Alex’s Address to Fellow American University Graduates

Alex was a finalist to give the commencement address to graduates of the School of Public Affairs at American University on May 13. We enjoyed his speech so much, we asked him to share it on the blog so others might as well. Thanks, Alex, and congratulations on graduating! – Justice Programs Office

Well, here we are. We’ve made it! Soon you are going to walk across that stage, shake President Burwell’s hand, and bask in the glory of your own accomplishment. People are going to ask, what did you learn at American University? Can you sum up your experience in a one-page policy memo? Can you sum up your experience in one paragraph? Or even one sentence? I am proud to say that I can summarize my experience in two words:

Unliquidated obligations.

What the heck are unliquidated obligations? Well, an unliquidated obligation is a financial term that I learned while working for the Justice Programs Office. I know it stinks to get one last lecture, but please bear with me for a just moment. Unliquidated obligations are obligations—they are payments—that have not yet been paid. They are like bills that you haven’t written a check for. Or like that roommate you promised to Venmo the rent money, but you mysteriously “kept forgetting.” But I like to think of unliquidated obligations as commitments that we have yet to honor. They are promises that we have yet to keep.

Whether you knew it or not, you’ve been making these promises throughout your time at AU. In the coming months, you will start to honor those promises. You will use your compassion to give back to your communities, you will use your skills to contribute to the workforce, and you will use your knowledge to improve peoples’ lives. These are our obligations as graduates of American University, these are our obligations as informed citizens, these are our obligations as good people.

I came to AU as an undergraduate, and finished as a graduate. I studied politics and policy. If you studied something like business analytics, I’m sorry to break it to you, but your commencement was yesterday. As I was studying policy, I also took up a leadership role within the Kay Spiritual Life Center and learned how to manage small student groups. I also worked hard outside of the classroom, participating in nine different jobs and internships. So altogether, I’ve done a lot in my time here, and I have enjoyed being at AU more than any other time in my life.

Despite everything we have done up until now, there is so much left for us to do. After studying politics, I have an obligation to go out there and teach my loved ones how the government works (or doesn’t work). After leading spiritual groups on campus, I have an obligation to guide others through troubling times and difficult conversations. After my jobs and internships, I have an obligation to give my next employer everything I’ve learned.

These unliquidated obligations are promises that we will take into the future. These promises will turn us into community activists, into politicians, into professors, policy analysts, media reporters, lawyers and even world leaders. These promises are part of what brought us to American University, an institution where hard work is a tenant of who we are. These promises make us better people and will serve as guideposts throughout our lives.

Now let us go forth, fulfill our promises, and make this world a better place. Let’s fulfill our promises to ourselves, to our loved ones, and to the common humanity which binds us all. Thank you to our parents for bringing us here, thank you to our professors for the valuable lessons, and thank you to everyone here for coming to AU. Now let’s go fulfill some unliquidated obligations!

Alexander (Alex) Gamcsik is the administrative assistant for the Justice Programs Office.