Fall 2006 Engineering School Commencement Speech: ME Undergrad Nick FernandezHello fellow graduates. It’s so great to see you all here at the end of a long road of trials. Many of you I know from the long hours spent in computer labs stretching into the early morning, and others from lengthy debates about group projects. I know as well as you do how hard you worked to get here, and you should all be immensely proud of yourselves. There’s a reason that most people choose other majors. It takes a strong will and a fearless attitude to take the hard road.
I'm sure you've all heard of the mid-life crises that strike 40 and 50 year olds who realize that their life isn’t going in the direction they want. In the past couple years, I’ve found myself going through a similar crisis - a quarter-life crisis. Up until now, everything has been more or less laid out for us. Most of us have been following the standard path that leads us first through grade school, then to high school, then through four years of college. It’s all too easy to fall into the lull of these schedules and expectations without reflecting on where we are really going.
For me, a loud, reverberating wake up call came in 2004, when my father passed away at the age of 49. The message that struck me is that there are no guarantees in this life, and that waiting until the age of 40 or 50 to redirect my course might be too late. So I started asking myself what I wanted out of my life – what kinds of things could I shoot for that would eventually give me the most happiness and sense of fulfillment? I came up with this list of four things: First, I want to be involved in some sort of positive social change. I want to do my part to leave this world a better place than I found it. Second, I want to develop strong and lasting relationships with the people I love and be an integral part in shaping other peoples’ lives. Third, I want to always be healthy, active, and enjoy the world around me. There is nothing as thrilling for me as watching the world rush by as my heart beats in my chest. I want to always be able to experience that. Finally, I want to have integrity. I want to be honest and forthright in everything that I do, and never compromise the things I truly believe in. I think that if I could accomplish these four things, then I would be successful, in the most complete sense of the word.
So how does that all relate to graduation, and to where all of you are right now? As engineers, we, more than any other major have the potential to induce positive social change. The world is changing very rapidly and we will be the ones responsible for envisioning and shaping that change. Our generation will be responsible for liberating the world from its reliance on increasingly scarce, politically volatile, and environmentally harmful sources of energy. Our generation will be responsible for engineering devices on the nano-scale that will revolutionize everything from medicine to computers. Our generation will decode human thought and brain activity, making devices compatible with our own minds. I urge all of you to find the doorway to working in these types of fields. Be selective in your acceptance of jobs and continue your education if necessary to do something meaningful. I guarantee you will thank yourselves later.
Be aware, however, that success in life is not only measured in the workplace. Far too many people sacrifice relationships, hobbies, family, sleep, and exercise to take jobs with long hours and lengthy commutes that they think they will need to have a successful life. Ask yourself the same question that I asked myself – what do you want out of your life. If your answer includes things like love, being a parent, being active, healthy, and living long, then remember that these things aren’t always compatible with the unreasonable expectations of many employers in this country. Always remember that you are the asset to your employer, and do not compromise on things like working hours and vacation time. These are the things that will enable you to enrich your life outside of the workplace. Also, you will be at your most productive and creative when you are well rested and your life is well rounded.
Thanks for listening and thanks for all the memories. Congratulations class of 2006.
Published December 20, 2006