Over the past four years, and indeed before then, Knox has been promising its students the “freedom to flourish.” It’s an inspiring tagline, but what does it mean? Is it true? And why is this so important for us students, especially graduating seniors, to know?
I argue that yes, we Knox students have the “freedom to flourish” because we are constantly being challenged and presented with tools to change the world. I’m not saying any of us is going to broker world peace or abolish poverty, but we are all given the opportunity to develop unique problem-solving skills and an empathetic perspective on the world. Armed with a true liberal arts education, we can keep an open mind and understanding heart when dealing with the conflicts presented to us.
“Freedom” is the ability to choose. Knox allows us to choose our interests, our courses and our affiliations within campus organizations. To “flourish” means to grow, to expand, to prosper, to bloom. Even as space at Knox disappears with a growing student body, our opportunities to study abroad, create independent study and immerse ourselves in “nonacademic” passions are always expanding.
By being accepted to Knox, we are slotted as potential candidates for doing great things. We have been identified as compassionate people who have the willingness to learn and aptitude to keep up with the rigorous course schedules. We are given the ability to learn in an intimate environment, create clubs of our interest, obtain leadership experience and give back to the community.
The only problem is, not everyone takes advantage of these opportunities. Students regularly miss class for “sick days” or “personal days” or “missed-my-alarm days.” Skipping even one class at Knox means missing a piece of the opportunity Knox offers.
Some of us choose to stay home and watch television or get drunk in the evenings when we could be experiencing numerous performances and presentations by Knox students and professionals from outside the community. Had I not worked for the newspaper, I may have fallen into this category.
Over the past four years, however, I have seen some amazing things. I saw a Taiko performance that blew me away. I saw the Chinese ambassador to the US. I saw John Ashcroft. I saw numerous authors read, including a then up-and-comer, Junot Diaz. I saw professor candidates presenting on history and psychology research. I saw Tuvan throat singers. I saw Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright speak at commencement. I’ve seen football, basketball and soccer games we’ve won and lost. I heard my favorite jazz band and concert choir perform countless times around Galesburg.
There are endless ways to experience Knox. As a reporter, I have interviewed for and attended several Greek philanthropy events. I have witnessed many governance meetings. I have talked to people who have done amazing research with the equipment and guidance provided by Knox College. Truly, if you want to do something special, Knox is the place to go.
But you have to be motivated. Opportunities will not just fall into your lap. If you notice a lack, instead of complaining, seek a way to fix it. Freshman Laurel Tippy did and now there’s a woman’s a cappella group. If you want to become a leader, join an organization that interests you and work your way up. It wasn’t easy scrambling every week to write articles and stay up all night on Wednesdays producing a newspaper, but I did so for nearly three years and then earned the top spot on the editorial staff.
Whereas perhaps I didn’t always turn out stellar newspapers or earn the best grades in a class, I am proud of everything I have done. I put my best effort into completing coursework and learning about the different cultures and ideas that conglomerate at Knox. Over time, I’ve grown from a shy, displaced freshman into an outgoing, pragmatic leader. This is why I feel Knox provides the “freedom to flourish.”
Fellow seniors, it is important for us to remember what we’ve learned at Knox because the same freedoms might not exist in the outside world, in our workplace, in our homes. We may not have the same opportunities we had here. But, with a little luck and the right frame of mind, we can create whatever life we want for ourselves. Knox has given us these tools.
Returning students, I recommend you take advantage of the opportunities Knox will provide you next year. You can transform this school into a meaningful environment for you, so long as you take on the responsibilities that come with such lofty goals. And make sure to put yourself in situations outside of your comfort zone. It’s how you grow.
Thank you, Knox administration, faculty and staff for providing me with the means to develop myself. I have appreciated the chance you’ve given me to explore here. My only wish is for others to continue to have the same opportunities I had. This is why I donated to the college and specified my interest in financial aid scholarships.
Finally, thank you TKS staff for making this past year amazing. We did a lot of things: switched production programs, employed alternative story form, redesigned the paper with the help of Levi and Jen, ordered racks and were named all-around general excellence at ICPA. Congratulations, again. You all earned it.
It’s been a great year, a great four years, and I look forward to seeing you all at the reunions Knox will have. That is, if I don’t see you first on a television program or within the pages of major publications discussing your brilliant research or dedicated human-services work. Being a near-graduate of Knox, I know the latter is most likely.