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Kalyani Hemant Phansalkar's Commencement remarks

  • Student speaker
    Student speaker  Kalyani Hemant Phansalkar '11 served as the student commencement speaker at the Commencement ceremony on May 15.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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The following are the prepared remarks by Kalyani Hemant Phansalkar, student speaker at the 2011 William & Mary Commencement ceremony. - Ed.

One night, a couple of weeks ago, I was trying to do an online reading for my seminar. So I buckled down, switched on my laptop – and went to Facebook. After some intense stalking, I realized that I need to catch up on new Youtube videos. So as I moved from one site to another, as far away as I could from Blackboard, I stumbled upon something quite intriguing. It was a quote – said by the very wise, very inspiring, very humble – Mr. Donald Trump. He said – “EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS LUCK.”

For a moment I was taken aback because it seemed strangely disheartening to me. Throughout our entire lives, we are taught that as long as we work hard and stay committed, success is bound to appear at our doorstep. But somehow, this elusive concept of luck never seems to quite leave us fully at peace. There is always something undefined, inexplicable, and uncertain about it – something that, as we stand at the thresholds of our futures, seems especially frightening. After churning this idea in my mind for days to come – I realized one thing.

I realized that there are two kinds of luck. The first one is like winning a lottery or finding your special someone at the Green Leafe on a Thursday night. It’s when something just falls into your lap without you having to lift a finger. The second is rather difficult to explain. It’s the kind of luck where, after you’ve done everything you possibly can, you just happen to hear, see, and feel the right things at the right time – at moments when you least expect it.

Throughout our careers at the College of William and Mary, we are encouraged, and perhaps even expected, to pick up a passion and simply run with it. We have switched our majors, added minors, studied abroad, withdrawn from courses; we have joined clubs, teams, organizations that hold special meaning to us while adding our own special tinge to them. From our first few days during Orientation to these last few weeks before Graduation, we have stretched ourselves thin. We have taken up service initiatives near and abroad, spoken about diversity issues, auditioned for shows, woken up for early morning weights, rushed for Greek Life, attended conferences, and signed up for just about everything that seemed even remotely interesting at the Activities Fair. As graduate and undergraduate students, we have used the opportunities at the College to separate what we like from what we don’t. But many times, I have found myself walking across these cobblestoned paths wondering what it is that I absolutely love.

And so, I must agree with Mr. Trump’s quote: everything in life is luck. It is harder than it seems to find your passion – your drive. Some are lucky enough to know it when they see it. But for many of us, it takes years of trial and error – a lot of “figuring out” – to know what will keep us moving and growing. And though we might not yet know what that something is, our experiences at the College have taught us how to search – whether it’s flipping through the Course Catalog for that perfect class or through piles of books for that perfect thesis. The people we have met and the time we have spent with each other has allowed us how to be inspired – perhaps by a friend whose heart lies in music, by a professor who cares so deeply about her research, or even by a simple conversation on the side of the Sunken Gardens about love, life, and faith. Wherever our passion may lie, these years have shown us that we have the capacity to find it.

So all I can hope is that, on the brink of a significant milestone in our life, we keep our minds, our eyes, and arms wide open – because who knows what our luck will bring when we least expect it. Throughout my childhood, especially when I was in India, my father always said, “Kalyani – your job is to make the jar. Don’t worry about whether or not it will be filled, who is going to fill it, or how long it will take. Just do your part so that you’ll be ready when life comes unannounced and fills it to the brim.” And his words give me faith to know that wherever our dreams may lie, our meandering paths will bring about lucky strokes of brilliance to find them. And though I hope we all win raffles for a new car or a new TV, I am, perhaps, a little more interested in being lucky enough to uncover all that I will love and cherish for the rest of my life. Because the truth is – that those who find happiness in their work are the ones who are truly lucky. And so, to the graduates of the Class of 2011, I wish you the very best of luck.