Jackson Pierce-Felker ’18 aims to ‘make commencement unique’ as Commencement speaker

Elizabeth Worthington, Editor-in-Chief

Jackson Pierce-Felker ’18 will fulfill a dream he has had since his first year at the University when he delivers his Commencement speech to his fellow graduates on May 20.

Pierce-Felker is using the speech to express his gratitude for those who helped him get to where he is today.

“Even my haters deserve a shout-out,” Pierce-Felker said. He also hoping for his speech to provide some relief from the occasional banalities of a typical graduation ceremony.

“I didn’t want to hear someone’s lame canned speech about how ‘we did it, hooray’ or ’it’s time to change the world.’  We already know all those things, you know?  I’m super weird, so I felt like I could bring something original to the table. People kind of dread graduation, even though they won’t admit it,” Pierce-Felkner said. “It’s like five hours long, and your name only gets called out once! Sometimes you have to sit there in the rain. I thought this would be a great opportunity to make commencement unique for people, to create something they’d remember, maybe even draw upon for inspiration in the days to come.”

Upon hearing of his selection, Pierce-Felker “did a little internal back flip and tried not to cry. It was intense, because I really thought I had botched the audition. Part of me was like, seriously? I’m just a regular dude, there were some true superstars who auditioned. Self-doubt is real. Every now and then, between massive waves of anxiety, I’ll let myself enjoy the fact I was selected.  Sometimes I even do a little dance.”

The entire senior class is given the opportunity to serve the role of Commencement speaker through an email blast from Bucknell Student Government (BSG) requesting submissions. A small group of individuals is invited to deliver their speech in the form of an “audition” to a committee of students, faculty, and staff. The final selection is based on the following criteria: comprehensive message, delivery, and creativity.

Pierce-Felker attributes the success of his audition to his application of the skills he has learned from English courses. “There’s some slick majestic lingo in there and some real crispy rhetoric.  The imagery is frosty and the metaphors are sharp,” Pierce-Felker said.

When asked what he wants his listeners to take away from his speech, Pierce-Felker said, “We should take every opportunity to grow, and sometimes that means taking a job that won’t look amazing on LinkedIn, or doing things that might not make sense in the narrative that’s been constructed for us. You have to take the pen into your own hands and write your own future.  Luckily, we just spent four years in one of the best intellectual incubators in the country, so we have the tools to do that, to make that happen. Not everyone is so blessed.”

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