To whom much is given, much is expected!
Hello Everyone! I am Papa Anderson, a chemistry major, an international student from Ghana, and a proud member of this graduating class. I am highly honored to be given the opportunity to share a speech with all of you today.
But before I start, I would like us to perform a breathing exercise. Use this exercise to appreciate the unique moment you find yourself in. Graduating from college is no easy feat and I want you to use the time to think about all the people and things you are grateful for in helping you to get to this day. Join me!
How did that feel? Sometimes we get lost in the sea of all the things we wish for or do not have that we tend to forget how much we have been blessed with. It is only by counting our blessings every day that we can truly understand the value of what we have. So, if your list of people or things that you are grateful for is as long as mine, then I am sure a few seconds was not enough so I am going to share part of my list, and hopefully, it resonates with you but I encourage you to continue this exercise later.
I am grateful to God and my family. Then, dining services, facilities, staff, CSS, financial aid, and to all the professors and everyone who has nurtured/supported us these last few years. Thank you!
It seems I am forgetting a very important group [pause]? Each and every one of you. I am grateful for each interaction that I have had with you: the good, the bad, the awkward. They have all contributed to my Williams experience and I have come to appreciate the depth and uniqueness all of you brought to our conversations. Today, I hope you understand that we have been put in a unique position: Being able to attend college, let alone graduate from a place like Williams, affords us so much knowledge and skill that can and should be wielded to positively influence and change society.
Let me explain. So many of our agemates, who are by no means less smart than us, have never been afforded this opportunity because they were not exposed to environments that would enable them to get to spaces like Williams. I, for example, have been privileged to have had parents who could afford to take me to a private junior high school, which then enabled me to attend one of the best high schools in Ghana where I learned about the opportunity to attend college abroad — just like that, one privilege reinforcing another! Some of my peers, however, never started KG, let alone, high school or college. This story is not unique to me, or Ghana but happens in the US and every country in the world. So, I encourage you to think about how you ended up here today: what kind of privilege made it possible for you to get into and
graduate from Williams? My point is, not all of our success can be attributed to our hard work!
Let’s take another deep breadth and think. Inhale…. Exhale…
Having such a privilege calls us to a greater responsibility: to use our liberal arts education not for ourselves but to create opportunities for others and to solve the problems in our society.
While you move into the world to take on your promising careers and while you work on your jobs, let what keeps you up at night be the fact that about a third of the world population is being threatened by malnutrition and hunger, over 2 billion individuals do not have access to clean water, and several others to education or financial security, and that the world is still plagued with racial injustice. These are a few of the issues that I am asking us to embrace and to challenge ourselves to make a difference in, and I strongly believe we are more than capable of doing that.
I have been a first-hand witness of some of you putting your talents into things you are passionate about. It has been a pleasure to watch some of you successfully start non-profits to help medical professionals or to feed your local communities during the pandemic. In other situations, your efforts have not been met with success but you’ve shown resilience. For example, although student demands for the creation of an Asian American studies concentration at Williams have not been met by the college, some of you have shown dedication to draw attention to the issue and I hope the college listens. This is the same passion, dedication and resilience required to solve the issues in society.
I have a lot more to say but I would like to end with some advice that I got from a mentor at Williams:
Be kind out there! Bad or unfortunate things are bound to happen to us, it is part of life. But anytime that happens, you have a decision to make. It’s either you let that thing erode any form of empathy you have for others or you allow it to make you better at showing love or being kind. So I ask you, Be kind out there!
Once again, congratulations on graduating from college! As you Climb high and far, I hope you use your degree to make a difference. Thank you!