Commencement Exercises for the Class of 2018

During Saint Anselm College's 125th commencement exercises on Sunday, May 20, commencement speaker Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap. addressed 474 members of the class of 2018, and Dr. Steven DiSalvo presided over his fifth commencement as president.

When you leave campus today, you will have turned a page on an amazing chapter in your life, and will continue to write your story in new places among new people. But I hope you remember that no matter where your journey takes you, you are always welcome here. You may be leaving the ranks of the student body, but you are now and forever entering the alumni community. 

I wish you all Godspeed in your lifelong journey. Have faith in the future. May God guide each and every one of you today and for the rest of your lives as proud graduates of Saint Anselm College.

— Dr. Steven DiSalvo

Video:Watch the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Commencement Exercises in their entirety

Photos:Class of 2018 Commencement Exercises

Speeches and Remarks

President DiSalvo, Abbot Mark, the Benedictine community, members of the Board of Trustees, Cardinal Sean O’Malley and honorary degree recipients, distinguished faculty and staff, friends, families, and my fellow classmates of the Class of 2018, good afternoon and welcome to Saint Anselm College's 125th commencement exercises.

I want to let you in on a secret.

Right here, right now, all I can think about is one thing: Doors. Do you know how many doors at this school I have held open in the past four years?

Since I came here as a naïve freshman, Saint Anselm College has taught me so many things about the world, so much about service, so much more about education and science than I ever could have imagined. The professors at this school have lifted my understanding of so many things. They have helped me clarify so many questions I had about how the world works. They have prepared me to go out into the world and begin a meaningful career. And yet, here I am at my graduation, thinking about doors.

The doors to Geisal library at 2 AM as students cram last minute information before finals. The doors to Davison hall, as we enter into the Christmas feast on the last day of classes of Fall semester. The doors to the Carr Center, being held open during Relay for Life as we band together to support people who suffer with cancer. The doors to Alumni, as we climb up four flights of stairs on our way to class.

In all honesty, this school has obliterated my understanding of what the proper distance is to hold a door for someone behind you. I estimate that, perhaps, 12% of my college career has been consumed with me either holding a door for someone, having the door held for me, seeing a door held for someone else, or in general contemplating whether or not to hold a door open for an approaching Anselmian or guest.

I’ve seen doors held open for people while they are only half-way across the quad. I’ve seen professors with no free hands, holding four coffees, a stack of papers, and book bags, holding doors open for someone 100 feet away who might not even be going into that building.

And I know every single one of us associated with this school has, at one point, engaged in one of those door holding dances, the friendly competition where two people are holding the door open for one another. The words, “go ahead”, “I insist”, or “after you” are exchanged three or four times before the dance is complete. One person may even leave the situation angered that their door was not chosen to walk through.

Why are we like this on this campus? Why, with all I have learned and experienced, is my lasting impression of this school the door holding etiquette? And what does any of this have to do with the doors that we are going through next?

On the one hand, holding doors is not unique to this campus. I mean, it’s a custom people practice all over the world. We did not invent the holding of doors. On the other hand – you know, the hand which is not holding the door? – This action is practiced with such constancy and is so engrained into our Anselmian culture, that we may even take it for granted.

But in every instance where we hold the door for another person, we are showing regard for that individual. We’re even acknowledging them as a member of our community. And we may even, in a small way, be extending the hand of the divine.

When we hold the door open for another person, we are saying more than just, “hey, I got this”. It is more than just courtesy or manners. Our simple gesture is a statement. We are saying, “Enter into our world. Allow us to welcome you properly. Join our school and community in food, in prayer, in thought, in conversation, in work, in service, and in action. Join us in change.”

So, you see, without realizing it, Saint Anselm College has been priming us to extend this simple Anselmian tradition from our own hearts to our lives beyond this campus. In this sense, our commencement today is not just the beginning of us putting into practice our knowledge, or our expertise, or our shiny new degrees, but the beginning of us holding open the door for the rest of the world.

And let’s face it: we all know our world is a world filled with many... MANY... closed doors. There are closed doors because of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia. There are doors closed to people in poverty. Doors closed to people because of mental illness. There are doors closed to people because of mental or physical disabilities. Doors are closed to immigration. There are doors closed because the apprehension to open them is far too great.

When we reflect on the past four years, it is time to reflect on the joys, the memories, and the lessons. It is also a time to remember the doors that have been graciously opened for us. Through analysis of literature, we have examined the minds of the greatest writers of the past. Social work has enlightened us on addressing significant issues in our society which are all too often overlooked, such as poverty and institutionalized oppression.

Nursing has opened the doors to practicing holistic, safe, and compassionate care, as well as training for advocacy of patients, self, and the future of health care. Science has opened the doors to understanding the mysteries of the universe, observing the farthest of stars to the nearest microscopic cells. Criminal justice has opened the doors for detailed introspection of the flaws in the prison system, along with analyses of how we can address these in order to improve societal issues that lead to crime and incarceration. Psychology has opened the doors to understanding mental health and the intricacies and development of the human brain. Peace and justice studies has opened the door to understanding how we can band together towards creating peace, cooperation, civil discourse, equality, equity, and liberation.

After all, what are the liberal arts? They are the collective in depth learning that frees people from inexperience, from unawareness, and from the chains of ignorance. The purpose of our undergraduate education has been to create a basis of understanding to build on as we work in the world. The purpose of our undergraduate education has been to open doors. To open doors to an augmented understanding of the world in which we live. And now, we must open the doors beyond the campus of Saint Anselm College.

There are so many various ways in our lives to hold the door open. Hold the door open when you disagree with another. When someone has a different view of the world than you, hold the door open for them to see your point of view. And then, allow them to hold the door open for you so that you may see their view point.

Hold open the door to yourself. What this means is not closing ourselves off in times of adversity and pain, but holding ourselves open to change and to understanding, to companionship and love, to disagreement and cooperation, to new experiences, emotions, relationships, ideas, and stories.

Hold the door open to victory, as well as failure. Hold the door open to your heart and allow people to experience the real you that you have been finding for the past 20-something years. The “you” that is going to change the world using your own unique set of skills and passions. Let us hold the door open to allowing the pain we experience to increase awareness, to speaking out in times of adversity, and to changing policy so there is less pain among us all.

But most importantly, continue holding the door open for others. Allow others to enter into your world, regardless of their differences. Allow others to better understand you, themselves, and our community through intellectually stimulating conversation, spiritual connection, and open-heart dialogue. Hold the door open for those who may not be able to open the door for themselves. Remember the blessings and accomplishments in our lives, and share the benefits with all.

We are taught to walk alongside people. We need to treat all people with human dignity. The world equally distributes talent and skill, but does not equally distribute opportunity. Meet people where they are at. Use your opportunities and awareness to open doors for others.

I ask you to think of this as you commence the beginning of your next grand adventure. We are exiting the realm of being graded upon the quality or quantity of our work, and entering the world where our most important achievements will not be measured by a letter grade, but how we exist in a community, how we make others feel, and how we add to the overall good in the world.

As we close the door on the past four years, we open the door to new experiences and challenges. There will be failures as well as successes. Remember those who held the doors open for you, remember your accomplishments and experiences because of these helping hands.

Keep these mind as you progress forward. This college has opened the doors of education and career to each of us. Do not let the world diminish your Anselmian spirit. It is now our turn to spread our Anselmian values, and hold the door open for all others.

Members of the class of twenty-eighteen: I am honored to walk through the doors of the future with you. After you... no really... I insist.