Commencement Speech: Kennedy Andersen

Welcome parents, students, staff, and faculty, I am Kennedy Andersen.

On a positive note, this may be one of the last graduation speeches you hear about a fully altered college experience due to COVID. Fall of 2019, I arrived at BCU, a place I promised my mom that I would never attend, to play a sport that I never thought I was good enough to compete in, to attain a degree that would lead me into the career I had always dreamed of. My mom attended Briar Cliff in the late 90’s. I’m not sure how she is still 29, but that is beside the point.

Nevertheless, I wanted to create something of my own, but what did I do? I came to the same university, committed to play the same sport. Quickly, I learned why my mom spoke so highly of the place I call my second home. That freshman fall was full of new people, new relationships, and new experiences. I fell in love with the game I played, and it became part of me. I developed a deep appreciation for the teachings of St. Francis and all that the founding sisters stood for.

Just in that first semester there were countless opportunities and many open doors – which leads me to my second semester of college, where the opportunities became virtual, and doors no longer remained open. COVID was something that no one expected. I remember sitting in the dome after my team returned from our spring break trip after we had beaten two ranked teams and had the best start in BCU softball’s history – ready to take on conference play. We were ready for an inspirational speech from our coaches that would lead us into a historical season, but instead we were told until further notice the season was canceled. What we had worked so hard for had been canceled.

Season canceled, classes online, saying goodbye to friends and teammates not knowing when the next time you’d see them would be. That’s some hefty stuff for a 19-year-old. Returning back in the fall of 2020, a new article of clothing was added. But on the brightside – I think many women can agree – we saved a lot of money only having to buy eye makeup.

Our sophomore year taught my class to be adaptable and that we were capable of any new thing life threw at us. Practices were different, classes were smooshed into short blocks with no downsizing of the material needed to be learned, having to wear masks to the bathroom or to shower. Those few semesters taught us we were able to tackle hard things. I saw that in my team. We made the conference tournament for the first time in almost a decade.

Junior year, we saw some normalcy – we kept persevering as a class and a university. For myself – it became apparent how much of an impact BCU had on me. Winning the Marian Pesky Champion of Character Award showed me that everything that BCU teaches had become embodied in me. To care for others, that every person and everything created by God has meaning, the importance of serving others, to respect those who differ from you and to listen to learn from those who are different from you. All of these teachings have made me a better future nurse.

My professors instilled these values into my whole class. I am inspired by Alex, Payton, Sam, Alejandra, and Emily. We can recognize that all of the patients we care for are creations of God. I have had the ability to care for those from different walks of life than me and will continue to enjoy that portion of my career for all the years to come.

Seeing how all of my professors live out these values I hold close to me has made me want to be like them and care for patients just as they do. Nursing is a challenging profession – especially with all things considered during the pandemic we all experienced. However, seeing how the nursing program never faltered from the vision of caring for others and providing all students with any experience they could showed me that even in tough times it doesn’t make your goals unreachable.

These feelings continued into my senior year. My overarching goal for my senior year was to teach these lessons to those around me. BCU has been not only been a place of learning – for many of us it has been a home and additional family. Moving forward, we cannot forget what we have learned at Briar Cliff. Not only in the classroom but what BCU has imprinted on our hearts.

There is so much goodness that comes from The Cliff and it has all to do with the people here.

My fellow peers, keep doing challenging things, you are capable. Never forget the value of yourself or anyone else. And most of all, never forget where you came from and the ability you have to make a difference in someone’s life. Imagine if we remained comfortable our freshman spring. Where do you think you’d be? Would you appreciate everything you do now?

Great things don’t come from comfort zones, but amazing people come from Briar Cliff and this class is living proof of God’s glorious creation. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of it.

Thank you.