Friday, November 30, 2012

Senator Chuck Schumer: Same Message, Still Inspires

By Kathryn Baumgartner

I have been to many graduations over the years--my brother and sister’s high school and college graduations, my mom’s college graduation, my own high school graduation--and at each one, Senator Chuck Schumer was present to give a speech. And he gave the same one. At all six of the commencement ceremonies I have been to in my relatively short 19 years of life.

Despite the repetitiveness of Schumer’s speech, and the fact that I and most of my family could probably recite it by heart at this point, his message still remains one of inspiration and passion.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer

He begins by emphasizing that the graduates are the most important part of the day’s ceremonies, rather than the families, faculty members, politicians, etc. who may also be present. He then goes on to relate himself to the parents in the audience. He reminisces on his own daughter’s graduation, and how he and his wife thought back to the time of her childhood.

Schumer also brings up the fact that the group in front of him is the first generation brought up in the new technological world. One line that remains funny no matter how many times I hear it is, “You’re sort of like a fish swimming in technological water, you’re used to it.”

Before jumping into the main point of his speech, Schumer likes to give the graduates a “class gift.” In 2009 he put a law on the books that would help the middle class. He saw that help was being given to the poor, which is good, and the rich do not need financial assistance, but no help was being given to middle class families.

The law allows those whose family income is less than $200,000 per year to take $2,500 as a tax credit on their federal taxes each year for college or graduate school, to help ease the cost of paying for an education. This announcement is always followed by much applause and cheering from the audience.

Next comes the really good part. Many high school and college graduates in today’s economy are simply looking for work. They often do not care what sort of work it is, as long as it provides enough money to pay the bills and keep them relatively stable financially.

Schumer adamantly warns against this. Having had to work in a tiny, window-less room over the summer when he was 14 years old in order to help support his family, he knows what it is like to hate the job you have.

“Try to find a job, a profession, that you really like, that you love--even if you have to take a few different tries at it,” he advises.

And he is speaking from experience. After receiving his undergraduate degree in Chemistry, Schumer realized Science was not the field for him. He liked people and did not get to interact with them enough in a laboratory setting. So, he decided to attend law school. He worked for a summer at a big law firm, earning more money than his family had ever seen before.

Therefore, it is not hard to imagine how disappointed and upset his parents were to learn he did not intend to go into law after graduation. Instead, he was taking a huge risk by running for New York State Assembly at the young age of 23. Politics is something he is passionate about, and he did not want to be like his father, pacing the house at 2 a.m. because he is unhappy with his job.

Miraculously, he won the election and has been an elected official since then. He passes what he calls the “Monday and Friday tests.” If you wake up Monday morning, with a feeling deep down that you cannot wait to go to work, and you leave work on Friday thrilled at the thought of going home to your family, then you should be counting your blessings.

Senator Schumer’s message might be the same every commencement ceremony, but it is still just as poignant. Follow your dreams, do what you love, and you will be happy.

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