Delivered by Michael Ntumy

Board of Trustees, The Chancellor, Dr. Manu Chandaria, University Council, The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Freida Brown, University Senate, Management Board, Faculty, students, staff and alumni present, Parents and guardians, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, and the Graduating Class of 2021.

I want to start my address by welcoming everyone to this very special occasion for all the students, our families behind their screens, staff and faculty who put together all the pieces of the last four years. It is my absolute honor and privilege to stand before you or at least behind this screen, and share a few words. Everybody who knows me knows that I love soccer. Please bear with me while I share a few things I have learned from soccer, but you need not to worry. I have no intention of speaking for 90 minutes.

A famous quote from Mia Hamm states: “My coach said I run like a girl, and I said if he run a little faster, he could too.” From a very young age, I fell in love with soccer, but I was always the only girl trying to get on the dusty soccer pitch. Of course, it wasn’t easy. Everybody expected me to find my spot in the kitchen, and maintain it. But I wanted to be on the field and run as fast as I could, for as long as I could. Even when I was finally able to secure a spot on the field, I was still constantly fed the idea that it wasn’t my spot. So I did the only thing I knew would help me make my statement, which is that no matter where I want to be, as long as I want to, that’s exactly where I belong. I run faster and better, so much so that nobody could contest my spot on that dusty soccer pitch anymore.

Whether it was that soccer pitch, or choosing Information Systems and Technology as a major, or pursing my love for data, I was always told it was not my spot. As young graduates, I believe that our professional life doesn’t start now. It started the day we sat foot in this school, maybe even before. We have already fought countless battles to stand where we are today and countless more battles await us. But I hope we can each remember that no matter what wind we decide to follow from here, that’s exactly the path we belong to. We can decide what pitch we want to fight on and as long as that’s where we want to be, we have a spot on that pitch.

In soccer, you need goals in order to win. And one thing I have learnt in the past four years is that in life too, you need goals in order to win! Without goals, a team can spend 90 minutes running on the field, and no matter how fast or how well they run, if they have no goal, they cannot win (like Arsenal last season). Dear friends, you and I, also needed to set goals for ourselves over the past four years. We might have reached some, some maybe not. Our goals probably changed as well, maybe multiple times. But the one goal I am sure we all shared was that we wanted to be here today, with everyone celebrating this important achievement we’ve all made together. As we continue on our journey to the next chapter, I hope we can all keep on setting goals so that as we run on whatever pitch we choose for ourselves, we can do so with a purpose.

Allow me to borrow Vince Lombardi’s words, when he said “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” Once we’ve secured our spot, and we start running to score our goals so that we can fulfil our overall purpose, I hope that we can also remember those words from Vince Lombardi. Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is. By all means, choose your pitch, claim your spot, and score those goals if you can. But let’s not become blinded by getting the goals, or by winning only and miss the whole point of being on the pitch: the journey that brought us there, the passion that keeps us there, the grit that makes us want to do more on the pitch, and especially all the people around us. A soccer game is not played alone, it takes a team to win, and it takes a team to get back up after a defeat. As we tackle the challenges we are passionate about, let's keep in mind that we are not alone, we won’t always succeed, but as long as we remember why we are fighting and what fuels our passion, we will always be able to get back up and carry on with the fight.

One more lesson from soccer that I believe we could benefit from is a quote from Josef Herberger who said “The ball is round, the game lasts ninety minutes, and everything else is theory.” Just like in soccer, I believe in our lives too, there are very few constants that we cannot change, and everything else is up for a shuffle. What this means to me is that as we stand here today as graduates, our opportunities are endless. Our experience here shaped the unique individual we each are, the only time we each have is our remaining lifespan, and everything else is infinite possibilities. What we do with everything we’ve learnt, and the time we have is the opportunity we have to paint the sky in the color we like, move the mountains that obstruct our way to making significant impact, and create a picture of the world we dream of, whether that world is your family, your community, your country, your continent, or literally the world.

I cannot close my remarks without expressing the gratitude we are submerged in as a class today. Our families, our friends, staff and faculty and most importantly ourselves, yes, we, have made the best we could at each time, within our constraints and abilities. So I am grateful to God, for paving the way for us, I am grateful to everyone for equipping and supporting us along the way, and I am grateful to myself, as we should each be, for pulling through despite all the personal, and literally global challenges we’ve faced in the past years. I am humbled by the opportunity I had to address everyone on behalf of my class, and want to leave you with a quote from Zinedine Zidane, who said: “I once cried because I had no shoes to play soccer, but one day I met a man who had no feet.” No matter where we stand today, recognizing everything we are blessed with, is the key to realizing all the opportunities with the challenges we face.

I thank you for your time. Congratulations class of 2021, let’s fly high, let’s fly mighty.

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