Mr. Aaron Novikoff has delivered a humorous, poetic speech on the Master Graduation Party at the “Institute for Food and Health” on 10 November 2017.
Hey guys, what do you call a loaf of bread that contemplates the universe? A complex carb. Which famous singer became the “King of Rock and Roll” while living a secret life as a herbal garnish? Elvis Parsley!. Alright alright, to keep you guys from leaving, lettuce begin.
How many of you remember the first day we all met as a class? I remember walking up to this glass-plated building, amazed that I will be going to school in this beautiful place for the next 2 years; but at the same time not knowing at all what to expect. I open the doors, make my way up the stairs, and find ZIEL 2.98. When I walk in, I for the first time see all the amazing people of character and diversity in this class, those who I would soon be lucky enough to call my friends. The next two years would become some of the best years of my life. And I want to thank you all for that.
I was asked to give a speech here, and it wasn’t that it was hard to come up with an idea to talk about, it was just, which one should I talk about? Should it be funny, should I talk about memories, should I do an interpretive dance, should I make everyone weep and cry, what should I do? But, there had been something, maybe more unorthodox, that stood out to me when I was thinking, something I really couldn’t get out of my head, so I thought I would share it with you.
Do you remember the welcome presentation given by Prof. Klingenspor on this first day? And not just that, but the very, very beginning of it? I’ll give a little background. It’s the first day, a combination of students from Germany and 20+ different countries are sitting in class, all stuck in shy mode waiting for it to begin. Prof. Klingenspor walks up to the front, looks around, pauses, but then breaks the ice by speaking about the view that is outside of the window.
He said that we could see the mountains from here. So we all kind of looked over; outside it wasn’t a cloudy day, but was more of a hazy day where you couldn’t see so far. While we are all scanning the skyline for mountain ranges there was some “ohhh yeah”’s but maybe a few more “ohhh, where?”’s. So Prof. Klingenspor walks over and started pointing in the direction to the mountain peak, hoping to correct our focus so that we could now see it, the result - a few more muffled “ohh yeah”’s followed. Me? I couldn’t see a damn thing resembling a mountain. It was too hazy. In fact, I was skeptical of the view and would remain so all the way until the weather cleared up the next spring, in which it was then visible. This is a relatively useless story on the surface, right? But I would like you to keep this ‘teacher-pointing-mountain-haze’ idea in your head for a moment.
The educational pursuit – which really starts from the gymnasium or as I say high school, continues towards the bachelor degree, and on to a master degree – is full of ups and downs, pressures, excitement, anxiety, and hard-work. In short, there seems to be a theme to the educational pursuit. I can describe it like this: you have a big test coming up, you work hard, study all night, your flash card deck looks like an encyclopedia, the rounds of memorization pass, and then the day of reckoning comes; you drink few cups of coffee, take the test…and you do well! Now, following your success, you’re walking home, daydreaming a bit, and come to the conclusion that you may have this science thing figured out, that perhaps even, a Nobel Prize is just be around the corner. You sleep well. The next class, you move to a higher level of difficulty. You start off by realizing that things are a bit different here, now the topic seems much more complex than you initially had thought. You begin to realize the extent of what you don’t know. Layers upon layers of understanding cooked into your new textbooks, yet it feels like you only understand one layer! and then….. you get that little inkling of panic that the Nobel Prize is a bit further than you initially thought. You start looking around, checking out a few studies for more understanding, and frustratingly conclude “I spent all that time studying, yet how the heck do these scientists know everything!”..you start finding the educational pursuit hopeless, start considering yourself a failure, demoralized – when you get home even your pet Guinea Pigs seem to be looking at you in disgust. But then, we pick ourselves back up, put on a brave face, continue the strive forward, study for the next test, we forgive the moody Guinea Pigs, give them their dinner, we don’t give up, and we succeed once again. Nobel Prize in sight.
This story seems to be a bit of a cyclical thing doesn’t it? You go up the cycle towards the “Nobel prize that seems so close” then down to the “angry Guinea Pigs waiting for you at home”, and then back up in what seems to be a never ending cycle. How long can you keep this up within the minute-to-minute detail of a scientific career, one laden with thousands of hours of academic pursuit? I used the word “cyclical”, but it’s a bit misleading. Because the story I had just mentioned is actually more like a bicycle. If you are a wheel on a bicycle, let’s say the front wheel, the analogous perspective is you are hopelessly revolving around this “Nobel-Guinea Pig” cycle, and nothing is going to ever change other than that, which really doesn’t give us a lot of motivation to continue. However, for the actual bicycle rider, it’s an entirely different story, this seemingly hopeless cycle allows the rider to progress – to get from point A to point B – a phenomenon which makes the repetitious wheel incredibly valuable.
I once read an article about Steve Jobs, funnily enough, talking about bicycles. In it, he was referring to a study that in essence took different species and machines found on the planet, and measured the amount of energy required of them to travel one kilometer. So in short, their efficiency of transportation was measured. Humans did not rank so high in efficiency, and in Steve’s words “It was not too proud of a showing for the crown jewel of Creation”. But then someone had the insight to test the efficiency of a human on a bicycle. The bicycle, which represents a human mastery of the circular wheel, allowed humans to move from a rank as one of the least efficient species to becoming by far the most efficient within the measurements, even achieving a rank higher than automobiles and jet airplanes! Amazing. What I’m trying to say is, efficient progress is dependent on consistently connecting the lows to the highs, or simply a ‘wheel’. If you break a wheel, efficient transportation stops. If you break the “Nobel-Guinea Pig” cycle, real progress stops. The same goes for the “Parent of the Year - Ohh what the hell am I doing” cycle and the “Best Businesswoman Award - Why didn’t I pay attention in math class” cycle.
And so lastly with that, so we can get on with the cheers, I want to tie this back to that first day in class where we are looking out the window. We had someone telling us there was something out there, something viewable, even though we couldn’t see it at first; in our analogy now though, we can replace the ‘unviewable’ mountains with the promise of becoming “Masters” at our subject. Though initially hazy and maybe unbelievable at first, after the investment of your time and effort, after all the study cards, through the hours of group meetings, through the questions asked, the notes taken, the panic of hearing “10-more minutes” with 5,000 more questions to go on the disease pathologies exam, the Flo Rida cholesterol remixes … after all that, graduation is finally in view and we should all be proud. We conquered the Nobel Prize Angry Guinea Pig cycle and used it towards our success.
So, I think, first, we should give a round of applause for our family, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, and wives who supported our goal, we often don’t realize how influential this is (applause)
And I mean, we did pretty a good ourselves for accomplishing this guys, so.. (applause)
I would also like to acknowledge all the professors and teachers who pointed us towards understanding, to those analogous mountain out of sight, giving us a roadmap to becoming masters at our field. (applause)
For the opportunity of this wonderful program itself! (applause)
And last but not least, ladies and gentlemen, let’s clap it up for all the Guinea Pigs out there. They’re really getting a bad rap today.
So everybody, lets make a toast. I tried to learn how to say the word cheers in all the countries represented in our class, in the hope of honoring my friends. Don’t make fun of me to much.
Cheers beh salamati (Iranian)
Zzan! (South Korean)
Salud y tiempo para gastarlo (Mexican) Nastravjia (Slovenian) Jaya (j-eye-a) (Bangla) La Garra Charrua! (Uruguay) yO! (Vietnamese) Yieyessas (Greek) nal aarokkiyam peruga (Tamil)
“You guys shouldn’t be drinking” (cheers in Nutritional!)
And last but not least, a personal message that’s kind of meaningful to me, and I think I can speak for all the international students, thank you to all the German students for speaking English in your home country and making it a completely welcoming and warm environment. So here’s to you. “Prost”.
- Aaron Novikoff