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2014 Baccalaureate Speeches

Alex Mesoras ’14

I want to thank my close friend Mike Meyers for asking me to audition to speak here today.  Originally I had no intention on speaking, but after Mike shared the theme of from Old West to the World, something resonated within me.  I will begin by breaking a taboo and quoting myself from four years ago.

In June of 2010, I spoke to my graduating class at North Allegheny High School.  I mentioned that we were at a juncture of our lives where we are often wished success in life, a point not dissimilar to today as we anticipate our commencement ceremony.  I then posed the question, “How do you define and measure success?”  My conclusion was that success should be measured in happiness, because for what better reason to live is there than to be happy?  I qualified this statement by asserting that happiness, or utility as I’ve come to refer to it in my economics courses, is not created or measured in dollars.  However, it is measured by selflessness, appreciation, and perseverance.

My first charge was to live selflessly.  This applies to giving back to your community through service as well as acting with consideration for others throughout your daily routine.  Helping others, and making them smile, brings an even greater amount of satisfaction into your own life.

Second, appreciate everything.  Thinking about all of the fortunes you do have as opposed those that you don’t will provide for a greater appreciation for everything from experiences, to surroundings, to possessions, and most importantly, to people.  Let your family and friends know how much you love them every single day – you and they will both be much happier for it.

Third, always persevere.  Life will bring disappointment.  I know I have faced it in my short 22 years, even recently.  Sometimes, these moments happen suddenly and without warning.  But it is how we stay strong through that disappointment and persevere to a better day that allows us to be truly successful.

After my time at Dickinson, these measurements of happiness have even more significance and meaning today.  I believe that living selflessly means having consideration for others above your self.  Make the decision that happiness for others is more important than your own convenience.  I hope to take this direction out into the real world as I seek to be a more responsible member of my family and a more committed friend to those closest to me.  Somebody who remembers the birthdays, sends the thank you notes, and makes time for everyone - even when the hours become most constrained.

Throughout college, I’ve learned that appreciating everything applies not only to the things that mean the most to you, but even the things we are not as fond of.  For example, I recognize there is a range of opinions on the caf.  Like it or not, we can find ways to appreciate it and to even use our abilities to make it better.  Just ask Chris Hansell about the caf’s menu off the menu – a selection derived from creativity and ingenuity that combines the choices present in order to cook up an even better cuisine.  You probably didn’t know that we’ve had breakfast burritos and snack wraps our entire time here.  Find ways to appreciate everything, and equally important, show that appreciation.  

Finally, perseverance is a tenet that we all learn in college.  At Dickinson, this has come to me in many different forms: surviving Steve Erfle’s managerial decision-making course, trudging through a punishing morning hangover, and teaching myself how to golf.  The latter of which resulted in six broken irons and a new item on my Christmas list.  I say that in jest.  Yet, golf provides a great analogy for perseverance.  The frustration that mounts from a failed chip attempt that just rolls all the way across the green can make one understand why Happy Gilmore cursed so much.  But it takes many of those rollers to be able to confidently chip onto the green – a feeling much worth the perseverance.  This philosophy applies to life; however, life’s toughest moments cannot be reduced to a missed chip shot.  

So now that I have had four years to reflect on my original message and its meaning today, I am fortunate to speak again because I feel as if I have something to add.  As we move from Old West to the World, I think a strong indicator of our success is that we leave behind a legacy.  Proof that we were here when we leave this world – that we were relevant and left an impact of others.  I have thought about the meaning of a legacy significantly over the past few months, and I think that a legacy boils down to two components: the tangible and the intangible.

You don’t have to be Mother Theresa, Donald Trump, or the President of the United States to leave a tangible legacy, however, we all should strive to be able to point to something and say, “I did that.”  Having conviction in what you do will lead you to that tangible legacy – that can be as simple as taking pride in your day-to-day work or as complicated as abandoning your current path and redefining a new one that brings you more purpose and conviction.  Maximum utility will result from the success you achieve in leaving a tangible legacy.

More important than a tangible legacy is leaving an intangible legacy.  An intangible legacy reflects the impact we have on others at a personal level.  It can be the smile you give a stranger as you hold the door for them, which reminds them to do the same for another.  Or, on a deeper level, it can be the way you treat your closest relationships with kindness, care, consideration, and loyalty that instills those qualities and more in the people that mean the most to you.  As we leave Dickinson, you may not remember Porter’s 5 elements of strategy, the biosynthesis of toxic secondary metabolites, or the parametrized dynamics of meromorphic functions, but you will always remember and feel the impact from the people who treated you the most thoughtfully.

And while I stand here speaking toward the Dickinson Class of 2014, it’s not just to you all that I speak, but to the people that left the greatest intangible legacy to me that I could ever ask for – to my mother and father.  I love you and thank you for leaving me as your legacy – you have instilled in me traits that have guided me up and down the steps of Old West and will undoubtedly continue to guide me through the rest of the world.