Monthly Archives: April 2012

School of Public Affairs & Administration Graduation Speech: Emily Knight

Comments Delivered By Emily Knight
On April 20, 2012

I have to be honest, as a freshman in college, I would never have guessed that I would be giving a speech at my graduation. For starters, I wasn’t sure I wanted to graduate college, but I was all too aware that not doing so would have devastated my parents.

I couldn’t pick a major because I wanted to save the world, and I couldn’t figure out how to do that in a life drawing or physical anthropology class. Finally, it was during an intro to public administration course that I started to learn how to save the world, so I declared my major half way through the semester and I haven’t looked back since.

Because this room is full of current students, highly informed graduates, brilliant professors and others dedicated to public service, I don’t need to explain how public administration is the key to saving the world. I’ll explain it for our guests, however, like my family, who I’ve been told still don’t quite know what I’ll do with a public administration degree.

Basically, everything we complain about in life exists because there aren’t enough people dedicated to working in the public sector. Anything we don’t complain about, we are happy with because it is taken care of by public servants.

It is easy to identify the public employees that directly serve the public, from teachers to firefighters, but every professional is also regulated by public servants who protect the common good. Architects must receive approval for bridge designs from employees in federal agencies to ensure they are safe, because without that oversight the public could be in danger.

We often talk about frustrations with bureaucracy, but the extra paperwork we fill out on job applications protects us from discrimination, and the long lines at the DMV exist because people care that our roads are safe. We take public servants for granted, and hopefully we will always be able to.

Public administrators are entrusted with our tax dollars, which we all just finished paying a few days ago, and I studied public administration to ensure that, in the future, those taxpayers can live a life that is safe, full of opportunity, and above all supportive, so that anyone can change the world in their own field, be it drawing or anthropology.

Looking around this room, there are many people who have dedicated their lives to serving others, and on behalf of my class I want to say to them: We’re coming for you, and we’re going to take your jobs.

My classmates and I are clearly well-educated, impassioned, and we are committed to getting better, even after we graduate. We will continue to improve because we know what you know: that serving the public is the most important job you can do.

So to anyone who isn’t afraid to take on a new college graduate, I hope you challenge us in our attempts to take your job, because when we are all doing our best, the public wins, and we all win.

That being said, I also want to thank you. It is because of dedicated public servants that I could spend my life figuring out how to contribute to the world while you make complex choices to protect my future. I want to thank my professors as well, because their research and skills are unmatched in our field, and their passion captivated me so that I could become passionate myself.

And finally my family, especially my parents and fiancé, who didn’t care what I studied, as long as I was happy, and in my mom’s case, a graduate. She always said she gave her kids names that would look good on a diploma, and to support that she has probably given more money to KU for her five kids’ tuition than most of the people who have campus buildings named after them.

Thank you all for letting me speak tonight, and I look forward to seeing what an amazing world we can create together.