2007 Class Speaker

Becoming a Responsible Citizen
Amy K. L. Thompson '07

Congratulations fellow classmates, families and friends! I am honored to be able to celebrate such an achievement with you all. For the past four years, we have been studying for exams, staying up all night writing papers, preparing numerous presentations, working in and out of groups and it has all lead to this point. Today, we graduate. Our classroom and social time at the University of Puget Sound is complete. We walk out of Baker Stadium and transition from being Puget Sound students to becoming active members of society.

This is a significant transition. Although it seems as if we have just learned how to cook healthy meals, efficiently do our laundry and master $4.00 pitchers on Thursday’s; we must now learn to act as responsible citizens.

In doing so, we must realize that attaining a degree from Puget Sound is a privilege. As privileged members of society, we must accept and embrace certain responsibilities to our democracy, the environment, and to ourselves. By fulfilling these obligations, we as well as society can achieve the maximum benefit from our education.

Having a liberal arts degree is advantageous in the community because the education we’ve received is not purely physics, music, or international affairs. Instead, we graduate with comprehensive intellectual backgrounds gained from both our major and core requirements and are equipped to confront the complex issues of society.

Because the university has provided us the opportunity for self-motivated learning, working in groups, and thinking critically, it is our responsibility to use those tools and be leaders in society.

Show political leadership within your community by reading the local and national newspaper and voting in both local and national elections. If everyone participates on a daily basis, together we will be well-informed. A knowledgeable public is necessary for our democratic government to function properly.

Being responsible in society also includes fulfilling our obligations to the environment. Continue to ride your bike or walk, continue to use your nalgene instead of disposable water bottles, put the old exams in the recycle bin, and do as Arlene says “return your dishes to the sub.” The university has taught us much about sustainability on campus, now apply those skills to your daily life. Furthermore, pay attention to legislation involving the environment. Promote public transportation efforts and vote for increased pollution regulations. Do what you can on a community and personal level to minimize the production of wastes. Be a leader to future generations for global warming awareness and activism.

As we leave today, we must also be prepared to face the upcoming financial transitions we will encounter. Get ready to embrace the years of your life where you are financially independent and contribute positively to the GDP of our nation. As a taxpayer, I encourage you to never blindly pay your taxes. Think about how the money is being spent. Learn about major government programs like social security and Medicare/Medicaid they are important in our lives now and will be important in coming years. Furthermore, fiscal responsibility needs to be established in our nation, and we could be the generation that does it. It is our responsibility to save, to avoid ambiguous and often misleading credit institutions, and to demonstrate to ourselves and other members of society that we are financially capable.—we will pay back our loans. By doing this, we will show that education is still a reliable, worthy investment.

In addition to community action and monetary concerns, we must also be accountable for encouraging diversity. At the University of Puget Sound acceptance of differences is a key theme to everyone’s social education. We have been exposed to organizations working towards acceptance of diversity in faith, sexual preference, lifestyles, political stance, background, ethnicity and race. Use this exposure and lead-by-example in your community. Show through your actions that intolerance is not acceptable.

The first, and perhaps easiest way we can be responsible to society, however, is to display an appreciation for ourselves. Eat well, exercise, don’t smoke and floss. Suggestions we’ve heard over and over throughout our education. Practice these. Show your community what leading a healthy, constructive lifestyle means. Express gratitude to loved ones by being as healthy as you can control, for their sake.

Finally, communicate.

The University of Puget Sound emphasized the importance of our ability to absorb information, think critically about it, and then to discuss and share our thoughts and findings. It is important to employ these skills in the real world.

Continue to listen, read, watch and as always, learn. Become educated about poverty or global warming and enlighten your spouse, children, coworkers, hairstylist, or barista. Talk about the upcoming elections, the pros and cons of the democratic and republican parties. Talk about how to do our taxes, education, pollution controls, health care. There are many forums for discussion—I urge you to participate in them.

As a Puget Sound graduates, we have certain obligations. We must take responsibility for our democracy, the environment, and ourselves. Furthermore, we must communicate about these issues, be informed and active citizens.

Although we have spent the past four years learning, society still has much more to teach us. Embrace your society and the knowledge you have yet to gain. Today we graduate. I encourage you to use the tools you’ve gathered at the University of Puget Sound to become a responsible citizen.