Self Proclaimed Graduation Speech

Hello everyone. I am an architecture student. We are soon to be architecture graduates. Proud to have succeeded in one of the most rigorous academic programs in any undergraduate school anywhere. We are soon to become architects. How did we get here though? And where do we go from here? The two most cliche big questions, and yet quite obviously the ones I should at least try to answer.

I dare say we got here in a bubble, and we are about to enter a bigger bubble. We have been at this school, not even that though, we have been in this building for five years, and we are about to enter the world for the rest of our lives. I think I just made another cliche statement, but to us it means something, because we, our charge is to work in space. We have spent 12 years sheltered and shaped at this school and now. . . The world is our pallet. Nothing short of that. We work with spaces, and out there is plenty of space. Maybe in our lifetimes our pallet increases beyond our gravitational boarders even.

We need to think about this though. The world is our pallet, what are we going to do with it? We may have gone to school for architecture, but I can assure all of you, we are not the only ones with opinions about this great canvas we have to work with. Ask my mom, she likes the town next to mine, where every commercial building must be colonial. Ask my friends, who are concerned about how much driving we all do. Ask you grandparents who really don't want to go to a nursing home, and I don't blame them. Ask the mayors who don't know how to handle the homeless. Ask the terrorists, they have an opinion too.

We have, so far, only occasionally chosen to ask any of these people anything, but I'm sure each of us have become increasingly aware of these "opinions" every time we say "I'm in architecture school." Every time I say "I'm going to be an architect," I get two comments. The first we all know and laugh at, and I'm sure many of us have stopped trying to explain that we are probably not going to be rich. There is the second comment though, it's not characterized exactly, but always the same sort of thing: the inevitable suggestion, opinion, or comment. Things like, "Well I bet you're never gonna build a sky scraper now." or "What do you think of that ugly new building on main street?" We have a tendency, at least I do, to want to dismiss this stuff saying, "I have an education in architecture, and you can't possible see things the way I do." I can't continue doing that though. We definitely cannot continue doing that. We are about to enter that society where everyone has an opinion, and everyone is a potential client. What are we gonna do then?

We're not going to go around dismissing what everyone says. Some of us will swallow our pride, others will try to convince them to see things our way, others of us will just keep on walking till someone says what we want to here. These people, everyone, their comments and their idea will be our world whether we like it or not. And its time we stop sniffling about it.

What I'm trying to say here is this. We can, if we so chose, dive into the fray. The built environment, you could say, is a hot topic but even THAT would be a huge understatement. It deals with identity of communities, it deals with personal pride, national identity. Cities, and this is no news to us, have created a new kind of living environment that we still don't fully understand, love, or hate. There is so much to be learned about how we box ourselves in. And basically, that's what we do, and when said that way, "we box ourselves in," It makes me want to do it right. And "doing it right," is not a known thing, it's more of a question. What is the right way to build boxes for ourselves? Some people say "not a box." If they are right, then we have a hundred years of boxes to correct. That's just one example.

Dive into the fray though. We need to. We need to better understand why we don't communicate so well with the rest of the world. It's not something to be shrugged off. We need to start making changes. If we believe codes suck, then dammit we need to quit saying "codes suck" to our peers when we go out for coffee, and we need to walk into city hall and say, "codes suck, and hers why!" We have an education. That does not make us separate from the rest of the world, it makes us responsible. If people do not understand us we need to teach them. Some of us will teach our clients one by one. Some of us will choose not to teach at all. I for one, intend to teach the people who make the rules, and I don't want to be alone. We can all do little things in this respect. There are planning boards, and we should all try to be on one. There are redevelopment committees, and we should know what they are up to. There are conferences on codes across the country, and we should go to them.

If this sounds boring, or way out of line for an architect, fine. If you don't want to get involved, fine. You've just never been into politics, fine. If you are saying these things and not listening to me then you're missing the point. Listen to me now. We will build things. We will effect communities with the buildings we design. We will make enemies and friends. We will have to defend ourselves sometimes. We will have to back off and just make people happy sometimes. If that is not politics, if that is not being involved then I don't know what is. We are about to embark on a new great journey. When we graduate today we will be stepping for the first time on our rightful canvas, this world. Its our canvas, but we're not the only ones holding the brush. When its done we won't be hanging our paintings in the living room, we will be putting them on a billboard on the freeway. That's all I have to say. I guess I ended with a funny metaphor. Our work has only just begun.

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