Each year, one graduating senior has the opportunity to address all students and families at graduation. The Brown and White sat down with this year’s student commencement speaker Michael Mauriello, ’19, to discuss why he applied to speak at graduation. Note: This article has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What motivated you to apply to be the commencement speaker?
Michael Mauriello: When I got the email, I kind of figured it was something I had to at least take a shot for. I mean, I really enjoy public speaking. It’s something that I’ve done a lot in the past. I spoke at the fall open house last semester, and that was a speech in front of about 1,000 people or so. So, I spoke for about 8-10 minutes, and so it was something I enjoyed, I did well with and throughout my time at Lehigh I’ve spent a lot of time doing public speaking, giving presentations, sales pitches and things like that. It was something I felt very comfortable with and I thought at the very least, it would be really cool to apply and see if I were able to get a chance, because I think it’d be a lot of fun.
Q: What’s the topic of your speech?
MM: So the prompt that I was sent was, ‘How did you make the most of your time at Lehigh?’ And I started racking my brain. I was like, ‘Well, what have I done that’s so exceptional and extraordinary and has been so off-the-wall about my time about my time at Lehigh?’ And I couldn’t come up with anything. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god, what am I going to write about? I’m not special, I’m not unique.’ So without giving too much away, that’s what I wrote my speech about. I wanted to not have the speech be all about me, I really wanted it to be an address to the graduating class and really be as inclusive as possible. So, I tried to really write it and gear it to specifically talk about things that everybody can relate to, because I know that a lot of people, especially when you ask a question, to have somebody tell them a story about yourself, it’s very hard to do that without using ‘I’ in every sentence. So, my goal was to write a speech that was not really all about me, but more about collectively what the story I have seen at Lehigh over the last four years has been.
Q: What’s the depth of your involvement over the last four years?
MM: I have been involved in a number of different things. I was a double major in the business school in finance and marketing. I’m also trying to see if I qualify for a music minor, because I’ve taken a lot of different music classes, just trying to see if they’re the right credits. I was a four-year member of the club baseball team, as a second baseman, and have been on that since the beginning of freshman year. I also have been a four-year member of the debate society, and at the end of my freshman year I was elected treasurer and have been re-elected three times. I’ve been on the executive board of that for three-quarters of my college career and have been in that organization all four years. Also, because of my majors, I’m in the finance club and marketing club as well. And in the little bit of free time that I can possible find in between those activities, I am also a musician and I do that in my free time as well. That’s my way of relaxing, is sitting down with like a piano or my guitar, unwinding at the end of the day.
Q: What are some of the biggest takeaways you want the audience to have at the end of your speech?
MM: I know the general feel among a lot of the senior class, especially the people I’ve spoken to, and this is the way I feel as well, is that it’s a very bittersweet transition. This has been an incredible time in our lives, but at the end of the day, it’s just one chapter. And so, I really wanted to gear the speech to talk about how much we accomplished and did over the last four years, but more importantly how that has set up everybody to then catapult into the future.
Q: What are some of the things you’re going to miss most about Lehigh?
MM: I’ve had such an amazing time with all the different people. That was one of the main reasons I applied — was the people that I encountered at this school, the faculty members, the staff members, the students. And while I’m always going to be a part of the Lehigh community, I’m always going to be part of the Lehigh family, it’s going to be sad to not see those people every single day the way I have been over the last four years. Everybody after high school, they leave, they go away and then they can always go back to their hometown. And they’ll probably see most of the same people. But this is not that case, we all came here for four years and we all get to go back into our own lives. Probably, the thing that I’m going to miss the most is being able to just go over to a friend’s house that I’ve made over the past couple years, that have been here, or just call up a group of people that I know and I’m good friends with to get together and stuff with that. It’s not like it is back home where occasionally, we’re all back home at the same time. I don’t know how often we’re all gonna be back at Lehigh. And then the fact that we’ve been living here for the past four years, I have so much immersed myself. Living away at college, it’s not just going to school everyday. It is your entire life has been enveloped within it, and so stepping out of that and now emerging from this campus and out of this bubble is something that I’m excited for. But there are definitely lots of people and experiences that I’m going to miss that are part of my daily routine, that are no longer gonna be there.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
MM: At the moment, I’m waiting to hear back from a couple different organizations on third-round interviews, and hopefully a couple offers here and there. I plan to stay in the greater New York City area, and that tri-state area as well. That’s where I’m from. Especially being somebody studying finance and marketing, you’re not going to find a better place to be than New York City. I definitely love the area, love the Northeast, and I want to stay there and pursuit that as much as possible.