Remarks as prepared by Johns Hopkins University senior class president Destiny Bailey for the universitywide commencement ceremony on May 21, 2015.
Good morning everyone: family, friends, faculty, and staff. And most importantly, good morning to my classmates and fellow graduates.
Leading up to this day, we've all asked ourselves, "Am I ready for the world?" The real question should be though, "Is the world ready for me?" Well, the world is not only ready for us. The world needs us. Now, sitting here today, "This is real," we keep telling ourselves, but many of us still don't believe it.
Students, take a look around you. All of this is for us. But no one accomplishes anything of value alone. We cannot forget those who have supported and loved us unconditionally during our time at Hopkins. Whether those people were your family, friends, or a faculty or staff member who took a chance on you, take the time today to let them know that they have contributed to the newest, shiniest version of you.
I also want to acknowledge those who cannot be here with us today. I'd especially like to remember our classmates, Rebecca Grande and Frances Keenan who passed away during our time here. As the Johns Hopkins Class of 2015, let's celebrate their lives and all of our lives.
Although today's ceremony is seemingly a commemoration of the end of our college experience, it is really a celebration of new beginnings. But there are no limits on what we celebrate today: our friends, our families, our happiness, our futures, or the fact that Chipotle now delivers in 67 U.S. cities.
Today, I choose to celebrate the obstacles we have overcome so far, both as a class and as individuals. Without obstacles challenging our every action and encouraging us to find solutions, there would be no reason for change and ultimately, no progress.
Unlike our study habits, which went from being progressively better freshman through junior year to progressively worse during senior year, I am confident that as long as we desire to, we will change and grow in ways that are truly important—we will become better humans. As we continue on our journey of personal and intellectual growth, we will shed our old skins and reveal the newest, best versions of ourselves. We will not be governed by the fear of change.
Throughout our lives, there have been many times when we were afraid. When we applied to college, we were afraid we didn't look good enough on paper to make it here. When we came to Hopkins, we were afraid that we might not be happy enough to make our experiences what we knew they should be. Then, when we explored Baltimore for the first time and read the words engraved on the wooden benches, "Baltimore: The Greatest City in America", we thought, "Hmm … bold statement." What we really feared, though, was change.
I know that when I moved here from my hometown of Laredo, Texas, I was scared and lonely, but eventually I knew that I, like all of you, would have to make a choice about this place—not only about Homewood, but also about Baltimore—unique, colorful, brilliant Baltimore. Would I—would we—call this home? We did.
We have had many experiences at Hopkins, and not every moment in the last four years has been positive or easy. But what matters, as we look back, is not what the obstacles have been, but how we have dealt with them.
I challenge you to welcome obstacles that can lead to change, and to be the change you want to see. Break down social barriers, find your most genuine self, and encourage others to do the same. Every day is a new day and I am continuously reminded to rise above myself, by you—the talented, hilarious, intelligent, and amazing people I have met here. We owe it to each other and to ourselves to define our Hopkins experience by those we chose to surround ourselves with—by the relationships we took the time to nurture because they're for life.
Finally, I want us to promise each other something. Let's promise that we will keep life in perspective. Let's promise that we will live each waking day not with a hunger only for success, but with an everlasting appreciation for the people in our lives and the challenges we have overcome.
Smile at the people next to you, because unafraid, we're moving on. Congratulations!