A Glimpse of Graduation

Jordan Youngblood

Bachelor of Arts, Literary Studies


In his recent translation of the epic Beowulf, Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney renders the first word of the poem as "So." In offering an explanation for his choice of phrase, Heaney wrote that "so" offered a way to eliminate all previous discourse, and bring immediate attention to the now. Rather than "hark" or "listen,", "so" indicated a clear, forceful separation between past and present. Everything started anew with the poem.

In a sense, we stand today speaking "So" in our own lives. We have reached a moment at which we acknowledge the culmination of our studies here and turn toward a future that opens to our view. Certainly for each of us the path to reach this moment has been different and distinct; all of us today claim a degree that bears our name not only in ink, but in work and desire as well. Whether for literary studies or electrical engineering, computer science or neurology, we have all risen to the challenge this university placed before us. Those of us walking across the stage today represent a vast number of countries, faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Whether fresh out of high school or returning from the working world, on scholarship or working to put oneself through college, we have come together as a university and a student body in the pursuit of our goals. Now we claim the rewards.

Some of us are headed for further studies at the graduate level. Others will enter the professional world. Still others will begin on new and unknown ventures. Regardless of what the future holds for each of us, we leave this place forever changed from our experiences.

We have shared a rare opportunity at UTD: a chance to genuinely shape a young university through our work here. Programs such as the nanotechnology department, resources like the NSERL building, and future amenities like new housing on campus have come to fruition due to our vision and ambition as a student body. Scholarships and graduate programs once thought inaccessible to UTD students now stand as future destinations for many assembled here today. Our studies and accomplishments over the past few years have built the name of this campus into a growing force, and the things we set out to do from here only look to enhance that reputation. Just as we owe a debt to this university for the opportunities it has provided us, UTD owes this graduating class a great debt for making this campus an even better place to study and grow than we found it. Be proud of what you have accomplished.

But this has not been a singular effort. We share this moment with our friends and family, who have been—and will remain—central to our successes. The relationships that we have forged among our peers and professors at UTD are ones that we have come to treasure. All of us can attest to the importance of friendship and camaraderie, either in the lab or back at the apartment after class. We walk away from this university richer for the individuals that have come into our lives, and I want to acknowledge the faculty, staff and families who have been so integral to our journeys.

Some of us are headed for further studies at the graduate level. Others will enter the professional world. Still others will begin on new and unknown ventures. Regardless of what the future holds for each of us, we leave this place forever changed from our experiences. I ask all of us today, as we take in hand a symbol of the dreams we have worked so hard to see through, to not allow the opportunities before us to go unrealized. I ask that as we venture out into the world we not turn a blind eye to sorrow, and be mindful of those who endure suffering daily. At a time where partisanship and extremism threaten to cloud over what is truly important, we as an up and coming generation have the chance to use our power and resources for change. We must embrace that chance, and not give in to hatemongering and prejudice. We have shown as a university what the combined efforts of a global community in harmony can accomplish. Now we bring that message out into the world as part of us.

So, fellow graduates, let us bring our attention fully to the now. Let us begin our own journeys not by merely commemorating the achievements of the past, but celebrating the countless ways we will impact the world around us. This ceremony is a conformation and recognition of the new responsibility handed to each of us. We claim it with eagerness, and with pride. Congratulations, and may the abilities and drive that brought us this far continue to bring us further success in the years to come.

Jordan Youngblood graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in literary studies.

He came to UT Dallas as a McDermott Scholar, was a member of the Dean’s Honor List, an editor for A Modest Proposal, an eight-semester DJ for Radio UTD and a three-year member of Destination Imagination, during which time the group placed first in the global finals.

He was an SAT tutor for low-income students, a math tutor for sixth-grade students, a reading tutor for local elementary schools and a teaching assistant for an undergraduate honors class.

He enriched his undergraduate education by studying Mexican literature at the University of Guanajuato and took graduate theology courses at the Due Santi campus of the University of Dallas in Rome.

He accepted a full scholarship and teaching assistantship to continue his study of Southern literature in the graduate English department at the University of Mississippi.