Welcome, everyone. I am elated to have the great pleasure of addressing you all today.
This is the second time I’ve been asked to give a speech at graduation. My valedictorian speech was, however, never given – due to some plastic forks and a can of confetti settling on my high school’s property. I don’t tell you this story for pity, but for a more significant reason. Sitting next to me then – also disappointed her speech was taken away as a result of this senior prank – was Alina BigJohny. Just one year ago, Alina was right here, received her diploma, and as many of you know, lost her life tragically in the Indiana State Fair accident on Aug. 13, last year.
Many of us were fortunate enough to know Alina and cherish her incredible enthusiasm for life. Let us rejoice her spirit and embrace the opportunities in life as if they will never again come our way.
All we have is today. Today, we celebrate our college graduation. Amidst the great sense of accomplishment we have for ourselves, let us not forget to acknowledge those who helped us during our time at Manchester College.
My voice resonates with all of my friends Manchester helped me find. On their behalf as well, please allow me to share our collected gratitude.
Our parents – they called us when we were homesick, they built us lofts for our dorm rooms, they never let us return to campus Sundays without homemade food and clean laundry, they got a night-shift job at Arby’s to help pay for tuition, and some of them saved up for years to fly thousands of miles to see us walk across this stage.
Our friends – they came to every performance of the school play, even though we had a minor role; they read through our exam flashcards at 2 a.m., even though they’d rather be sleeping; they fought back tears when we left for a semester abroad and surprised us at the airport when we returned; they baked confetti cakes for our birthdays, and they were never too busy to comfort us when we really needed it.
Our professors – they give us their cell phone numbers and tell us to call or text if we have questions over assignments; they write impeccable recommendation letters on short notice; they invite us over to eat – or live at – their houses; they even adopt us as their own children for a few weeks to take us off campus to see The Alhambra, The Louvre, Stonehenge, Dunn’s River Falls, Disney World, or Ciudad Antigua, all for the sake of a hands-on education.
There is nothing “too much” to ask of a Manchester College professor.
There is no doubt that none of us would be sitting in the PERC today in this state of euphoria and triumph without the beloved people in our lives.
Today, in all the different languages we speak, let me express our gratitude to all of you and to Alina for her inspirational spirit: Thank you, cam-on, danke shun, muchas gracias, Dhanybhad, merci, shukran, Asante sana, doumo arigatou gozaimashita.