Speech By The Valedictorian, Michelle Oyiolo during the 45th Commencement Ceremony

Board of Trustees
The Chancellor, Dr. Manu Chandaria
The University Council
The Interim Vice Chancellor, Dr. Lola Odubekun,
The University Senate,
Management Board,
Faculty, students, staff and alumni present,
Parents and guardians,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
And the Graduating Class of 2023

I want to start my address by welcoming everyone to this very special occasion: The graduating class gathered here, our friends and families who continue to love and support us from every corner of the globe, and the staff and faculty who toiled with us to get us here. I am beyond honored to stand before you today and present this address on behalf of the graduating class.

It feels like just last week we were sitting in orientation and trying to learn the names of all the buildings on campus, feeling unsure of what steps to take next. Then came the pandemic and we saw just how resilient and adaptable we were as virtual classes became the new norm. And now, here we are, setting the pace as the next generation of changemakers and making it look effortless.

According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Now, not to naysay Einstein but that sounds like practice to me. To fear failure, rejection, ridicule, embarrassment, to fear all these things is to fear living life itself. But to overcome that fear, to fail and fail and fail again and still get up and keep trying, that takes courage. Being here today is a testament to our courage, our resilience and our persistence.

We saw complicated chemical formulas shaped like lego death stars and said “Yes, I can do that.”. We saw the size of accounting textbooks and 8-page balance sheets and said, “I got this.”. We saw complicated circuits and said “Bring it on.”. And who can forget the rise of Zoom University? I think we all became experts at answering questions while secretly watching cat videos in our pajamas. Virtual learning also showed us the value of face-to-face interactions, which we appreciate now more than ever.

My own experience has been challenging. On so many occasions, I felt like a fish out of water, I felt close to giving up. But the fact that I’m standing before you today is proof that this community here and the support it provides can carry you through anything. I would like to give a special thanks to my family in attendance, my mother, Mary Naburi Oyiolo and my siblings here as well as my late father, Alexander Oyiolo who unfortunately didn’t live to see today but who never stopped encouraging me, my friends and colleagues who uplifted me and the counseling center, staff and faculty that saw me through some of my hardest times. I can say with absolute certainty that I would not have accomplished all this without you.

Now, I could stand up here and drop even more inspirational quotes, but let's be honest, we'll see enough of those on our Instagram feeds today. Let us remember that today is not just the end of our academic journey, but the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. As we step into tomorrow, let us carry with us the courage to embrace challenges, the strength to show kindness to others, the gratitude to appreciate our support systems, and the determination to make a positive impact on the world.

I would like to uphold a tradition my predecessor began. As a Spanish minor myself, I would be remiss if I failed to address you all in Spanish. That said, “Enhorabuena a la clase de dos mil veintitrés. Estáis la leche!”

Congratulations, Class of 2023, we did it!

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