Welcome, Class of 2020! Address by Zach Stafford, SGA President

Welcome, Class of 2020! Wow. Are you excited? You should be! Are you nervous? It’s okay, you should be. You’re the future. This is your first step into the beginning of your lives and the first step for the future of this wonderful college.

Let me first introduce myself.  My name is Zachary Stafford. I am the current Student Government Association President. I am from the cornfields in Belleville, Illinois.

I would like to begin with a story from my time in those seats three short years ago. I wanted my move in to be as smooth as possible. I was going to start adulating that day. I wanted to get there about 10, unpack, set up the perfect man cave bedroom. It was going to be amazing. It was until I woke up at 11. I overslept and apparently my entire family did too. And I hadn’t even started my 2-hour drive toward school.

I woke up, got dressed, woke up my family, and we got on the road. We arrived and unlike your welcome this morning, mine was nowhere to be found. Because the move in period had been over for some time now. I had to move and unpack everything with my family and a couple of helpful bystanders. I quickly got unpacked, dressed into my Sunday best, and made my way to the columns, with a half untucked shirt, a belt missing some loops, and a poorly tied tie.

Trust me, this train wreck isn’t over. As I left the seats as you’re about to do and greeted this amazing community, I had figured out that I lost my wallet with basically my entire life in it and my dorm key.

So when thinking of what I could I say to you, about the future today, I would say this: no matter what you’re feeling, how you’re feeling it, what you’re thinking may come and at this moment, it’s okay.  Honestly the amazing day could be a lot worse.  You could be like me.

There are a couple other morals to my thus far complete college story that I’d like you to pay attention to as well:

  • Always set your alarm for classes. Do not skip classes or miss them just because you do not feel like it. Try to attend as many classes as possible.

This is a small, close-knit community and your absence on something, big or small, will be noticed. The faculty here will become your mentors and your friends. They will know if you’re missing. First and foremost, your grades are what matter the most. And good grades open the door to many possibilities here on campus.

  • Get some sleep. Do not oversleep, but always make sure you are well rested. The quick 10-minute nap will become your best friend. If the circumstances do require a late night don’t be afraid to take a buddy to a late night McNugget run. Remember they do have the McPick 2 for 5 which is perfect for you and another person.
  • Slow down and enjoy every single day this place has to offer.

The less time you’re on your phone means the more time you’re meeting new people and enjoying your friends. Trust me your time goes fast and always say yes to an opportunity when it arises.

  • Make friends. Go outside your comfort zone and reach out to someone. Whether you find someone new in the dining hall or talk to someone in your class, your new lifelong BFF could be waiting for you in this very room.
  • Try something new. I currently have a minor in geology. Never ever in a million years (and that is not a long time in geology standards) when I was sitting where you are would I think that I would love rocks as much as I do but I LOVE THEM! And it’s all because I decided to try something new and take a geology trip my freshman year. Don’t be afraid to learn something you never have before whether that be a new sport like football or quittich. Or a new club like Toastmasters or Blue Blazers. Get out there.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail and ask for help. You will fail at something here. It will happen. Don’t stress about little details and worry about what will happen. Don’t be afraid to get back up and try again. Ask for help too! Trust me, I have failed. But it will be the perseverance and fun along the way that will make your time here a success. After all, if Howard Schultz gave up after he was denied by 242 banks, there would be no Starbucks. And then how else would we live without the wonderful pumpkin spice latte.
  • Do your laundry. Please … It’s free. And when you do your laundry, don’t hesitate to move it and pick it up when it’s done.
  • Let your parents share this day as well. This is a big step for them too. You may be the first kid they sent away. You may be their last. Let them embarrass you. Let them make your bed or fold your laundry. Let them do as much as they can and be okay with it. I promise you this time next year no one is going to say, “Hey man, remember when your mom told you to call her to let her know that you put on your acne medication?” and, if someone does that, they’re either a jerk or your best friend.
  • Lastly, learn a lesson from me. Always make sure you have your wallet when you leave a place.

So in closing, sit back and relax. Take this all in! It’s an enormous day. You’re the future. Your time here will be the next chapter in this amazing school’s history. Your actions today will be the cornerstone in your life as well. So breathe and know that you’re just fine. Enjoy this. You haven’t overslept, you haven’t had to move in all by yourself, you’re dressed accordingly, and you haven’t lost anything … yet. And if I could have all that happen to me and today stand before you as your Student Body President, then for your time here, the possibilities can be endless.

For here at Westminster, C. W. Perry summed it up nicely  “Leadership is accepting people where they are, then taking them somewhere.”

I hope you find this worthy of your time today and if you need any assistance, please seek me out and talk to me. I am willing to help out anyone here who needs it. You are our community and it warms me and honors me to be a part of this special moment today. Be the best version of yourself. And strive for excellence and learn from those around you.

Welcome to Westminster. Where we turn success into significance.


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