Sophomore Halfway Tradition

April 3, 2024
President Robert W. Iuliano
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

As Delivered.

Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to share a few words at this Sophomore Halfway Tradition.

I would like to begin by offering my sincere thanks and appreciation for the class officers who brought us together today for this special event.

At Gettysburg College, we talk a lot about the power of place—and how where you choose to live and learn during these formative years can profoundly shape your outlook on the world and who you ultimately become in your life after graduation.

Of course, here at Gettysburg, we have so many places to turn for inspiration. From our historic town and campus to the battlefields that surround us to major cities of influence in our own backyard, like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and our state capital of Harrisburg—all of these locations play an integral role in the education you receive here.

But as you enter the latter half of your Gettysburg journey, I’d encourage you to visit another spot of inspiration—one just 20 minutes west of our campus.

Do we have any participants in our GLC Outdoor Leadership program with us today? You likely know what I’m referring to!

I’m speaking about the Appalachian Trail.

How many of you have hiked any section of the AT before?

The Appalachian Trail is one of the most iconic hiking trails in the entire world. It passes through 14 states in the eastern U.S. and extends nearly 2,200 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine all the way down to Springer Mountain in Georgia.

And get this: the Halfway Point of the Appalachian Trail is located right down the road from us at Michaux State Forest.

There’s even a prominent sign where hikers pose to take selfies and celebrate their achievement, and gain extra motivation for the journey ahead.

I share this with you because hiking the Appalachian Trail represents the adventure of a lifetime for the several thousand people who attempt it each year—and like your own Gettysburg journey, it can be equally arduous, disorienting, rewarding, and full of self-discovery.

Today, at the halfway mark of your College experience, I’d like to offer you two common sayings that hikers on the AT will often repeat to one another during their six month trek.

The first saying is this: “You pack your fears.”

What exactly do they mean by that? Well, when a hiker embarks on the Appalachian Trail, they do not know what to expect. So, they prepare for the worst. They pack extra food, extra water, extra clothes, extra everything.

But as they begin their journey, it doesn’t take long to learn a valuable lesson. Our fears can weigh us down.

At the Halfway Point of the AT, many hikers choose to shed these items and trust in themselves and their abilities to navigate all that the trail presents to them. These are the hikers who prove most successful.

The second saying is perhaps even more illuminating. It is simply this: “A mile today is worth two tomorrow.”

Every day on the AT is difficult. Some are just more difficult. There’s bad weather, wrong turns, and the unexpected twisted ankle.

Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. Sometimes things don’t go the way we planned. That’s life.

The moral of the message is push to be your best today, especially when it is hard. This will position you to overcome every barrier in your path.

Class of 2026, I would like to extend to you my heartiest congratulations on this important milestone in your life.

As you look to the remainder of the semester, and the two years that stand between you and graduation, may you too have the courage to forfeit your fears and push yourself to be your very best today and every day.

I promise you it will make all the difference.

I look forward to all that’s ahead for you and all you’ll do here and in pursuing your own adventure. Thank you and good luck wrapping up the academic year!