Student Government President Farid Barquet spoke during New Student Convocation on Aug. 23 in the Gordon Field House. Below is the full text of his speech:
Thank you Dr. Johnson. Hello everyone! I am incredibly excited and honored to be here today to welcome the newest members of the RIT Tiger Family! Welcome to our first-years, to our transfer students, and to our graduate students who are all embarking on this new chapter in their lives. I have heard three of these speeches, once as a first-year student, and twice as an Orientation Leader, and I remember what it feels like to be in your shoes: the anticipation, the excitement, the anxiety, and you are wondering whether or not you are ready for what’s about to come.
All of you, believe it or not, have already learned everything you need to know. In fact, you learned this a very long time ago. You’ve been in school for 12 or 13 years, and you are about to go through four or fivr years of college, yet everything you needed to know in order to “adult” you learned when you were 5 years old. Let me explain: While I was pledging my Fraternity, I read a passage from a book by author Robert Fulghum titled “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” and the more I’ve reflected on it, the more I realized it’s true. Wisdom isn’t exclusively found at the top of the university mountain; it is right there in the sand box in the playground. Think about it, what did you learn in kindergarten? Things like: share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess (your roommate will thank me for this one), don’t take things that aren’t yours, say sorry when you hurt someone, wash your hands before you eat, flush, take a nap every afternoon (for everyone that knows me, you know that I hold this one true to my heart), and to not take things too seriously. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
So what’s the difference then between a college student and a kindergartener? Not a lot honestly, we all prefer junk food over a balanced meal, we get excited if someone brings crayons to class, and we quote Sponge Bob way too often. I want to do a quick exercise: let me ask you, by a show of hands, how many of you here can sing? Ok, how many of you can dance? How many of you can paint? How many of you play sports? Not bad, there’s quite a few hands here and there. Now if I was in a room filled with 5 year olds and I asked those same questions, do you know what I would see? Every single hand would go up. Doesn’t matter what song, what game or sport, every single student is confident they can do it. So, what went wrong between kindergarten and college?
At some point in our lives, we are conditioned to accept that not every goal is achievable and that not every dream is worth pursuing. And even the things that we do pursue, we tend to qualify with our limitations: like “I can only draw horses” or “I only sing in the shower” or “I dance, but not very well.” This happens because of the two greatest enemies that students face: failure and frustration. It’s simple, if we fail at something, we get frustrated, and we tell ourselves we are obviously not meant to do it, so we stop. But newsflash, failure is a part of everyday life, and now that you are in college, you are going to fail A LOT. But it is how you react to this failure that’s going to define your time here.
Let me tell you a little story about myself. I’ve always been an ambitious person, and from the first day that I saw the SG President wearing her orange jacket back in my freshman year, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. I made it my goal to become SG President, but things didn’t quite go the way I envisioned it. I lost every election for every position that I went for. I tried going for first year senator, and lost. I ran for Greek senator, and lost. I ran for President AND Vice President of my Fraternity, and lost. But each of these failures opened up new opportunities to get involved. It sounds cliché, but every time a door closed, a new one opened (even if I had to force it open a little). I learned that there’s more than one path that leads to the same destination. When you hit a roadblock, you don’t turn back and go home, you find an alternative route.
Failure doesn’t have to be your enemy, it can be an opportunity. If everything in life came easy, if it wasn’t a challenge, we wouldn’t grow. And that’s the whole point of coming to college, you are not just here to learn, you are here to grow, and, most importantly, you are here to live. So I’m going to give you your first challenge: imagine that you are not college students, imagine that this is your first day of kindergarten. You have a blank slate, everything you did before, every mistake, hasn’t happened, you haven’t failed at anything yet. I want you to go out and do something new, something you don’t think you are good at, or that you never saw yourself doing. Talk to someone new every day, someone who’s different from you, you might be surprised by who you meet!
I mean, think about it, you are coming to one of the most diverse universities in the country! And this is actually the most diverse class of students that RIT has ever had. You are going to meet people from all walks of life. I’ve had the most interesting history lessons given to me by a member of the knitting club. I had the most heated sports discussion with a member of the anime club. I played the most intense match of Super Smash Bros with a member of Greek Life. You might meet people who grew up in a very sheltered environment, that were never around someone different from them, and now they are surrounded by all these strange and quirky characters. On the other side of that coin, you are going to meet people that grew up very lonely, being the only different person at their school, but now they are here and they are surrounded by people just like them! Or, and any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental, you might meet the lovable foreign guy who struggles to understand your American ways. In all of these cases, take a page out of a 5-year-old’s pop-up book and approach them with no prejudices, no judgement, and keeping an open mind, and you’ll be amazed by the results.
Sure, it’s not all going to be fun and games. In your time here you are going to encounter many frustrations. But remember, in the times when you feel like you can’t keep going, and you are just too overwhelmed, you can always go back to the playground.
Welcome RIT Accepted Class of 2017, let’s make this a great year. Go Tigers!