Hello and welcome to family, friends, faculty, staff, and my fellow graduates of 2020, 2021, and 2022. Huge congratulations!
When I first came to America at 19, it was a moment I had dreamed of for years. I imagined the sparkling lights of New York City and palm-lined streets of California. But I’ll be honest: I almost didn’t go. I couldn’t help but feel scared now that I was actually doing it. My dreams were clouded with anxiety and a million questions while I packed up my suitcases.
But lesson learned, because today I stand before you grateful for acting on my dreams, despite the fear that arose.
Because we have to ask ourselves, how can we live meaningful lives if we don’t dare to dream? How are we supposed to find our purpose if we don’t dare to try? But dream you did, and you didn’t just try, you succeeded. You graduated.
Yes, graduating from any university should leave you with more knowledge and experiences. But, Antioch has given us something more. Something invaluable: a deeper purpose. In the words of Antioch’s founder, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” A great description of the living and breathing soul of Antioch.
And isn’t that why we chose Antioch in the first place? Isn’t that why our classes were more exciting and inclusive? Learning at Antioch is more than textbooks and long lectures. Our education demanded hands-on learning to make our communities and world better, kinder, and more just. Dreaming fearlessly was encouraged and celebrated.
And it was genuine and believable because throughout our history, Antioch has dreamt, and led, by example. For those of you who don’t know, let me give you a quick Antiochian history lesson:
- First US college to treat female faculty equal to male faculty, including curriculum equal across gender.
- De-segregated learning a century before it was written into US law.
- First US college to mandate verbal consent on campus, two decades before ‘Yes Means Yes’ laws.
I cannot stand in front of you pretending that the world is perfect. Far from it. But I mention it because as we walk across this stage today, the entire world lays at our feet, requiring every inch of our dreams and purposes to mend it. We’re entering a suffering world, but I know that Antioch has empowered us to take action and to fight for justice.
Yet as I watch the world beg for help I can breathe with less worry, knowing that Antioch is sending us out into the world having learned from professors who encouraged us to believe that we hold the power to change the world. Who celebrated when we talked about tackling issues that even those highest in power struggle to fix. Who never told us to dream less or get realistic, but challenged us to open our minds.
And you don’t have to do it alone. I know so because Antioch allowed me to make friends with people I probably would’ve never met otherwise. I’ve met students who bring me hope and inspire me beyond words. It’s thanks to you that I don’t fear dreaming big anymore, because you’ve all shown me the power of dreaming, as you have shared your stories with so much vulnerability and strength, that I will never forget them.
I wish I could predict the future for you, but I am proud to be facing it with a generation of graduates that dared to dream, dared to educate and improve themselves, and dared to transform fear into hope.
I am proud to be alongside every single one of you in leading a world where:
- Black Lives Matter.
- Who you are and who you love doesn’t threaten your safety.
- Being a woman doesn’t mean you have any less right to your own body.
- The responsibility is not put on the shoulders of children to find the best hiding spots in classrooms, but on the shoulders of adults to pass proper gun regulation.
- Your immigration status doesn’t downplay your worth as a human.
A future where we continuously come together, in what Dr. King referred to in his 1965 Antioch Commencement (big shoes to fill, I know) as, “involved participants in the struggle to make brotherhood and justice realities in our day.”
That might’ve been 60 years ago and we are definitely still facing most of the same struggles but I still believe in us.
Antioch has taught us to not limit our dreams and to keep moving forward with purpose. Please hold onto that. Dream like a kid, but with the purpose of who you are now and who you are becoming. Best decision I ever made was to trust my dream of moving here, even when it seemed unrealistic or scary.
Remember what we have learned: don’t ever fear your dreams, but dream when you are faced with fear.
I will leave you with the wise words of one of the first feminist icons in my life, Elle Woods,
“You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.”
Congratulations, fellow graduates, this dream of yours came true! I cannot wait to see where your dreams take you next!