Members of the faculty, parents, guests, and graduates, have no fear. I am well aware that on a day of such high excitement, what you require, first and foremost, of any speaker is brevity. I shall not fail you in this respect.
When we arrived at State College, all was new to us and we walked around looking up at everything in awe. As we have been preparing to leave, we were given the chance to see State College from the top of the tallest building, looking down on everything with nostalgic familiarity—inspecting the tiny people that bring State College to life, trying to imagine the countless buses we squeezed to get on, and the hours spent talking to friends.
State College has meant something different to each of us, the good, the basketball. The thing about State College is that everyone is so excited to be here that the energy is palpable. There is a vibrancy and newness and sense of possibility, that carries us as students, motivates you as teachers and staff, and makes an impression on those watching us—and indeed we know there are many people watching us, looking out for the good, the bad, the basketball.
We are a community diverse in thought and background: the kind of terrain that is never easy to navigate. Take it from my own experience, as I have spent my whole life learning to walk through such terrains—through countries, and communities, and schools that are divided and diverse and marked by difference—so I know how challenging and uncomfortable and sometimes exhausting that process can be—but I also know that it is remarkably rewarding, and powerful, but most of all, necessary.
I know that graduation speeches are notorious for trying to impart grand messages on a sea of overwhelmed and overheated people, but since this is the first speech of the morning, I decided to go ahead and squeeze one in anyway. As we receive our prestigious State College degrees this morning, I can’t help but be reminded of how small the world continues to get for the educated and elite, while others, both at home and abroad, are forgotten or left behind. Be they Palestinian refugees, trafficked children in Cambodia, or the residents of the lower 9th ward in New Orleans—their voices are not as loud or powerful or influential as ours, so let’s not forget to listen for them. None of us were born into a balanced and equitable world. None of our children will be born into such a world either.
But what I ask you to remember is that while we are the lucky ones, we’re all in this together. As individuals, as a university, as a community, let us embrace this challenge of becoming invested in each other’s...