Members of the Board of Trustees, President Keck, faculty and staff and class of 2022. As mentioned before my name is Erik Jan Ingenluijff and I am incredibly honored and humbled to address you today. First, I would like to thank my parents and my parents’ parents for handing down love like a family heirloom, it has truly made all the difference in my life.
Gracias mama, por los sacrificios que siempre has hecho por tus dos hijos, bedankt papa voor de eindeloze kennis en liefde. I truly owe everything I have become today to you two.
I know the path to graduation was not easy. Graduating today with my master’s degree in business, I have become very good at analyzing risk and probabilities. Not only risk in business and investments, but I have found myself analyzing risk all the time. For example, what is the probability that my mom is zoning out during my speech right now? Zero percent. On the other hand, my dads around twenty percent... he’s probably thinking about lunch.
Today I want to talk about the risk that I believe haunts us all the most. The risk that we are not living up to our greatest potential in life. I would be lying if I told you that coming to Briar Cliff in 2015 as a 17 year old, I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish in life. I knew I wanted to play golf at a collegiate level and get a liberal arts education. Rather said I knew what I wanted to do, but I was completely overlooking the most important question: who I wanted to be. See class of 2022, I did not realize who I wanted to become was the most crucial question we can ask ourselves.
I never understood how people my age (back then) knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives, I was only 17 years old with not a lot figured out, because I was an indecisive boy. I took long to decide what to get from the menu when ordering at restaurants. I didn't know what to wear every day, because I simply was not a certain person. I used to sit frantically at 17 when people asked me: “Hey Erik, what are you doing with your life?” to which I would answer something along the lines of “I don’t know.” I was so reluctant to take risks or set my next foot forward because so many small variables in my life already took up great deliberation and time.
One of my favorite professors at Briar Cliff, Dr. Dale DeJong, helped me with this. I had just turned 21, and things in my life started to take more shape. He told me to never rush into anything, and to wait for the proper time for the right doors to open. He always used to say when we rush major decisions, be it in life or in business, the quality of our work and judgement diminishes. “Measure twice, cut once.” To which I said... “Sure.”
So, I waited.
And then as I was doubting his words of wisdom, the opportunity came. This wisdom didn’t become clear to me until I set foot in Tanzania in 2019. I was given the opportunity as vice president of Enactus at the time to re-vitalize our micro loan project “Zidisha”. Zidisha helps single mothers in the small town of Mbugni start their own entrepreneurial ventures to rise above the poverty line and bring hope to their community.
In Tanzania things started to become extraordinarily clear to me. In that moment I knew there was no other place in the world that I was supposed to be. It was one of those "aha" moments we all have had in our time here at Briar Cliff, like the first time discovering Chegg, or the La Jua's burrito or sledding down Noonan hill.
I was re-grounded, in my sense of purpose, in a world with real and urgent problems. I was reminded of why I had even come to pursue a higher education at Briar Cliff, and maybe why it's worth for any of us servant leaders to be here at the Cliff. See, Briar Cliff offers an incredible opportunity to work on ourselves. Some of the most knowledgeable professors with incredible experience and patience to teach us and pass down their hard-earned knowledge, test us every day and challenge us to exceed expectations and push the boundaries of our academic and personal curiosity. But amid all the sleepless nights studying for corporate finance, or the opportunities to travel around the world through Briar Cliff, one thing became clear as day: Self-betterment isn't solely for our own enrichment but rather, so we have more abilities to serve. Our Franciscan values give us an edge, because the more we give the more we grow, or as St. Francis said, “For it is in giving that we receive.”
My wish for us today is not only seeking prosperity, but adversity; not comfort, but sacrifice; not an easy life, but a purposeful one. Because the world needs you to act now, because some day our grandchildren will want to live on a planet that is not falling apart, and now because there are millions of children coming behind us who someday will want to join a workforce that is fair and full of opportunity, despite their gender and despite the color of their skin and despite how much money their parents have. And after seven years, four years, or two years, if not a lifetime of extraordinary growth and opportunity, the world deserves your hard work and not just your prosperity. So, work hard class of 2022 because we've got hard work to do.
Finally, I want to congratulate all of you, for your growth here at BCU. And ask that we celebrate hard tonight, because tomorrow we go to work.