Jonathon Norcross' Valedictory Speech

May 11, 2011








Valedictorian Jonathon Norcross
Photo by David Woods


On Sunday, May 8, Jonathan Norcross delivered the valedictory at the College of Arts & Sciences’ 2011 Commencement Ceremony. Below is the speech he delivered. (Watch the commencement video.)



Valedictory Speech


Good morning and happy mother’s day.

I am honored to be Valedictorian and I would like to take this time to reflect, give thanks for lessons learned and hopefully inspire all of you today.

Looking back, how many remember last year’s Fox Day when we were juniors? How many were surprised that it was not the day we expected? Most had predicted that Fox Day would be on that one day. Those who did were so confident that they went out the night before. Only to their amazement the next day was not Fox Day, but they still got up and went to class, although a bit more tired than usual. This is a simple example of having to deal with the consequences of our actions. But, suppose we are all members of a rescue team and we predict that nothing horrific would happen tomorrow. So we decide to take a night out. What if the next day a tsunami comes rolling in and we are called out at 6 in the morning to help. Our performance on that day means the difference between saving and losing lives. Like our Fox Day example, sometimes the world decides to do something unexpected, but we must live on and deal with the choices that we decided to make. For this Fox Day learning experience, let’s remember and thank President Duncan.

And there are others to thank who have helped us along the way. For example, without our parents’ support many of us would not be here today. Our parents helped us reach this point and even though we may sometimes think we are smarter than they are, they have one thing that we are still gaining and that is experience. Our parents have always been there for us and instilled in us the values that we hold today, such as working hard and knowing the importance of a good education. Since today is Mother’s Day, let’s all take the time now to turn and show our appreciation and love for our mothers and give them a big thumbs up.

How many have participated in a Rollins Sport? Like you, I have been on the sailing team ever since I first got here. From my sailing experience, I learned that sailing is not about how well one person can sail alone, but how to sail with others. In my sailing at Rollins, there are two people per boat. One person steers the boat and looks for adjustments that could be made to the sails to keep the boat sailing quickly. The other person needs to be looking out on the water watching for wind shifts and boats that might be coming their way. Like sailing, often times we pick our friends to be those who will be our crew; those who will look out ahead and see the obstacles that are coming and will warn us of the impending problems while we are too busy watching what goes on within our own lives. For helping us see those potential obstacles in life, let’s thank our friends.

For most of us, there must have been a time when we were given an opportunity by the faculty and staff to do something meaningful on campus. For me, this occurred after my first year here at Rollins. I was asked to create our Rollins iPhone application, which has several features for internal use at Rollins. Now when I first started I was thinking “but I don’t have any experience with iPhone programming”. That did not seem to matter to them because they believed I could figure it out. I was given a book and told to read about it and teach myself, which I enjoyed doing. By the time the summer was over, a full application had been built with a multitude of features. So, there are apps for Mother’s Day, Holidays, and Doomsday, but Fox Day? Yes, there’s an app for that too. I used the knowledge that I learned from creating the Rollins iPhone application to create the Fox Day application, which I’m sure many of us have used and enjoyed. From experiences like this, we have learned to have confidence in ourselves and take on those challenges that we may have passed up. For these opportunities, let’s thank the faculty and staff.

Because I always found the courses to be intellectually challenging and I loved doing it, I do not feel as if I did much work to reach where I am today. When we do something that we enjoy, what appears to be work to others ceases to be work to us. We see the work as a game or another puzzle to solve and we embrace the problem and enjoy attempting to find a solution. Rollins liberal arts education has given us the opportunity to explore many subjects in the hopes that we would find the one that we love.

Despite all the great learning opportunities we have had, according to Albert Einstein, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” I believe education is learning how to learn, and with that knowledge, comes the ability to ask insightful questions, that will reveal the answers, that we want. We are not born knowing the answers to all the world’s problems, but that is ok. We don’t need to because having answers won’t help us find and solve the problem. It’s like knowing all the answers to the test without understanding why those are the answers. The real strength is in asking the right questions. So don’t ask any old question, find one that will make a difference in the world. Since questions can spark new questions, the trick is to find the one that is worth answering.

Congratulations Rollins College Class of 2011! May we go forth and question the world.


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