There are moments in our lives that we know are going to be pivotal, but at the time seem minute. One of these moments for me occurred in June 2013, as my mom and I were making our way to University Heights for freshman orientation. Driving down Shaker, admiring how beautiful the area was, and trying to find a radio station in this unfamiliar territory, the song, “Home” by Phillip Phillips suddenly filled our car. At first I mumbled along under my breath, but when I really started to listen to the lyrics I was shocked at the relevancy of them.
“settle down, it’ll all be clear/ don’t pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear / the trouble it might drag you down / if you get lost you can always be found / just know you’re not alone, cause I’m going to make this place your home.”
As we approached the front gates and the pit of nervousness in my stomach tripled in size, I thought about these words and the adventure I was about to embark on. Was this the right choice? Did I really belong here? Could I really be able to call this place my home?
Four years later and those lyrics still ring true in my head, now as a confirmation that God knew exactly what He was doing. One of the most beautiful aspects of John Carroll, prettier than a fresh, snow covered quad or a magnificent sunset sinking low behind St. Ignatius, are the people. The community that is woven within these shrub-lined walls is what makes Carroll a truly unique place. Think back over your time here. My hope for each and every one of you is that, in some way, you have found a home while at Carroll. Perhaps it was a physical space, whether it be a house on Warrensville or the basement of Campion; a place where you felt free to be yourself and live in community with others who accepted and celebrated the uniqueness of you.
Maybe your home was a fraternity or sorority; where you found a group of brothers and sisters united in letters; a community incomprehensible from the outside looking in and indescribable from the inside looking out.
Or, your home might be a club or an organization; the meetings you looked forward to every week and the work that never seemed like work because it brought you so much joy.
For some of you, your home was on the field or the court. You celebrated long awaited victories against Mount with your band of brothers and held each other up in times of crushing defeat. You wore your pride for our school on your chest, your helmet, your cleats, and carried the love of your home through every grueling practice, lifting session, and study tables.
Others found home through service. You might have made a home in Nicaragua, Honduras, Immokalee, Jamaica, Louisville, or Ecuador. Your home could be with those who lack one; the friendships you made on Friday nights spent visiting the homeless, always ending at St. Malachi’s. Perhaps your home is at the Juvenile Detention Center; on the court with the young men and women, talking, laughing, sharing life lessons and learning from one another.
Your home may be your major; your passion ignited through years of classes and homework. Whether it be the chemistry lab, the O’Malley atrium, or that hidden computer lab on the third floor of Boler than only business students seem to know about, your home is in the knowledge that you have obtained an education that will take your farther in life than you ever imagined.
Regardless of the home you have made here at Carroll, one thing remains true. You are not the individual you were when you first arrived. You have been transformed, enriched, gently pushed to your full potential. You are a man or woman for and with others. The beauty of a Jesuit education is that it is an education of the whole person; body, mind, and spirit. It is an education grounded in the ideal that we are of love, from love, and for love. A Jesuit education teaches so much more than just lessons in the classroom. It is the cura personalis; the recognition of the unique gifts and abilities each individual carries within them and the celebration of the differences that bring us together. A John Carroll education is more than just tests and quizzes. It is learning through service; it is a faith that does justice; it is a commitment to the betterment of society through the talents given to us by God. As you have developed your home at John Carroll, you have developed into the person you were called to be.
The success of any home lies in its foundation. Without a strong one, a home would crumble under pressure. The foundation laid at John Carroll is what has brought us here today. Beginning with St. Ignatius himself, each layer has been impacted by the members of the John Carroll community. Commencement is a time to thank and honor those who took part in building our foundation – our parents, professors, coaches, mentors, and friends. It is also a time to recognize the important distinction that, as members of the John Carroll community, the impact we have on the world around us adds to the foundation for future Blue Streaks.
Today, however, we have to leave these homes. We have said our goodbyes. We have packed up our rooms and turned in our keys. We have taken the time to walk around the quad just once more, to sit in St. Francis a little longer, and to soak in those last few rays of sun from our favorite Adirondack chair. John Carroll has given us all it could offer; lifelong lessons, the best of friends, a deeper understanding of our place in the world and the power to make positive change where ever we go.
When we leave John Carroll today, we are not actually leaving home. I’m sure most of you have heard the phrase “home is where the heart is.” A piece of our hearts will always be at Carroll, with our homes. We will proudly declare, “Go Streaks!” when we spy someone with JCU apparel on, and our hearts will skip a beat as our Reunion Weekend approaches. When you arrived at John Carroll for the first time, whether it was through the Belvoir Lot or the front gates, you entered into a community that will hold onto you forever, just as you hold onto the memories made here and the lessons learned. The foundation of your home will always be at John Carroll University and no matter where you end up in life or the person you become, we will always be Forever Carroll.
Congratulations Class of 2017 – let us go forth and set the world on fire.