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The Commencement Speech I Would Have Given

MBA for Executives graduate Jeremy E. Deutsch ’20 addresses his classmates as they complete two years of balancing work, family, and the rigors of a Yale MBA.

Jeremy Deutsch headshotI have been reflecting on how much we have accomplished in the last two years and how much it cost everyone to do it. I’m so proud of us all. Congratulations! And I can’t believe we had the audacity to think we could pull it off. If we had really understood the demands, well, I’d like to think we’d have tried anyway. But this is now concluded, and the pressure, if not off, certainly changes.

Before I start, I want to thank some people who went above and beyond for us during our time here: our social chairs for all their hard work in making everything fun; our track class advisors for taking on an otherwise thankless task; the Panel of Peers organizers for a great set of programs; the administration for their unfailing patience and hard work on our behalf; the faculty for their kindness and attention; our families for putting up with us during this two-year period; and I’d especially like to thank Deputy Dean David Bach for everything he did for us and to wish him and his family the best of luck on his move to Switzerland.

This is now the first weekend in two years that I haven’t woken up thinking about what I have to do, read, learn, calculate, present, write about, or understand for a class weekend. The first weekend in two years that I haven’t had to consider my to-do list or plan on how I would manage to get the assignments done while still spending time with my family or tending to work. The first weekend in two years where I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to juggle work commitments and requests for business appointments with the upcoming class weekends. The first weekend in two years where I could start to think instead about the massive backlog of pleasure reading I haven’t done or the baseball games and regattas to come that I had not been able to attend before.

It isn’t a bad feeling at all to get some freedom back, some control over your life and schedule back (and yes, I know control is an illusion).

But freedom isn’t free, and there are tradeoffs. So, let’s consider the tradeoffs.

This is now the first time in two years that:

  • I know I won’t get to see my classmates and friends, some of whom I now think of as family;
  • I know I won’t get to take 12 hours of (more or less) uninterrupted class time away from work to think about incredibly interesting and complex problems with brilliant teachers guiding the discussions;
  • I know that I won’t get to hear my passionate, brilliant, talented friends wrestle, as I am, with these problems;
  • I know that for all the stress, angst, anxiety, irritation over the small stuff (which, despite the lesson, I still haven’t learned not to sweat), I won’t be soaring intellectually and exhilarated by sometimes flying without a net;
  • I know that I won’t have a respite from the quotidian irritations and won’t be able to spend the residence night at a bar/restaurant/hockey game/concert/basketball game/play, or at some other event with people whose company I treasure (am I the only one with drink coupons left at the Omni?);
  • I know that I won’t be able to be with my friends—people who have taught me more than I ever anticipated.

While freedom is going to be good, it isn’t free, and I know that I’m going to miss the stress, the occasional outrage, the laughter, the support, the interchanges, the snack breaks (not the coffee, though), the love, and the joy.

And, yes, I’m going to miss all of this. Very much.

Some of us met at Math Camp. We sat in a room, and Prof. Jonathan Feinstein did his best to bring us up to speed to be ready for the quantitative reasoning challenges ahead. He didn’t prepare us for our first summer in-residence period, though. No one could have prepared us for the double whammy of screwed-up accounting assignments and then-Assistant Dean Silvia McCallister-Castillo confidently telling us that some of us would be—how did she put it?—academically separated? Quality separated? Whatever she said, we all bonded—yes, some teams bonded more successfully than others, but we did bond—as teammates, as classmates, as friends. Great pressure produces beautiful gems, and no growth takes place without pain or pressure.

And so we grew. And we became more confident—in our skills (both hard and soft), in our time management abilities, and in our general capability of handling anything thrown at us, whether at Yale, during Global Network Week, or at work and home. This confidence has been a gift. None of us ever again, after this, have to worry about having bitten off more than we can chew. There isn’t anything we can’t handle now.

And we continued to grow under pressure and stress. And again, it wasn’t free—some of us became parents while others took children off to college for the first time; others ended marriages or relationships, and others started new ones; many of us have changed jobs, and some have changed fields; others have moved across the country, and still others have moved back or plan to. We have grown, together and separately, but as a class. Until now. Until today. Now our journey takes us on different paths.

We have completed the formal course of study that was supposed to give us the tools to continue to grow into leaders for business and society. And, yes, I drank that Kool-Aid and was inspired by that mission statement.

Now, we continue that growth in places other than Evans Hall, other than on the 19th floor at the Omni, other than at Geronimo’s or Charley’s Place or Mory’s, or too many hours spent in breakout rooms, or, well, you pick. There have been lots of places.

And we are ready, because we are EMBAs, because we are Enriched by our Experiences, Emboldened by the risks we have taken, Educated by our failures here even more than our successes, Empowered by our education, and Emphatic in the relationships we have formed. We are ready to take what we have learned and see what good we can do in the world, what can we accomplish, and to see how much fun we can have while doing it.

I can’t wait for reunion to see, hopefully, all of you again and to hear what wonderful things have happened in your lives.

Thank you, all of you, for your friendship, your kindness, and your love. Yale SOM curated a heck of a group of people and, even as we’ve gotten our freedom back, that freedom comes at a price, and I’ll deeply miss seeing you all every other weekend.  

Godspeed. Always friends.