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Class of 2023 Speech - Maximilian Schneider

Before I begin, I would like to thank the Dean, Dr. Bachmann, and the platform party for allowing me the chance to share my story with you all.

When I first announced I was going to Miami four years ago, my hometown was ecstatic. However, one man, Karl Schmidlin, was particularly excited. In fact, he was so excited he used to call me his “Miami Man”. Karl graduated from Miami in 1966, and he loved this school. He would sing the fight song every chance he got, and he would always say the phrase “Love and Honor”.

“Love and Honor”. We see and hear these words all across Miami. But, what do they really mean? What words in “love and honor” are important to you? Most focus on the words “love” or “honor”, but to me the most important word is “and”. “And” means more than one; multiple things combined to make a whole. This speech is about the word “and” and what it means to be a community.

I grew up in a very small community on an island in Lake Erie called Middle Bass. From a young age, I was taught the importance of community. Because we were isolated from the rest of the world by over five miles of water, we were all that we had; thus, we had to help each other to survive. “It takes a village to raise a child” describes my childhood. I was the child, Middle Bass was the village, and Middle Bass raised me. Coming to Miami was no different. As freshmen we were all once again “children” and our peers, instructors, and community at large were the “village”.

There’s a piece missing from the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”. What happens when the child grows up? Well, the child becomes a member of the community and thus should give back. As I got older, I tried to give back where I could. Back home I helped with the fire department, did tech support, etc. When I got to Miami, I contributed to the community in a number of ways. I was a teaching assistant, an undergraduate assistant, and involved with student organizations. I was even a resident assistant for several years. Miami had raised me. I was no longer a child, and I wanted to give back so that those after me could have the same opportunities I did.

Many of you have given back to your communities as well. For example, my friend Bailey Feeney, a chemical engineering major, has assisted many of us by working as a supplemental instructor for several years now. Likewise, my former coworker and longtime friend Francisco Torres Pinell, a mechanical engineering major, has served as an RA since his sophomore year. Lastly, Sonny Grooms, an electrical engineering major and great friend of mine, has been instrumental in the success of several clubs such as Miami’s chapter of IEEE and our Robotics Club.

Just as we have done so much for our community, our instructors and advisors have been equally impactful. Advisors like Nick, Wyatt, Keisha, Elise, and Bailey have guided each of us through the first several years of our academic journeys. Much the same, instructors like Dr. Wang, professor Krumpe, and Dr. Scott have taught us invaluable technical and practical skills.

Ultimately, giving back is about all of us, regardless of our backgrounds, coming together to improve our communities; that’s why giving back is so important. While giving back is important, it’s not the only thing communities are built upon. See, I thought I had “community” all figured out. Your village raises you, and when you grow up you do the raising. But I was wrong. What I was missing was that you never stop being raised or start only giving. You have to have a balance of giving and receiving.

My sophomore year was during the middle of COVID. Most of my friends and many of you stayed home; but, I was on campus serving as an RA in an almost entirely empty musty Morris hall. It was a dark time. I woke up, went to virtual class, then went to bed. Like many of us on campus, I barely left my room, and my mental health deteriorated. But, I said to myself you have to be strong, and I put it all on myself. I never asked for help, nor did I tell anyone about my problems. I suffered silently.

Junior year only got worse. Classes were harder, work was more difficult, and, despite being back in person, my isolation somehow grew worse. That summer, a good friend of mine from Middle Bass committed suicide. I was shaken; not only did I lose a good friend, but I also saw myself within him. I had demons of my own, albeit different, and they were slowly destroying me from the inside.

There was a void within myself; giving back helped relieve the pain, but as time went on giving back only went so far. I failed to realize that I needed the community’s help just as much as the community needed me. Around that time I met someone new; we were actually both RAs in Morris hall. Arlena Dunkle would soon become my best friend, and we would find that we were alike in many ways. She showed me that I didn’t have to do things alone; that I didn’t have to place my burdens solely on myself. She saved me and showed me that I needed balance in my life; that I needed to both give back and receive.

Much like Arlena has supported me, we have all supported each other in one way or another. Take my capstone team for example; despite being the only computer scientist on a team of electrical and computer engineers, Allison Jacob, Justin Chu, Jordan Hamlett, and Nhu Phan have treated me like family. We have laughed together, struggled together, and grown together. When my grandfather died earlier this year, the others worked together to make me a card. They didn’t have to do that, but they did it anyway because they cared about me. It’s times like that which show the true meaning of community. Like Arlena and my capstone team, so many people have supported me throughout my life. I couldn’t ask for better friends than people like Evan Sweeney, Sakshi Shah, and Audrey Armontrout. Much the same, my family has given me tremendous support. Whether times were good or bad, my parents, John and Katie, sister, Lucy, Grandma Carrie, numerous aunts, uncles, and the rest have been by my side through thick and thin. Like many of you, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the help and guidance of my family.

Much like all of you, my instructors have been supportive of me. However, one instructor has been particularly supportive since I met him several years ago. Not only did he help me develop a passion for electronics, but he also helped me get my current position as a researcher. This instructor is Dr. Mark Scott. I cannot thank him enough for everything he has done for me, and I am grateful that I can consider him such an important mentor and close friend.

Today is graduation day. We are moving on. So, why am I so focused on the past? College is about learning and taking that with us wherever we go. We have learned so much about community, whether we know it or not, and we need to take that into the world. Just as the cycle of community occurred when we left our homes and became Redhawks, the cycle of community will repeat itself as we leave Miami. We will become the “children” and our new communities will become the “villages”. Eventually, we will become adults in our new villages, and we will need to give back. We will need to provide the opportunities to those after us just as they were provided to us.

Cycles only continue because we continue them; if we don’t, then who will? I invite everyone here to join me in giving back to the community wherever we go. It is our duty, and we should do it with love and honor. If you go to a community that has no such cycle, be the one to start it. It’s about giving back and growing. We are stronger when we work together. At the same time, remember to keep a balance in your life. We all struggle in different ways, but you don’t have to put everything on yourself; it is ok to ask for help. Likewise, being willing to accept help is just as important as asking for it. Just as your community grows stronger when you contribute to it, you grow stronger when your community contributes to you. I wish I would have learned this long ago, and I hope you never forget that.

This is why “and” is the most important word in “love and honor”. “And” means more than one; “and” means whole; “love and honor” cannot exist without “and” just as we cannot exist without each other. “Love and honor” “And” “Together”

The College of Engineering and Computing