Welcome to Graduation Class of 2010! After two weeks of finals, papers, all-nighters, five-hour energy drinks, picking up family from the airport and having them sleep on your bed, and trying to find parking, we are finally here! Today, we celebrate one of the biggest moments of our lives to date and the transformation we have experienced in the process.
Transformation. We have all experienced it to some degree. For some of us transformation has looked like changing your major, transferring schools, coming out of your shell, picking up a new hobby, giving your life to a cause, or... embracing the world of P90x.
Ultimately, transformation is the change that happens bringing us closer to who we are.
Most frequently, transformation is an internal process. It is a process of finding our passions – the things that make our hearts come alive. While many of us probably had many goals and ambitions going into school, I am sure that some, if not all of those goals, have shifted, or at least been greatly clarified in the process.
I know that was the case for me. When I first came to ASU, I was planning on sacrificing the next four years of my life in order to be rich, successful, and stable. I wanted to do that through a major in bioengineering while doing pre-med at the same time. However, I quickly realized early in my first semester of my freshman year that engineering and medicine were not for me. So I ended up changing my major from Bioengineering to Religious Studies – pretty big change, right?
Changing my major represented the beginning of a shift in my perspective – the first of many transformational moments I experienced. I was learning to let go of the expectations and pressure that I placed on myself and the expectations and pressure I felt from others. Doing this allowed me to pursue the things that I was really interested in – the things that made me come alive.
Maybe some of you have changed your major or your goals over the past few years. But don’t get me wrong, there may be some of you here today who have known your major and your goals from day one. Maybe you always wanted to be a doctor and will be going into medical school this fall. That’s amazing and congratulations! The point is not about everyone switching their major to humanities, joining a specific club or college, but rather, it is the transformation we have experienced in the process. We have all experienced some shift or clarification in the process of finding out who we are and what we are passionate about. I mean you can even take a moment right now and think about the ways that you have grown and how your goals have shifted over the past few years.
After switching my major a lot of people ask me, “So what can you do with your Religious Studies degree or your Asian Pacific American Studies certificate?” Or my favorite, “So what practical skills do you have; what are you going to do?” Maybe you have been asked a similar question about your College of Liberal Arts and Sciences degree.
For me, my CLAS degree has provided me with the skills to think critically and see outside of the box. What is great about the College is that there is no cookie-cutter formula to make all the students into one mold. Rather, it provides a range of opportunities that allows students such as ourselves to explore what is out there while providing the support and resources needed to be successful. It has allowed me to begin to recognize some of the deeper roots of social inequalities and injustices. It has provided a venue to develop research skills that allow me to engage in largely unexplored areas that silence the most marginalized of people groups; and it has provided me with a set of writing and communicative skills to begin to bring awareness to these issues as a means to initiate change in our communities.
Community. At the end of the day, I believe that it is for and through community that we experience transformation. Class of 2010, just look out around you today – there is probably close to a 7 to 1 ratio of faculty, family, or friends to us as graduates. Graduation is not merely a celebration of individual achievement; it is a recognition that our personal success is a byproduct of the transformation we have experienced through community – the people we love and the ones who have loved us and supported us through our best of times and our worst of times. So I would like to say thank you to all who have made this day possible. Without you, we wouldn’t be here.
It has been through community that I have been able to experience the most transformation. Whether it has been through academic community, spiritual community, or social community, it has been friends and family members who have encouraged me to discover and pursue my passions and be myself.
My personal passion is to see the Asian Pacific American community - specifically the Filipino community – reclaim their unique identity. More broadly, my passion is to see our communities released into their destinies by recognizing the injustices that inhibit them from their dreams and empowering them as well as others to recognize who they truly are.
While these are my unique passions, I must acknowledge that they have been shaped by those closest to me – my community. Seeing my friends pursue what makes their hearts come alive has inspired me to continue to pursue my own dreams. Whether it is teaching overseas in Asia, working towards better Muslim-Christian relations, using arts and media to communicate positive messages, advocating for immigration rights, or working with Somali and Uzbek refugee communities - seeing my friends come alive has opened my eyes to recognize that there is hope. Hope that I could likewise pursue in my life through my own passions. It is the hope that exists inside of each and everyone one of you - that manifests itself most powerfully when you are living out of the freedom of who you were made to be.
When you pursue the things on your heart, insecurities begin to melt away as you begin to believe and recognize your own creativity, insight, power, value, and freedom.
So what does that look like moving forward?
In the last four years, some of our greatest insecurities have been tied to the expectations and pressures of school such as GPA; and now, the pressure tied to jobs or future academic pursuits can be overwhelming. But we must hold on to the transformation we have experienced while at ASU. The transformation we experience is to bring us freedom – freedom from expectation; freedom from pressure; and freedom to pursue our passions and discover who we really are. Transformation happens in community as we begin to experience the freedom of being ourselves. So as we move forward, do not forget that the freedom and transformation we have experienced on the campus is to likewise bring freedom and transformation back to the community.
With that, I want to leave you with this closing thought. It is a quote that has inspired me and changed the way that I have looked at the world, and maybe it will for you. It is a quote by Howard Thurman, an influential minister during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. He said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Congratulations Class of 2010! I wish you all the best, and God Bless!