Joshua Hammack Valedictory Address

by Joshua Hammack

Your Eminence, Father Jenkins, distinguished faculty and guests, family, friends, and fellow graduates:This is an incredibly humbling moment, because I know I didnt do this alone.Before I get ahead of myself, Id like to take some time to thank all the people who were so instrumental in making this day a reality.On behalf of all the graduates, Id like to thank all of our parents and families, all of the people who have sacrificed, supported, and cheered us on, not only for the last four years, but for our entire lives.Id also like to thank all the wonderful people who make Notre Dame unique: our rectors and priests, all of the professors who have continuously encouraged us to think beyond the classroom, the administrators for the great work they do, and the staff and support that keep our grounds and dorms beautiful and our dining halls full.Finally, I want to express how incredibly grateful I am to have attended this University, where spirituality and prayer are such an important part of our education, and where people are always willing to pause from their busy lives to help a friend.Whether it was lighting a candle at the Grotto, an evening service in the dorm, or mass in the Basilica, we have always come together as a community to give thanks for our blessings and ask God for assistance in times of need.

Allow me to move on to a story that began four years ago and happens to coincide with our arrival here on campus.A close friend of mine goes to the University of Hawaii and, back in August of 2004, we both arrived at our respective schools.That first day, Notre Dame was beautiful and sunny; barely even a cloud in the sky.In fact, it was two degrees warmer here than it was in Hawaii…Yeah, that was a cruel trick!You see, in December of that same year, as she swam with dolphins in 80 degree weather, I left my 12 by 15 dorm room to trek to DeBartolo through eight inches of snow, in subzero temperatures, not having seen the sun for what seemed like months.And at that moment, as the 20 mile an hour wind cut through my winter jacket, I wondered for the first time if perhaps I was crazy.You know, the kind of crazy that seems to have inspired previous generations to walk through snow to school barefoot, uphill, both ways.But as I looked around, I was comforted by the fact that I was far from alone.Hundreds of other students seemed just as crazy as I wasbundled in multiple layers of coats and scarves, making that very same trek.Shortly thereafter, I realized we are all crazy, and maybe crazy isnt such a bad thing.Thats right, I believe Notre Dame has made us crazy.In fact, its kind of hard to argue against when you think about it.Students who agree to four years of those treacherous winters, who trade sleep for club involvement and service trips, who actually believe they can make a difference in places like Bangladesh and Darfur…it sure seems crazy.And just look at the football games: student push-ups after every touchdown, perfectly synchronized cheers, standing for four hours straight…Its all crazy!No one can deny it.But our craziness is much deeper than all of that.

When you get right down to it, Notre Dame has made us crazy because it has made us believe.Its encouraged us to see potential where no one else believes any exists.Its fostered this incredible notion that we are actually capable of changing things and, thus, it has compelled us to action. You see, only the perfectly sane are ever willing to admit theyre crazy and embrace the freedom it provides.But its always the ones who are crazy enough to believe they can actually change the world, who do.So, being called crazy is quite a compliment, because God didnt put us here to be ordinary anyway.And when you really think about it, its the people who were called crazy and the events once called impossible that have had some of the biggest impacts on our lives.Just imagine coming to America to found a university with only three hundred dollars in your pocket.Many would call that crazy, and many would argue that founding a long-lasting institution with so little is impossible, but Father Sorin would disagree.And, through this University, he continues to change the world today, not only in those who attend Notre Dame, but also in all the people we touch.You see, only when youre willing to dare the so-calledimpossiblecan you achieve the incredible.And for those precious few who are courageous enough to take the risk,crazyhas an odd tendency of turning intobrilliant.So, embrace the label; its nothing more than a precursor to greatness.

Speaking of the impossible, I believe that word takes unfair blame for peoples unwillingness to try.It seems like whenever you have an audacious goal, someone wants to focus on its impracticality.And its easy to give up on something you know will be difficult, something perhaps no one else even believes can happen, but those are exactly the goals worth fighting for.So from now on, if people arent telling you its impossible, you havent set your goals high enough.Nothing truly great has ever been achieved with unanimous support.To change things, to really make a difference, you must be willing to be opposed, to be called crazy, to be told its impossible, because its how you respond in those moments that will define you.Others will always be quick to tell you what you cant do, but you should never be content doing the things everyone knows you can do.Now, you must dare to do the things no one believes you can do.And let every person, every voice who tells youyou cantpropel you to prove that you can.

Because seeing a change that needs to occur is only the beginning.Having a dream is a good start, but its not enough.Its the effort and the action, the willingness to work through trials and failure, and the dedication to doing things the right way that allow us to really make a difference.To borrow from former Canadian Senator, Douglas Everett, people can essentially be divided into three categories: there are some who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those precious, crazy few who turn one into the other.But the thing that sets those people apart is the willingness to dare, the willingness not just to dream, but to take a chance, too.Ive come to realize that the only way to be truly happy is to risk losing everything for what you believe.If you can find the thing thats worth taking that risk, theres no question as to whether or not youll be successful.Because its trying when you know you can lose, when you know you can really fail, that sets you apart.And, in truth, failure should never be a deterrent.We are all doomed to fail at some point in our lives.Thats just part of being human.Its how you react to failure that will ultimately determine how far you go.If you can move from one failure to the next without losing faith, without losing hope, and without losing your passion, success will be the only thing left.Because experience is little more than a great collection of mistakes from which you have learned what not to do and, thus, have derived some pattern for what should be done.And the simplest formula for success is persistence and perseverance.It is the culmination of several failures and many sleepless nights, and its the absolute refusal to stop when others have already walked away.

But the really great thing about Notre Dame is that, while it certainly has taught us a lot and changed us greatly, it has avoided molding us.We dont come off of some Notre Dame assembly line ready for the world.Rather, we leave with our individuality intact, prizing the things that make us unique, each crazy in our own way.We havent been told what to think, and no answers have ever been handed to us; instead, we have been shown how to think, and weve learned how to search for answers.And thats precisely what we are called to do as we move forward.We have all been exposed to the many collective problems that plague our world today.But Notre Dame has also shown us that recognizing those problems isnt enough.We must become part of the solution by stepping forward and working for change, by being willing to share the gifts weve been given.And thats what sets us apart as a community and as a University, because its one thing to get what you want, but its quite another to give what you have.

We each have the rare ability to say weve graduated from Notre Dame.Its an honor just to be accepted, just to be among the few who ever get the opportunity to walk this campus as students.Its no more than a dream to so many people, but weve actually lived it.And, because of this accomplishment, weve been blessed with a great burden.Wonderful things will be expected of us simply because of our association with this great University.But we cant be content with mere expectations.We cant be satisfied defining ourselves in terms of what others think.We are here precisely because were crazy enough to continuously ask more of ourselves.Weve demanded more than anyone else has even imagined.Now, its time to be daring.Its time to spark the changes that today seem impossible, time to make the world see that, at Notre Dame, with God as your guide and the Blessed Mother at your side, all things are possible.

Before I close, I want to thank one last group of people: everyone who ever told me that a moment like this was impossible, every person who said I was crazy for dreaming I could even come here.Without those people, I may have never seen just how possible it really was.Listen, these next few steps may be shaky ones for each of us, but just remember that youll always have the support of your family.And now we graduate into an extensive family, one which literally spans the globethe Notre Dame family.Its our responsibility to uphold that rich tradition, while taking on new challenges and embracing every opportunity, always remaining just crazy enough to change the world.Thank you

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