A Glimpse of Graduation

Shweta Arya

Bachelor of Science, Economics

Welcome parents, classmates, faculty members and administrators.

Standing here before you on this momentous occasion, I feel compelled to say something profound, but it is not that easy because we each have had such different experiences. Profile Photo of Shweta AryaWe had different majors, different professors, participated in different organizations and lived at home or on campus. In this hall right now, we have amongst us the science geeks, the policy wonks and the interdisciplinary nuts, and all our stories are different. Some are good, some are bad, some are sweet, some are bittersweet, some are horrible, and some are tragic. Therefore, I didn’t come here to talk about myself or to give you advice because I am just like you, and confused to say the least.

It’s a natural expectation that we create for ourselves that our college experience will lead to something lucrative immediately. Why? Four years of your life are minuscule compared to the 50 more you will live, and they are not the defining moments of your life, either. So now that we have taken the plunge into the whirlpool we call life, what I end up feeling—and perhaps you will share these sentiments—is, after four years of eating ramen noodles, what does life have in store for us? Better food, we hope.

The environment we are graduating into is not the most ideal. The job market is not as lucrative as before. Even though our prospects look somewhat slim, our undergraduate degree leaves us better poised to face the obstacles ahead, whether professional or personal. I want to share something with you. If there is anything you take away from this speech, I hope it is this message. In one of my Archer classes this past semester, we were talking about the complexities of the human struggle relevant to our time and to our generation, and an interesting thought emerged from that dialogue.

The Industrial Revolution catalyzed a new era of huge increases in wealth. In the last 150 years, we have accumulated enormous amounts of monetary wealth, and the mindless pursuit of it still continues. However, this rate of growth of wealth cannot be sustained, and after economic downturns like the one we just faced, it is rather irrational for us to expect otherwise. Look at this country for instance. We have a huge fiscal deficit and a looming Social Security problem that will unravel within the years to come, something we (you and I) will have to bear the burden for. We are born into a culture that has an built-in expectation of us. You have arrived the day you land a six-figure job. Or the day you buy yourself an expensive house and luxurious cars.

Now, if you don’t subscribe to these false standards, kudos to you, I’m right there with you, but I’m addressing a general perception, and our general perception of development and growth and success is intrinsically linked to monetary accumulation. Granted, money is needed to satisfy our basic needs as humans, but it can’t and it shouldn’t be the sole indicator of how far we have come as a civilization. I’m not going to be naïve and say money doesn’t matter. It does. You wouldn’t be here today if you couldn’t afford it.  But money is the mechanism of change, and only a privileged few are in a position to be that change; you and me. Never lose that perspective.

So now that we have taken the plunge into the whirlpool we call life, what I end up feeling—and perhaps you will share these sentiments—is, after four years of eating ramen noodles, what does life have in store for us? Better food, hopefully.

I think what is needed, my dear friends, is a radical redefinition of our notions of wealth. Wealth may mean that not a single child goes to bed hungry, is born dead or dies of a curable disease, or that a mother doesn’t die during child birth, that a person is not sold into sex slavery. It could mean that we are able to find a cure for AIDS, cancer and other lethal illnesses. It could also mean that we find better ways to preserve our environment, find alternatives for landfills and toxic energy sources. And yes, finally, that we are able to respect one another as fellow human beings sharing this unique experience for one, and one time only, whether we belong to a different country, religion, race, sex or sexual orientation. We must place value on ending persistent injustices against fellow human beings. Our notions of wealth need a drastic makeover, and that’s where we come in.

At the end of the day, we need to do something that affords us a good night’s sleep – do something we can believe in and something that furthers our experience as citizens of this world. I think at times, we challenge our purpose in life. Sometimes you won’t know the answer, and it’s necessary to make peace with that. A wonderful quotation by Gandhi comes to mind. “Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.”

Life is a process, engaging in it is living it. Don’t overanalyze things; the value of something sometimes lies in its unknown revelation. Be true to your heart, go and do things that you want to do. You will never have this opportunity again, for you will never live again.

I think it’s time to say my thank yous. We are part of one big loving Comet family, and on behalf of the graduating class, I would like to send out our sincerest thanks to our professors and administrators for an enriching college experience. I would like to send out a special thanks to my mentor, Dr. Catherine Eckel, and my adviser and counselor, Nora Hernandez, who have supported and guided me when I felt lost. I am sure each of you has a professor, adviser and staff member at UT Dallas who has made the difference for you. Let’s thank them all. I am so grateful to my friends and family who have loved me despite my shortcomings. I feel a sense of sorrow leaving this place today, but what makes me feel better is standing here before you, an absolute honor, and sharing this moment that will forever bind us together as the class of 2010.

Whoosh!

Shweta Arya graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in economics from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences. She was competitively selected as one of 32 students from within the University of Texas System for the Bill Archer Fellowship, a Washington, D.C., internship and academic program.

Also as a student, she was a research assistant with the Development Economics Research Group at the World Bank and was an undergraduate researcher in UT Dallas’ Center for Behavioral and Experimental Economic Science.

She was president of the University’s Center for Student Involvement, was a Student Government senator and a Student Ambassador. She was involved with Model United Nations and Mock Trial, and was a member of Golden Key International Honour Society, Amnesty International and the UT Dallas’ Musical Theatre.