In two days I’ll join you on the march down from Hall Memorial Building down to the Field House. I’ve watched this exodus many times as my peers made this momentous passage amid tears, profound joy and sentiment, and relief. Finally, at last, it’s my – and your – turn.
In light of the events of the last nine days, it’s natural to wonder how it’ll feel walking across that stage where Jane K. Fernandes and I. King Jordan, two prominent figures in the presidential selection controversy, stand. Will I really cherish it as much, looking into their eyes and smiling artificially as they hand over the piece of paper I’ve earned and shake my hand?
But I’ll tell you how I’ll feel. I entered this institution longer ago than I’d like to admit. Like many others, I’ve left, come back, left again, and, yes, I’ve come back again.
I’ve sat on my ass through endless boring classes. I’ve been a brownnosing nerd for some teachers and an apathetic slacker for others. I’ve attended wild parties and paid the dues. I’ve pulled all-nighters cranking out 20-page papers the night before a final exam. I’ve fretted over test and quiz results and breezed through others. Taken classes I didn’t want to, been unable to register for those I wanted. I’ve been involved in student organizations, contributed to campus life in general. I’ve done all these for the last several years.
And so have the hundreds of other students, like you, who are graduating with me this week.
And somehow, though I never intended it, I found a home. I’ve forged friendships both temporary and lasting. I became part of a culture and owned my citizenship in the deaf community more than ever. I’ve been on campus during murder investigations, during 9/11, during the Homecoming fiasco last fall, and now, during this latest crisis. Each time, I’ve seen the people of Gallaudet test their own strength and examine themselves and grow stronger and better every step of the way.
Maybe the current events at Gallaudet have you wondering if graduating this Friday will hold the same feeling of achievement for you. But the truth is, even while we investigate how this University should be led, the whole of Gallaudet is still standing behind you. The staff, faculty, and administration will hold you up as an example of what Gallaudet can be to future students. Your family and friends will still celebrate this milestone in your life with you. The members of the FSSA will be sprinkled throughout the audience members watching you and even sitting among you, and knowing that you are part of the reason they’re fighting for a better University.
So, maybe you’re wondering how you’ll feel when you shake King’s hand. But I know how I’m gonna feel.
How will I feel? By God Almighty, I’m gonna be damn proud of myself.
And you know what? I’m gonna be proud of you too.