Speakers prepare farewell for graduation

By Bekah Frank, Administrative Assistant


Students Paul Reilly and Isaiah Ratliff are preparing their speeches to deliver to the graduating seniors at the 2015 Commencement Ceremony.

ASEWU President Dahir “D.J.” Jigre said the idea to have two students speak instead of him was the idea of Amy Johnson, associate vice president for student life and dean of students.

“This is the first time we are doing it. Amy [Johnson] said, ‘Hey, I have an idea. What do you think about giving your speech to a student?’ I jumped right on it,” said Jigre.

Jigre said he really liked the idea because he felt like he could not connect with the students until the year of his own graduation. This way, it would be one of their own giving the speech.

“It would be awesome to be able to see a student take that spotlight and share it with their fellow colleagues that they would be graduating with,” said Jigre.

Jigre said when they put the word out that they were looking for students to do the speech, they received 11 applicants. Out of those who applied, seven of them were chosen for in-person interviews, and two of the seven were selected as the speakers.

“It was literally like an interview process for a job because this is a serious thing,” said Jigre. “It was actually a really hard process; they were all good. I was like, ‘You guys can do my speeches all day.’”

The speaker selected for the morning ceremony was Reilly.

Originally, Reilly was not going to apply. When his advisor Robin Aquim suggested he try to pursue the speaker position, he was not convinced on the idea.

Reilly said after some of his friends told him what he needed to hear, even though it was not what he wanted to hear, he decided to apply.

Reilly said he has been working with his speech coach Patricia Chantrill to learn how to combat anxiety, relax during his speech, read slowly and where to take pauses.

“The content is everything I want to deliver, and she is just helping me deliver that content in a way that is most meaningful to everyone,” said Reilly.

Reilly said his speech is a little different than most commencement speeches in the sense of it is more personal. Reilly will be sharing part of his life story to his fellow graduates as well as everyone in attendance.

“I have screwed up just about every way imaginable throughout my life. I really want it to be a story about perseverance, and if you really want to make a change in your life you can,” said Reilly.

The commencement speaker for the afternoon ceremony will be Ratliff. He said he pursued the opportunity because he wanted to give back to everyone who has helped him during his time at Eastern.

“I’ve been here so long at Eastern, I have really gotten close to the community and I feel like they have invested so much time in me that it would be nice for me to have a chance to speak to that and be grateful,” said Ratliff.

Ratliff said his speech will focus more on achievement and introspection. He said his goal with this speech is to make it entertaining enough that no one will fall asleep, and to give someone something to think about for at least one second.

“If I could just get them to reassess their own aspirations. … People have had jobs they have kids, they have families, but we are all here at this moment of achievement and it is a good point to survey the land around you and see where you really want to go,” said Ratliff.

Ratliff said he really wants to challenge everyone in attendance to imagine the kind of person they would like to see in the world, and then be that person.

“Nothing separates [you from] the future you, besides time and effort. … The world can be aggressively negative so why not be aggressively optimistic and positive at some points,” said Ratliff.

Above all Ratliff said he just wants to ignite a fire in someone to go and do something. He stressed that we are who we want to be. If something is not as good as we want it to be then the only thing stopping it from changing is ourselves.

“We are the generation now, we are going to be driving this thing one way or another. … We get to decide,” said Ratliff.

Correction: Professor Heather Robinson is working with Isaiah Ratliff as his speaking coach.