TETTELBACH: Pey-back time

Peyton Manning is a highly qualified choice for Valediction speaker

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions, but I believe Conor Kelly should receive a penalty for unnecessary roughness after his Oct. 15 column about the selection of Peyton Manning as the 2014 Valedictory Exercises keynote speaker. Several yellow flags will be thrown for his bold statements.

First off I would like to mention that a professional athlete has given the keynote address at Valediction: a fellow NFL player, actually. Tiki Barber, former star running back for the New York Giants, gave the address in 2004 after graduating in 1997 from the Commerce School. Quite impressive, I’d say.

The University does not invite the speaker for Valediction. The trustees of the Class of 2014 are honored with this responsibility. The ceremony is for the students and families of the graduating class, and we choose a speaker that we believe will give an inspiring message to our class to motivate us for our futures after leaving the University.

According to Kelly, “The moment of graduation, in a sense, signifies a transition into a new environment, one in which trivial matters such as sports do not play a large role.” If I were to give a fill-in-the-blank survey to the students at U.Va., or any school for that matter, with questions like “Who is the Pope?” “Who is fourth in line to become President?” “Name three professional football players” and “Who is the lead actress in The Hunger Games?” — could you predict the results? I’m sure we all know which questions students would more easily answer, and that is because we are most influenced by sports figures and celebrities. These are the people we try to emulate. We pay close attention to their every move. Their role is not trivial; it is more significant than we know.

Football has provided Peyton Manning with the platform upon which he can reach out to the public. Through his success on the field, he has been able to take advantage of opportunities he otherwise would not have been granted or pursued. He formed the PeyBack Foundation in 1999 to help provide resources for underprivileged youth, and the children’s hospital in Indianapolis was renamed after him for his devoted support and visits to the children. He is heavily involved in charitable efforts, and football opened the door to all of these opportunities to give back to the community. So, in the long run, sports are not so “inconsequential.”

I am a student-athlete here at the University on the varsity swimming and diving team. Yes, after I graduate I will no longer dive, but that does not mean the time I spent here diving was trivial. It has actually prepared me well for success and provided me with the skills I will need in the future, more so than if I were not an athlete. I am disciplined, self-motivated, a teammate, and a leader. Diving has taught me all of these things and more, and these qualities will be forever beneficial in my future. We student-athletes do not exist within a “different societal structure.” We have the same goals and expectations as other students; we just happen to have even more specific goals and expectations on top of those, and even more commitments to excellence. We have to balance the added pressure of 20-hour practice weeks and competition at the Division I level while being held accountable to the University’s academic standards. So tell me I play a trivial role here and in society, I dare you.

Yes, this University has high academic standards that we live by and focus on. But college is about more than just academics. It is about becoming a better person overall, and leaving as a successful, well-rounded human being who can positively contribute to society. This is the true merit of success we strive for. Mr. Manning was chosen because we, the trustees, believe that he embodies the values of this success that the individuals of our class admire. He was chosen for his character, and all of the qualities that he represents as a role model. The Class of 2014 will greatly benefit from his inspiring message to encourage and motivate us as we begin the next chapters of our lives, star quarterback and all.

Carlin Tettelbach is a fourth-year trustee.

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