SPEECH BY THE VALEDICTORIAN, FAVOUR MBERU, DURING THE 42ND COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY OF THE UNITED STATES INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY-AFRICA HELD ON SEPTEMBER 26, 2020.
Board of Trustees
The Chancellor, Dr. Manu Chandaria
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza
Faculty, students, staff and alumni present
Parents and guardians,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
And the Graduating Class of 2020
It is with utmost gratitude that I stand before you to represent the graduating class of 2020. I know over the last few years while we attended classes, commuted, worked, and dealt with both academic and personal problems all in order to complete our degree requirements, that we all imagined a much different graduation day: one on campus, donned in cap and gowns, one where we would sit together listening to speeches and waiting for the moment when we would individually be called onto the stage and handed our ribbon wrapped pieces of paper meant to represent our degrees, while our family members and friends whistled and cheered us on. We expected a day like that of those that have gone before us.
What we never imagined was that the end of our academic pursuit would be quite like this: with screens, borders and oceans in between us, in our homes or wherever you may find yourself, without our gowns and caps. It definitely feels different, it evokes mixed feelings and perhaps feels slightly unfair.
As upsetting as it may be, I would like to urge us to not forget that this day is still our day, that after much hard work and our mastery of APA citation as well as the cut and paste function in Microsoft Word, that we have done it!
Despite the fact that we may not get the experience we expected, this day is still a monumental one. We no longer need to worry about the numbers 7 and 14 for their association with examination weeks.
Today is a celebration of a great achievement by our graduating class. Together we are moving forward against all odds. Together we are triumphant over numerous unprecedented world and local events. This is therefore a bright moment and a sign of new hope, new life, resurrection out of the ashes and sunshine after a gloomy scaring global moment. Beyond these challenges we fulfilled our graduation requirements and our University continued to steer the ship of our academic journey forward and we are here today to celebrate and celebrate we must do. Congratulations!
I would like to focus the rest of my reflection on the idea of staying ahead of the curve, this is a phrase we have probably heard before, from companies, business gurus and by countless others in many circumstances and situations. But what does it really mean? And how can we apply the same to our everyday lives?
Staying ahead of the curve isn’t an abstract phrase to just be used in the slogan of a business practice. The phrase is thought to have its origins in mathematics, a subject I know we all love. It is often used to refer to being at the forefront, to the ability to anticipate and initiate.
Staying ahead of the curve is in the choices we make every day and need to continue to make. It is a distinguishing perspective and a value proposition.
It is in nourishing and growing your network, in meeting new people, in interacting with those you already know well.
It is in being prepared as much as you can, but also not being afraid to change and adapt when the need arises.
It is in listening to those around you and to yourself, actively and with intent It is in the application of the knowledge which you have acquired.
It is in constantly learning because you know your education goes beyond the classroom.
It is not staying in your bubble; it is allowing yourself to feel discomfort in order to allow for growth.
It is in making the most of what we have been provided, as well as being creative enough to not allow what we do not have to hold us back.
It is in getting the little tasks done so that your mind is free to fully engage with whatever may arise. It is in being able to spot opportunity and in creating opportunity where there is none.
It is learning from our mistakes and those of others, but not allowing ourselves to be crippled by the fear of making them.
It is in risk taking, it is in not being afraid to share and implement our ideas.
It is the ability to find the new in what already exists, and to create from scratch.
It is in the little choices we may think do not matter and the big ones that may intimidate us.
It is in the mundane and the extraordinary.
As we look towards the future, I hope we will be able to remember and apply everything we have learnt during our time here, both in class and outside of class, that we will be part and parcel of the growth and development of our communities, and our people.
I would like to thank the staff who work here both academic and non-academic for making sure we had sanitary and safe environments to study, for ensuring we were feed, for helping us hundreds of times over to reset our Blackboard account passwords. To our lecturers for teaching us what you know and have experienced, for guiding us, for giving and grading hundreds of assignments and exams.
To my fellow students, I thank you for our engagements in class, for sharing your knowledge, experiences, and perspectives. And in a category of their own, I would like to thank every single group member who didn't submit their work in time, I remember you every single one, you have taught me so much about patience, resilience, creativity, perseverance, about not being afraid to ask someone over and over and over again for what was needed and getting tasks done besides the odds.
And lastly, I would like to close by saying congratulations again to the class of 2020, we have worked, and we have prevailed and we will continue to prevail.