To the class of 2022

No one invited us to speak at any commencements this year. So here is the commencement speech no one asked for.


To the graduating class of 2022, good evening. I am honored to be here with you tonight.

But as an essential utility service, I’m here to tell you we’ve been with you from the very beginning. (This might get awkward.)

From your very first bath and your entire potty-training journey, sewers have been there. From your first time splashing in the puddles along the curb or first splashing in Lake Erie waters, stormwater management has been there.

Every morning, afternoon, and evening of every single day of your 18- or 22- or 50-year life, our services have been right there with you. Through your good and bad, lessons and laughter, trials and tears, infrastructure has been proud to serve you.

That’s what I want you to remember tonight: a story of lessons and service.

Throughout your school careers, you have completed entire transcripts of coursework and you should be proud of your accomplishments.

But honestly, everything you need to know in life you could have learned in wastewater treatment.

Lessons like “life is crappy sometimes.”

Lessons like “all water has a past and all sewage has a future.”

Lessons like “treat everyone like you want to be treated.”

Lessons like “if a river can be burned and come back stronger, so can you.”

I don’t need to tell you that life is unpredictable. But just because it is doesn’t mean you don’t make plans. You prepare with the help of people you trust. people you value. people with perspectives that may differ from yours.

That is how you will face challenges. and you *will* be challenged. With every challenge comes an opportunity. As graduates of 2022 you are already faced with challenges that may seem insurmountable. You may be angry, scared, confused or uncertain of your future. these are opportunities.

A utility is a public service. and service is at the heart of opportunity. seek your own personal place to serve in your own way. put your passions into action and you will change the environment around you.

As you end your high school career, you may have memories you’ll never forget, including some you wish you could. That’s life.

Your past doesn’t define your future but it also can’t be decoupled from it; a formerly burning and now reborn Cuyahoga River is proof of that.

Remember your past and work for your future. for 50 years as a utility we certainly have.

And I will leave you with this.

Our twitter is a very human connection to a very hidden system. human connections matter. Remember that below the surface of every human interaction is a world of experience you may never see.

Respect that. And make connections that matter.

Congratulations class of 2022.



Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Official Medium channel of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in Cleveland, OH