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Bachelor of Science, Finance and Economics

Good morning. My humblest thanks to President Daniel, Provost Wildenthal, Dean Blanchard, Dean Pirkul, and to all those who gave me the opportunity to speak to you all today. And for all the loved ones, professors, faculty and staff, and everyone in between who have impacted our time at UT Dallas, you all have the thanks of this good-looking crowd and this good-looking guy.

Back in fifth grade, my teacher assigned us an interesting project to test our creativity. She gave us each a paper box that could fit in our palms. We were told to take this box and, without using any other materials, tell a story. Our grades were not only based on our creativity but on our uniqueness relative to the rest of our classmates. Funny that the number of students who didn't morph the box in some way was only outnumbered by the students who, like me, unfolded it then folded it into a paper airplane. But that wasn't going to fly with my teacher. It wasn't enough to be plain, ordinary. She wanted us to think outside the box, to go beyond the obvious, to challenge ourselves.

"Do not settle. Greatness isn't born from settling. Greatness isn't at the end of a straight route."

Looking back on that, far be it from me to assume that a teacher taught a lesson that went beyond a silly class project. This was a lesson that could be applied to every opportunity we faced. As we entered college, we were each given a box and told to make a story of it, and not until we thought outside the box would we experience something to be proud of. Today is the result of that.

Some of us are the first in our families to graduate from college. This was neither easy nor ordinary, but you escaped from the box that contained your family. You didn't stay silent. You let your heart do the talking. You thought outside the box by flat out deconstructing it the way you deconstructed the preconceived notion that college wasn't for someone from your family.

Some of us at the start began as a humanities or biology or some other major, but you changed your way of thinking and stepped off the straight path and onto one that didn't seem so obvious in the beginning. Even if meant facing a greater workload or an extra semester, that didn't stop you. You thought outside the box by reshaping it into a cone, in the same way that you reshaped your degree plan. Then you put an ice cream scoop on that cone, and it tasted great.

Some of us took a semester off school, be it to serve our nation, to be with family, to work or to study abroad. In my case, I had the opportunity last summer and fall to intern at the Disney offices in Orlando, and my experience tells me that there's a whole new world outside our line of vision, waiting for our footprints. We began on the straight track and let it go in favor of a zigzagging one. We thought outside the box by twisting and turning it the way our paths twisted and turned on the way to greatness.

Some of us have colored our boxes with the various extracurriculars and experiences that our wonderful school has to offer. Others of us have a solved Rubik's cube for a box because it takes a pretty smart person to finish with the grades and honors you did. But for all of us, this is a reminder. No matter how great or bad our past, never before in our lives has control of our boxes been as strong as it is today. With this college degree and the four years give or take of education and growth, we now have opportunities that were previously unavailable. It's high time we take advantage of them.

A lot of people, during a graduation speech, will conclude with, "We did it." Well now I'm saying, "Keep doing it." Do not settle. Greatness isn't born from settling. Greatness isn't at the end of a straight route. Greatness isn't supposed to come easy. Greatness is manufactured by the amount and intensity of the branches that complicate your path.

So I don't want you to just think outside the box. I want you to take this box ... and rip it into a million bits and pieces. Then take the pieces and reconstruct them into a sphere. Spin that sphere around on your finger, dribble it between your legs and behind your back, take a buzzer-beating shot to win the NBA finals and then tell my fifth-grade teacher you thought outside the box.

Just as in my fifth-grade class, we have each been given a paper box, this time in the form of a college diploma, with instructions to write a story for the ages. And much like any story, it can go in any number of directions because a college degree doesn't just open one door. It opens many.

Today we are receiving a college degree. You cannot spell opportunity without education. Don't believe me? Think outside the box. Thank you and congratulations!

Bilal Moon graduated summa cum laude with Bachelor of Science degrees in finance and economics. He received an Academic Excellence Scholarship and has been a part of the Davidson Management Honors Program. He is currently interviewing with several Fortune 500 companies and plans to earn his MBA later down the road.