Commencement Address 2021 by Tamara Lundgren ’74

A WORD OF ADVICE: Alumni Tamara L. Lundgren ’74 shares her favorite quote with the class of 2021, stating, “failing in life is inevitable, staying down is optional.”

Commencement Address

 Tamara Lundgren

Berkeley Preparatory School

Tampa, Florida

June 6, 2021



Thank you, Joe, for that very kind introduction.

Good afternoon, everyone, and congratulations to the Class of 2021!

 It is an honor to be your commencement speaker today—and a joy to be here in-person and inside! Of all the ways to open a commencement speech, I’m so glad this one won’t have to start with questions like, “Is my camera working?” or “Am I on mute?”

But I have no illusions about my significance here.

 I’ve been a graduate three times myself—from Berkeley, from college, and from law school—and I will be perfectly honest, I can’t remember a single one of my commencement speakers.

So, I don’t expect my fate as your commencement speaker to be any different.

Except, perhaps, with one of you.

Audrey Adler, Class of ’21, is my niece… and Audrey, I hope when you are my age, at least YOU will remember that I was here with you today! And how proud I am of you… and of everyone in your class.

Every graduation represents a remarkable achievement. But what you, the Class of 2021, has achieved is exceptional.

The COVID-19 global pandemic began in the spring of your junior year.

At some level, each of you probably faced fear, anxiety, ambiguity, and loss—experiences that come with life over time but are rarely presented to 16- to 18-year olds in such a concentrated way over a single 15-month period.

But here you are. Because not even a global pandemic could stop the Class of ‘21!

Of course, you didn’t do it alone. You had the help of another extraordinary group: the parents of the Class of ‘21.

Moms and dads, I know these past 15 months may have felt like 15 years.

You followed the news; you kept up with the health guidelines and protocols; you stocked up on toilet paper for reasons that still remain unclear to me.

Your children looked to you to see if everything was going to be okay. And you had to act like you knew it would be.

Parents of the Class of 2021…you also aced this senior year!

And we can’t talk about aces without bringing up the teachers of the Class of ‘21.

I mean, where to begin?

 You measured the distance between desks. You became de facto CDC representatives. You kept the classroom sanitized, and you kept your own sanity.

 You did all the hard work of teaching, but backwards and wearing N95s.

 Teachers of the Class of 2021… you earned all the extra credit because this Class–each one of these students–is uniquely positioned to execute on Berkeley’s mission of putting people in the world who make a positive difference.

I would like to take a moment to thank you…for making this happen against all odds.

So, you all should be proud of making it to this moment. It’s been a year of tremendous challenges.

But in spite of that—even because of that—I think the Class of ‘21 is uniquely prepared for the future—not just the next four years of college.

Your generation has been tested unlike any other.

Whether you know it yet or not, you’ve learned one of the most essential lessons for success—however you choose to define it—at a very early stage in your lives and in a very short amount of time:

  •  You’ve learned how to be nimble… how to navigate change.
  • Since COVID struck, you’ve been forced to adapt to shifting conditions in real time…even when you didn’t know how long they would last or where they would lead.
  • You’ve lived through a time when countless routines had to be reimagined almost overnight.
  • You’ve learned to improvise and, when faced with limitations, to make the very most of what you have.
  • And most importantly, because of what you’ve been through, you’ll never simply accept that the way things are is the way they have to be. You’ll be more willing to question convention, and to push for positive transformative change.

You are uniquely prepared to succeed in a world that is innovating faster than ever.

The next four years for you will go by in a blur. You will be challenged in ways that will surprise you. However, from the day you first arrived here, Berkeley has been preparing you for this journey to independence.

You’ve learned about the importance of integrity, you’ve learned how to balance competing demands on your time, and you’ve learned the value of being part of a community.

So, why won’t college be a breeze? Well, let me explain….

First, about integrity.

At college, you will be establishing your reputation for the first time as an independent adult…. this new reputation may be better or worse….it may be the same or different…. than your reputation in high school. No matter what…it will be one of your most important possessions……develop it carefully…and treat it with respect….

Warren Buffet was once asked about what he looks for when he is hiring someone. He said, “you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t see the first one—integrity—the other two will kill you.”

There will be times in your life when you’re tempted to cut corners, to hang back, to take the easy way out. But expediency doesn’t make life easier.

What makes life easier is doing the right thing—even when it’s hard.

Berkeley has prepared you for this.

Second, about managing those intersections in your life.

You have learned how to balance competing demands

  • between studying and hanging out
  • between doing things with your family versus doing things with your friends
  • between spending money on something new or saving money for something later

Your life in high school was full of decisions that you had to make which influenced all sorts of outcomes.

At college, you will have all those decisions to make but with more choices and potentially higher consequences—whether it is choosing new groups of friends, what your major will be, which professors you select to teach you, which parties you elect to attend, what fraternities or sororities you decide to join, I can go on and on, but balancing opportunities with smart choices is something that you will be faced with every day of your college life.

In fact, learning how to balance today’s needs with tomorrow’s opportunities is something that will serve you well throughout your life.

There is an old saying that I often repeat to my executive team: “Keep one eye on the microscope, and the other eye on the telescope.”

Berkeley has prepared you for this.

Third, about the value of community.

If this year has taught us anything, it’s how powerful communication and collaboration can be in solving problems and making things happen. The development of the COVID-19 vaccine is a great example of how collaboration and communication among teams that typically didn’t work together or historically didn’t work well together accelerated an outcome that might have otherwise taken decades to occur.

No one really succeeds alone.

So, seek out opportunities to connect with people and cultures different from your own and commit to finding common ground on the issues that may divide you…and to uniting behind your shared values.

Berkeley has prepared you for this.

More than anything, college is a time to learn about yourself: who you are, what you value, what brings you joy, and what role you want to play in the world.

These next four years will be your time to dream big, and to lay the groundwork for making your dreams come true.

 If you want inspiration about dreaming big, just take a look around you.

When I was in your shoes, Berkeley Prep was located in a converted hotel on Davis Island.

There were 40 people in my graduating class.

If we wanted certain extracurricular activities or even certain uniforms, we had to raise the money ourselves.

 Now, you have this world-class campus with a faculty and student body to match.

 When I was in your shoes, Tampa’s population was stagnant, and we had no national sports teams.

Now, Tampa is dominant.

The Rays went to the World Series, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup and are contending again and the Buccaneers are Super Bowl champions.

Meanwhile, folks are scrambling to move here, and Axios publishes a daily newsletter just about Tampa!

 These changes happened because people saw beyond the status quo. They saw pathways to opportunities and dedicated themselves to pursuing their plans until they achieved their dreams.

And, most importantly, they did not let fear of failure paralyze them.

Throughout life, we all make mistakes and encounter defeats…but the most successful people learn how to turn their mistakes and defeats into positive and useful lessons.

One of my favorite quotes from a three-time Olympian sums this up very well:

Falling in life is…inevitable…staying down is optional!

 So now, it’s your turn. The next chapter is yours to imagine and create.

Remember this: you are one of the best prepared classes to take on the adventures of college and beyond.

Above all, maintain your integrity, keep an eye on the balance in your life, and stay connected.

You are ready for whatever comes your way. Enjoy every moment.

Thank you again for letting me be with you today, and congratulations Class of 2021!