Last Friday we held a College Graduation Commencement Ceremony in our home for my daughter Ashley Anderson Hill to present her with her Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurial Management from Brigham Young University. Being that she was the only student graduating she gave the valedictorian speech. Her speech was so inspiring I asked her if I could share it with all of you in today’s blog. Here it is:
Graduation Speech (given on 4/24/20 by Ashley Anderson Hill)
Well, if I’m being 100% honest, I wrote this talk just about the same way I wrote every paper at Brigham Young University…. the night before it was due. In this case, until 3:37am last night. 😅 That being said, the thoughts and words I’ve prepared are some that I’ve had on my mind and heart for the past 4 years as a BYU cougar.
So, as I sat in bed late last night pondering what I’d want to share at my very own graduation, being my very own valedictorian, here in my very own home with less than 10 people in-person and a few loved ones conference-called in due to the global pandemic known as Covid-19, I contemplated sharing my stats and achievements during my time as a college student. For a slight moment I considered admitting that I received 9 parking citations from the BYU police (1 of which was appealed by using my mom as a cop out), several more from the City of Provo which aren’t on record anywhere that I know of or could find, had to retake 3 classes, signed up and withdrew from the same math class 5 times until I was finally forced to take it my last semester, spent roughly 294 hours in the testing center (now times that by 2 and that’s how many hours I spent praying before those tests), drank more 32 oz Dr Peppers than any human body should physically be able to consume, had an average bedtime of 1:30am (on a good day), ran out of toilet paper while doing my business and had to resort to napkins or other soft household goods 3 times that I can remember (mind you… these were during times when plenty of TP was still in stock at grocery stores), lived in 5 different apartments, survived 21 roommates, worked 5 different jobs, camped out in the snow for 2 football games, had 8 personal encounters with Cosmo the Cougar, went through 2 tear-filled break-ups, lost a handful of friends, gained some new ones, and successfully saw all five members of One Direction live in concert when they were still together as worlds greatest boy band.
Now, while I considered sharing those stats in my graduation speech for just a moment, I felt it might be best, rather, to focus on the most important principle that I learned at BYU— to dream.
Some of you who had the privilege of being classmates with me might laugh due to the fact that I LITERALLY dreamt through more lectures than I can remember, but somehow keep seeing blackmail photos with my mouth wide open drooling and can never forget no matter how hard I try. Though, in this context I don’t mean dreaming while you’re asleep. What I’m talking about takes much more effort. Intentional courage, even. The type of dreaming I’m speaking of requires every ounce of your consciousness, heart, and soul that you can muster. It’s not the Disney-type dreaming where all you have to do is “wish upon a star” and wait for your fairy-god-mother to save the day (though that is just as valiant and noteworthy of a dream as any), but rather the type of dreaming that is so big and out of this world that it scares you— no, terrifies you. That literally makes you tremble in your boots with fear. That makes you NOT want to get out of bed in the morning, but stay in it. From what I’ve described so far, it almost doesn’t seem like I’m talking about a dream anymore… but a horrible nightmare! To help illustrate the type of dreaming I’m talking about, let me share 3 defining dreams I had during my time at BYU.
#1. In 2014, I was a brand new freshman at the Y. Eighteen years old, could eat anything I wanted whenever I wanted it, and had my whole life ahead of me. Though I didn’t realize it until what would be 10 months later, I had a dream to one day be able to stand firmly before God, having full confidence I gave my absolute everything to Him. This dream still terrifies me, considering everything in my life I’ll have to sacrifice and accomplish to get to that point. But this dream led me to action, as every dream worth dreaming should. After much fasting and prayer, studying and pondering, I decided to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to become a literal representative of Jesus Christ, sharing His gospel and good word to whoever and wherever I would be called. It was in the BYU mailbox that I received my mission call to Little Rock Arkansas, my assigned portion of the Lord’s vineyard, for the next 18 months. This tiny sacrifice and faith-building experience added grains of sand to my side of the ledger to one day be able to fulfill that dream of standing firmly and confidently in God’s presence— knowing I gave him my EVERYTHING.
#2. Coming home from my mission, I did what every good missionary is instructed to do…. find their next companion (though this time, eternal). So coming back to BYU after my short 18 month intermission, I dreamt something that, granted, most girls do dream, but never see as a reality. I dreamt I’d find the PERFECT boy for ME. One who would rise to my high standards, who would appreciate that I had only kissed 2 other boys in my life and held my kisses as special, was more optimistic than I was, have total confidence in himself, push me to be better every day and allow me to push him in return, be gentle and forgiving with me when I‘m “crazy”, be the type of father my future kids would be proud to have, and dream WITH me. On February 3, 2017, now as a sophomore in college, I went on my first date with the first boy I’d met who met all my critical criteria. But, as we know, every dream worthy chasing requires opposition. We certainly faced our fair share, some probably self-inflicted I’ll add, and on May 19, 2018 were sealed in the Salt Lake City temple for time and all eternity. Overcoming certain obstacles to get to marriage was terrifying for me in more ways than I have time to speak of now. Though, you know you found a worthy dream when you’re willing to fight through some of your deepest fears to achieve it, willing to accept whatever consequence may come because of it. Alexander Kay Hill was and still is, one of my greatest dreams.
#3. February 2019– End of my junior year, beginning of my senior. What started as a tiny idea quickly turned into my next dream. I dreamt that I’d change the way that the “world” views women, and the way that women view themselves. I started down a road that would soon consume my every thought. This dream was different from the first two. It wasn’t for myself this time. But for something… someone… much bigger. This dream had a mind of it’s own and gnawed at me so hard that it led me to do what some people may call illogical. I willingly quit my full-time job, losing a large portion of our stable income that we so desperately need, to start my very own company that would focus on fulfilling this dream. Fear of failing felt paralyzing at times, and still does some days. While I don’t know what the future holds or how the story ends yet for this dream, I do know this — when we put our self-serving dreams on hold to try to benefit others around us, it’s impossible to fail.
So yes. The type of dreaming I’m speaking of requires every ounce of your consciousness, heart, and soul that you can muster. Because the type of dream I’m talking about is the type that takes such a hold on us that we choose to turn into our reality.
Now, a word to all you here. To all you who aren’t here. Parents, siblings, grandparents, family, friends, professors, mentors, coaches, and classmates. To all you who inspire me to dream, who push me to dream, and who have helped me in one way or another to achieve my dreams. To you I say thank you.
Finally, a note to my future self. Never stop dreaming. Never shoot for anything less than the moon, sun, stars, and “galaxies far, far away”. Never stop watching Disney movies and wishing upon that star. Never accept anything but your VERY best. Even when the world is crumbling, when you’re quarantined during a global pandemic, when it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to pay your mortgage next month, when you have kids screaming and demanding your attention, when your body breaks down, when lose your mind, and even when you’re going through your personal gethsemene… never, ever, stop dreaming.
~Ashley Anderson Hill (daughter of Amy Rees Anderson, author of “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel In Business & Life”