what lessons and memories will you take with you from Stevenson that have changed you?

Number 4: East More Chikin’ (Chick Fil A)…I tried to find life’s wisdom in “Eat More Chickin’,” but…no…never mind…

Let’s move on to the real Number 4: Life is full of surprises. (Life cereal). We meet surprises along the way on our journeys, and guess what? They can be some of the best parts of life. I met one of my dear friends by chance in a doctor’s office when we took our babies in for check ups. I happened into a teaching career after working in the public relations field for years. I met my husband on the job. There are pleasant surprises ahead. Be ready. Life is full of them.

Number 3: Only Smarties Have the Answer. (Smarties candies). Look at all the smarties in the room about to graduate! You are older and wiser. It may be strange to hear me say “older” and “wiser,” but you are. Now what will you do with that knowledge? Put what you know to good use. Do this not only for yourself, but for others.

Number 2: As Nike says, “Just Do It,” so that you can, as the US Army said, “Be All You Can Be.” These two slogans can apply to anything you attempt to do in life. Whatever it is, whether it’s trying a new career…a move to another state…running a marathon…or becoming involved in civic or community activities, follow your gut, muster your drive and JUST DO IT.

And finally, we’ve reached number 1: As Coca-Cola says, “Open Happiness.” You deserve to be happy tonight and as you move ahead in life. Remember to break the ice, take a leap of faith. When one experience ends, a new one begins. Open that door. As Nissan says, “Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride.”

I wish you much joy and happiness as you move along into your next journey. On behalf of the faculty at Stevenson, congratulations, graduates, and thank you.


  • Stacey

    I just got chills reading this. What a wonderful way to reflect on life and remember where you started and where you are going. Stevenson is lucky to have you.

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