UW Honors Graduation Address

by Alex King, class of 2010

Alex King addresses the Honors graduating class of 2010 at the Celebration of Distinction
Alex King addresses the graduating Honors class of 2010. Photo: Charmi Ajmera.

Fellow graduates, I'm honored to be here before you today. And your guests, your family and friends, the people who helped you get here to celebrate this moment. I want to spend the next few minutes talking about my time here at the University of Washington Honors Program.

Time is a fundamental measurement system that is used to track the relationship between one event to another, whether in the past, present, or future. It's an attempt to turn chaos into order. Time is what keeps everything from happening at once. It's absolutely critical in our daily life and is used to define a number of other systems that we rely on. Time does not exist in nature. It is something that we have created. Time is a human concept that we have imposed upon ourselves. It is a line of separation between divinity and humanity. We are bound by the number of years in our lives, the number of days in a year, and the 24 hours in a day.

We've spent the last few years here at the University of Washington. Learning, thinking, asking questions. We've all taken on a deeper course of study in our fields through honors. These years have been inescapable in our development and will leave a lasting mark. As this story comes to a close and we embark on another journey, take some time to think about the defining moments that made you who you are today.

I'd like to share a few of the times that stand out in my mind with you.

I remember the first time that I visited the University. I was in awe of the campus. The smell of the sweet cherry blossoms while walking through the quad on a sunny day, or seeing the outline of Mt. Rainer while feeling a mist on your skin when standing by the fountain, or passing by one monumental building after another. Before I even started taking classes, I could see that this was an amazing University.

It's incredible just how much can happen in these three or four or five years. And it's hard to believe just how fast these years have gone by. I can still picture the day my parents dropped me off. I was surprised at just how much stuff three people could fit into a triple room. I remember that my mom cried when she left.

So much has happened between that first day and now. The past few years have been filled with good times, as well as challenging ones. Finding a major, changing majors, getting involved on campus, doing research, studying abroad, volunteering in the community. The list goes on and on and on. These kinds of experiences have shaped us and helped us to figure out what we like, what we don't like, and to define what we want to do in the future.

My freshman year was a challenging time for me. I was unsure of myself and whether or not UW was really the best fit for me. Coming into the UW, I was not admitted to the Honors Program. And later that year, I was rejected several times when I applied to my intended major. I really struggled with these two events to the point where I almost transferred to Gonzaga. But before I did, I realized something very important. As Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch put it in his Last Lecture, the brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people.

For me, the pieces didn't all fall into place right away. As you can probably tell, I did eventually get into Honors as a late admit. And while I never did get into the computer science program, I found Informatics. A major in the same field that I'd never heard of before I came here. But at the same time, a major that I'm now convinced is a better fit for me. When you fall off the horse, you can't be afraid to get back on a few times. Everything will work out.

Right now we are here, at the other end of the tunnel - the day that felt so far away four years ago. A lot of things have changed. Campus doesn't seem as big as it did freshman year. I don't get lost anymore.

These past few months have been a rollercoaster. Whether searching for jobs or applying to grad school. We've all been busy and trying to figure out what comes next as this moment keeps getting closer and closer. And at the same time managing classes and finishing senior theses and capstone projects. Some of us already have jobs lined up, some of us will be in school for a few more years, and some of us are still in the process of finalizing our plans for next year.

This past week has not quite sunk in yet. It does not feel real that we have finished our undergraduate education at the University of Washington. The Honors Program has meant something different to each and every one of us. We've all had the opportunity to make the program our own. But what has been common to all of us is the sense of energy and passion that we all carry.

Whether through Departmental Honors or College Honors, we've all taken intellectual risks. And we've all supported each other through this process. I've seen the people in this room accomplish a variety of amazing things over the past few years. Whether designing and prototyping a surgical tool to increase efficiency during arthroscopic shoulder surgery or surveying Garry Oak trees in the San Juan Islands to understand why their numbers have severely declined and what can be done to preserve the species .

Or helping others to reach their goals... whether that means creating a seminar designed to pass on knowledge that you learned through your experience as a pre-med student to freshmen in the hopes that those resources will help them to be a more successful candidate. Or waking up voluntarily at 6am to cook pancakes for freshmen, who've been waiting in line outside the Honors Office for an add code since 3 in the morning.

We've done a lot in the limited time we've had here at UW. At the end of the day, there are only 24 hours. You must choose how you will spend that time. The things you set out to do won't always be easy. They won't always be fun. You might hit a brick wall or two. But I really think that in these kinds of frustrating moments, we discover who we are and we grow.

We've done a lot of growing during our time here, congratulations Class of 2010!

Alex King
B.S. in Informatics with College Honors
Class of 2010