Victor Cueto Speech - Commencement 2012
Address to the College of Medicine Class of 2012
In preparing for today’s address, I did what most master’s, Ph.D., biomedical and medical students are trained to do when trying to answer a question – I searched the literature and did some research. Though I’m well aware of the wonders of PubMed and the Cochrane database – I knew that those usual suspects wouldn’t help with this particular question, so I turned to “the Google."
My web search resulted in some interesting results. I learned for example, that there is a site dedicated to archiving famous commencement speeches, which often get a title, much like a book or scientific paper would. But in the interest of time, I’ll spare you the humorous and sometimes pretentious list of titles dealing with getting a job, dreaming big and meeting great expectations.
Aside from doing my research, I also took time to reflect. Admittedly, reflection is something that we aren’t taught very much in science or medicine – but Drexel addresses it better than most. So I nonetheless began to reflect on the significance of the past four years and what it means to have arrived at this point, on this day of commencement.
Some of you graduating today have had longer, shorter or less-traveled academic roads to get here, but what brings us all together today is that we find ourselves at the beginning again. If this is the beginning, perhaps some are wondering if they’re in the wrong theater or should ask for a refund. But as my mother told my wife after she married me, there are no refunds, exchanges or returns. You may find the same is true with your tuition. Today is in fact the end of years and years of study, and it is also a new beginning - which is
precisely why they call this “commencement."
For most of us, it is the beginning of our professional lives. But it may be more than that – it may also be the start of a new job, a new place to live, a new city, even new friends, coworkers and colleagues. In this sense, commencement is the start of something new and exciting – a great new adventure.
I like to think of changes in my life as adventures. Perhaps it is the little boy in me. But I think it is fitting to think of change in terms of adventure, because it gets our sympathetic nervous system ramped up for the challenge and fuels our curious scientific minds to solve any problems we may face along the way.
I’d like to paint for you the scene of where our adventure begins. We are today, at the top of a mountain. So take this moment in, be proud and congratulate yourself on the achievement of having scaled the peak of graduate school or medical school. Take comfort in knowing that very few have achieved what we have achieved. But after casting your sights up towards the sky and back down to where you started, turn around and look down the mountain in front of you and beyond what lies beneath. Today is the start of the walk down the mountain and into the promise of your profession.
This moment is one of great excitement and trepidation. Realizing now what lies beyond those doors in the next few days, weeks, and years, you might feel overwhelmed. But take comfort in knowing that you’ve been there before, at the beginning of your studies, when you didn’t know what you know today and you made it this far just fine. Be confident as you move into this next chapter in your life and start to do what you’ve always dreamed you’d be doing.
Know that your knowledge has set you upon the shoulders of giants, but be humble in the face of discovery. If we leave here today knowing that there is yet much more to be discovered, then we will leave here as great new scientists and doctors.
So go forth, investigate the unknown and heal the sick – for you were born for the adventure!