“It’s done. It’s finished.”

As students stress about final exams in a couple weeks, Glen Guyton, the executive director of Mennonite Church USA, has the main construction of this year’s commencement speech complete. “Now I just have to make sure it’s good and that it resonates with the students,” he said. 

Guyton is selective about which speaking opportunities he takes — as the head of MCUSA, he receives a lot — but he ultimately accepted this invitation because he values Mennonite universities. “The colleges have been a place where many of our leaders come from,” he said. “It’s a good place to focus our energy.”

An extensive background in diversity, equity and inclusion informs the way Guyton writes speeches. He expressed the importance of being aware of his audience. “It makes me be cognizant of the language that I use and even … the examples, the imagery. 

“I think being culturally competent helps you be mindful that there are people other than you in the audience,” Guyton said. “People that are different from you hear and receive things differently, so you have to pay attention to that when you’re crafting your presentation.” 

Looking at the growing diversity throughout the Goshen College campus, Guyton talked about what he hopes to see going forward. “Ultimately, I want all of us to live our best lives, which means taking the gifts and talents God has given us and utilizing them in meaningful ways. 

“How that plays out will be different for each person, … I tell people — live your life and love the life you live … We don’t have to keep striving for someone else’s ideal. We need to live the ideal that God has created for us.”

For those holding leadership positions at Goshen College, Guyton had some advice: “College is a wonderful time to make mistakes — to learn your leadership philosophy. … Take some risk, be bold, get out of your comfort zone. 

“I learned so much about who I was and how to be a better human being in college by doing dumb stuff — be smarter than me. But take some risk, try things out, figure out who you are in that relatively safe environment.”

In 2018 Guyton published a book, “IDEAL ME,” which contains guidelines young adults can use while they discover and build their ideal life. With topics relevant to commencement, Guyton plans to mention the book in his speech.

“I think maybe my perspective has shifted since I first wrote that book. … [This speech] is an opportunity for me to reflect on … where I was … and where I am now … I want to give [the students] things to contemplate and think about as they plan out the next 30 years of their life, [while] I’m going to be looking back on what I did 30 years ago.”

In terms of public speaking in general, “Connecting with people, … an opportunity to share, to get people to think differently, to dream,” are what he finds most enjoyable. “It’s almost like a chef preparing a meal. It’s the preparation, it’s watching people — the expressions on their face when you’re talking to them. That’s what I get out of it.”

The 2024 commencement ceremony is set to take place April 28 at 3 p.m. in the Rec-Fit Center. Guyton said, “I’m going to try out some new things at Goshen that I haven’t done before … I’m practicing what I preach, right?”