[CROWD CHEERING] [MUSIC - HRVY AND MATOMA, "GOOD VIBES"]
HRVY: (SINGING) I only want good vibes round me tonight. No negativity in my life. Just good vibes. That's what I like.
So I don't need you raining on my parade. Throwing shade. Be on your merry way. I only want good vibes round me tonight. No negativity in my life.
I know life will never be perfect. But the sunshine--
RICHMOND ADDAE: Hello, hello, hello. Yo, class of 2023! How are you feeling?
I'm Richmond Addae the Class of 2023 Senior Logistics Convocation Care. And I have served on the Speaker Selection Committee that helped put this entire event together for you. We hope you enjoy today's event, as we celebrate the closing of one chapter at the beginning of the next.
At this time, we ask that you take a moment to locate the exits closest to your location, which may very well be behind you. Also, please take a moment to make sure your cell phones are on silent. The event is being live streamed, so please remain in your seats during the event to avoid blocking the cameras by the video staff and professional photographers. The videos can be viewed at Cornell Cast.
I want to acknowledge that Cornell is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogohono. The Gayogohono are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign nations with a historical and contemporary presence on this land. The Confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York State, and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of the Gayogohono dispossession and honor the ongoing connection of the Gayogohono people, past and present, to these lands and water.
Secondly, I would like to thank the Big Red Marching Band for their lively and energetic opening performance. And we are happy to hear their energy one last time before you graduate this weekend. For those who do not know, the Big Red Marching Band is one of the largest student-run organizations in the Ivy League. It is larger by far--
Yeah, we can give them another round of applause, if y'all want to.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
It is larger, by far, than any other Ivy League band. Finally, it is with great pleasure that I introduce Dr. Marla Love. Dr. Marla Love serves as the Robert W and Elizabeth C Stanley Dean of Students within the Division of Student and Campus Life. As part of associate leadership team, Marla offers efforts-- leads efforts to spark student transformation through co-curricular programs, resources, and services. Marla champions and advocates for initiatives that foster an overall student's sense of belonging while being in academic and professional excellence. We welcome Dean Love to the stage. Can you give here a round of applause?
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
SPEAKER: Let's hear it for your Dean, Dr. Marla Love.
MARLA LOVE: We're getting so technical, and an introduction And some vocals back here from AV. Thank you so much. Thank you Richmond for your introduction. Class of 2023, let me feel some energy, OK?
Give me the sound of no more classes, no more prelims, and commencement on Saturday!
I love it. That felt good. That felt where we need to keep this all afternoon, OK?
So I have the privilege to convocate this convocation. Basically, I'm bringing us to order, a big assembly. And it's basically a fancy way of saying, let's get this party started. So Cornell Class of 2023, welcome to your convocation ceremony!
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
This afternoon is a celebration of your hard work, your commitment, your contributions to Cornell, and an opportunity for us to send you off to post-Cornell life with fanfare and Cornell love. You deserve this celebration after working so hard these several years, through a campus shutdown, a pandemic, a hybrid year, and the return to campus as we know it. Do me a favor. Turn to your neighbor, give them a high five and say, you rocked it!
Love it. Love it. Love it. Love it.
I see it. I see it. I see it. I see it.
Now pat yourself on the back. Give yourself a big round of applause.
[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]
During this program, you're going to hear from some amazing voices in this Cornell community, as well as our invited guest Ken Jeong, to keep you motivated. Yes!
I should say doctor. Yes! Yes! They'll keep you motivated and laughing as you begin the next chapter.
So let me just add a few words to the mix. I've been inspired by your presence, your resilience, and perseverance. These are qualities that will set the world on fire as you pursue your next goals and passions. As your Dean of Students, it's been a joy to peek into small windows of your lives; student organized events, academic presentations, offering guidance and resources during hard moments, rooting for your athletic teams. Learning new things from you, whether it's lifting weights, being on a runway as a model, or spreading Cornell cheer through dance with you. I'm-- woo! Dance team, yes!
I'm excited to celebrate this next chapter and hope I get the chance to welcome you back in the future, as you'll be Cornell alumni. I look forward to seeing your smiling faces as you make your way in the commencement ceremony on Saturday, and I can't wait to see the beaming faces of your family and friends as they celebrate this big day with you. Again, congratulations, Cornell Class of 2023. I'm so thankful for your contributions and the hope and optimism you bring to our campus. I hope you remember this campus fondly and come back to share your stories of life after Cornell.
Now, let's keep this party rolling. Throughout the program, we'll showcase several of your amazing classmates as they perform, sing, dance, and offer poetry. It is my pleasure to introduce our next performance Break Free.
I see Break Free has some fans out here. Established 2006, Break Free is an open-style dance performance group. Break Free offers free dance workshops for the Cornell community, performs at various events on campus, and hosts an annual showcase every spring. Their key founding principle is dance to inspire, which they abide by in every practice and performance. Please join me in welcoming Break Free to the stage.
MUSIC: You can rock. It you can suck it. You can even put on your brand-new jacket. Because I'm the man who can put you in a musical bracket.
(RAPPING) Party like it's 1980, where the Afro shiny and the girls all pretty. with a white girl molly and a dogskin collie. Can I rock both bodies? Hey. New worry Hi, Rob. Lowe shoddy. Keep it table. Can we boogie on the floor? I've been stressing all week, trying to clear through the dough now. [INAUDIBLE] burn now. Resting back at the club. Put it down from above. Your body my only drug. We do it like Vegas.
Rich and famous, we doing it major. We waking the neighbors.
[INAUDIBLE] Labor's cash out, splash another worry that shine might be used to try but now we kind till we pass cash out Murray's dash it's true we got it up until we bad
Established in 2006, Break Free is an open-style dance performance--
Oh, [BLEEP], here we go again.
Round here, if it smell funny, onions getting peeled. Round here, if it smell funny, onions getting peeled. Round here, if it smell funny, get your onion peel. Round here, if it smell funny, get your onion peeled!
Look, I was out in the field since I was little. Never been house cat. I'm from where everyone active. If you come at them backwards, they be where your house at. I don't care about no hoes. Where is your spouse at?
Tobechukwu dubem nwigwe. Who cares if it's hard? You going to have to pronounce that. Ah, it no be small ting at all. Ah, it no be small ting at all. Ah, it no be small thing at all. Ah, it no be thing at all.
It no be small thing. No, it no be no small thing at all.
(RAPPING) All right, quick, quick, let me get this. When I spit it is vomit. I'm from H-Town, so it's back to back and then back to back like the COmets. That's a four-peat. I got drip like nosebleeds, but don't be where the hoes be.
I don't like where that road leads. Me and mine be lowkey. I don't do this for trophies, but some say I'm a shepherd because I'm with the sheep, like Bo Peep. Hopefully, I sow seeds that lead them to green pastures.
Told my dog, "You ain't no slave. Them whips and chains just got you mastered." Ouch, I know that's backwards.
OK, ladies. Now let's get in formation Give me some--
Drop the bass. Mind the bass. Get lower. Radio say speed it up, I just go slower. I just go slower. I just-- I just go slower. Radio say speed it up, I just go slower. And why you think you keep my name rolling off your tongue? 'Cause when he want to smash, I'll just write another one.
Give me some.
Drop the bass. [? Mine ?] about to drop the bass. [INAUDIBLE]. Drop the bass. [INAUDIBLE].
Oh! Yeah. Going 8 like nigga. Chain those skateboard figures.
Oh, don't do it. Oh my god.
(RAPPING) Fuck it up. Fuck it up. Back it up, back it up. Back it up, back it up, back it up. Back it up, back it up. Fuck it up, fuck it up. Fuck it up, fuck it up. Back it up, back it up. Back it up, back it up. Back it up, back it up. Back it up, back it up.
ABEGALE MCDERMOTT: Thank you, Dean Love, for your wonderful remarks, and thank you, Break Free, for that amazing performance! I am Abegale McDermott, a member of the 2023 Convocation Committee. And I would like to take a moment to introduce Edom Soloman. Edom is a graduating senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as a communication major.
She is a senior class representative, a mentor through the community program at Cornell, and an undergraduate research assistant to Dr. Niel Lewis, Jr.
EDOM SOLOMAN: Thank you, Abegale. Now it is my turn to introduce Abegale. She is a graduating senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in computational biology and minoring in Spanish on the premedical track In her time at Cornell, Abegale has been a tradition fellow and a mentor through Cornell University Visitor Relations and Housing and Residential Life.
She also did research in the animal sciences department and was a teaching assistant for foundational science courses. Together, we served as members of the Convocation Committee and the Convocation Events Subcommittee. Next, we will hear from Cornell's vice president for student and campus life, Dr. Ryan Lombardi.
ABEGALE MCDERMOTT: Dr. Lombardi is serving in his eighth year as Cornell's vice president for student and campus life, where he works alongside an outstanding team dedicated to providing many of the foundational support services that shape the student experience. The breadth of their collective work-- housing, dining, dean of students, health and wellness, student organizations, career services, resource centers, community engagement, athletics, recreation, and beyond-- impacts virtually every student at Cornell.
EDOM SOLOMAN: During his tenure as vice president, Dr. Lombardi's priorities have focused on expanding resources to support Cornell's increasingly diverse student community, transforming the residential campus, and enhancing the awareness of and support for student mental health and well-being. This included the doubling of staff in the Student Resource Centers and adding, among others, positions to support first-generation and low-income students, DACA and undocumented students, and growing the budget for clinical mental health services by nearly 90%.
The recent completion of the North Campus Residential expansion represents the single largest construction project in Cornell's history and will shape the residential experience for generations to come.
ABEGALE MCDERMOTT: Dr. Lombardi is deeply committed to student success and can frequently be found engaging with students individually and in group settings across campus. He lives locally with his wife, Dr. Carla Lombardi, an assistant dean in the ILR School, and their two teenage daughters.
ABEGALE AND EDOM: Please welcome Dr. Lombardi!
SPEAKER: Give it up for the big man on campus, Ryan Lombardi!
[AUDIENCE CHANTING "LOMBARDI"]
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thank you. I love you!
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Edom and Abegale, for the nice introduction. And that voice-- that big man on campus thing-- I'm not so sure about that. Most importantly, good afternoon, Class of 2023! Yes. I am so grateful to be with you here today. And I want to make sure that we thank the Senior Convocation Committee-- all of the members-- for your outstanding work, and everyone who worked so hard to put together this special event.
So let's give them a big round of applause, please.
And, of course, welcome, Doctor Jeong. We're so glad that you're here. So--
--I know you just want to get to him, so we're going to try and keep this rolling. So I have one job today. See if I don't mess that up. One job, which is simply to offer a very hearty congratulations to each and every one of you. You did it. Congratulations. But you know I've got to do a little more than that. I'm not just going to-- I could just walk off the stage now, which, maybe, some of you would like. But I'm going to do a little bit more than that.
I'm going to reflect-- do we have a fan cam over here or something? I like this. I was sitting up there for the Grateful Dead concert. I was up high. There was a lot of smoke coming up there. I'm still recovering from that a little bit. So when I think of this class, the Class of '23, I can't help but reflect on and acknowledge the experience that you all have had.
You went from some really great Cornell moments when you arrived on campus, to being thrust into a global pandemic, to, now, a new Cornell, one that you helped to rebuild. It was like a pandemic sandwich, except that's a sandwich no one wants to eat. I can tell you that. And certainly not again. I hope-- all right. Even Ken's giving me crap for that one.
I hope these senior days have given you some time to reflect on these past years and, more importantly, the many memories of your friends and your time at Cornell, even in those challenging moments. So as I was preparing to say goodbye to you today-- or maybe just see you later; I had to help with my pre-pandemic memory because it's just a little bit foggy-- I went and watched a video of our new Student Convocation together, which we held in August 2019 in Schoellkopf.
That day, we sat together, and we had no idea what was going to come ahead for our world or for us, here at Cornell. So I thought it might be fun to just take a minute and reflect back on what we discussed that morning. Your last quizzes. Do you remember what we discussed that morning?
RYAN LOMBARDI: No way. And you know what? Grades are already in, so it doesn't matter. You're done. So for those that don't remember, I gave you three pieces of advice as you were starting your Cornell journey. The first-- you belong here. You obviously took this to heart because, now, you're about to graduate. Well done. This won't be the only time in your life when you had that feeling you did that day, as to whether or not you belong.
But let that be a lesson for you. You belong anywhere that you're willing to immerse yourself and put in the work, which is what you did here. The second piece of advice I said, learn how to ask for help. So now, you either learned how to do this, or you're the one person in the entire planet that doesn't need help at some point. And you know I think you're amazing. But since none of you are unicorns, I'm going to assume you figured out how to ask for help.
That's a really good life skill. And I encourage you to continue to lean on others and try not to tackle this life on your very own. The third thing I said to you that day, be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Well,I think you've got that covered. You had to leave early your freshman year. You had 18 to 24 to 36 months of a global pandemic, depending on how you count that.
And now, we've rebounded into an extraordinary finish to your undergraduate career. Much of your time here might have been defined as uncomfortable, but you did it. You're still here, and now you're graduating. And in case you don't expect this, going forward, much of the rest of your life won't be comfortable, either. As hard as you felt your time at Cornell was-- and I certainly hope we don't have any more pandemics in the near future-- it was great training for the ups and downs that you're going to experience in your personal and professional lives, going forward.
Listen to me. You are ready for it. And don't let anyone, including yourself, ever convince you otherwise. So in addition to those three pieces of advice-- which, again, didn't remember-- I made a request. And I'm going to guess you didn't remember what that was, either. Well, let me remind you. My request was that you intend and presume goodwill.
Intend and presume goodwill in every interaction you have. I suggested, that day, to view those sitting around you at the time not as your competition, but as your classmates, your eventual support network, and those that you would make lifelong memories with. I encouraged you to take the extra moment in your day to say hello to a stranger as you pass them by while you're walking to class, to ask someone genuinely how their day was and to listen actively for their response, or to simply smile and not look through people as you encounter them on your daily travels.
I think I had some skeptics in the audience m thatday, but I hope you rose to that challenge and acted with the care and intentionality about how you interact with others. And those classmates-- the ones sitting around you today-- I suspect they now feel more like a second family. Yeah. As you graduate, Cornellians, let me challenge you to continue forward with this in mind. Why? Because I believe you'll have a more fulfilled life if you do so.
One of the best ways to practice your own well-being is to be in the company with and care for others deeply. You never know the difference a simple action might make in another person's life. Why else? Because from my vantage point, we need a whole lot more of this in our world today. Now, your accomplishments are impressive. You are graduating from Cornell, one of the finest universities in the entire world. You should be very proud. You have so much to celebrate.
And yet, perhaps the most important measure of all in your life will be how you treated other people and the relationships that you have and will develop, going forward. So go into this next chapter of your journey with this in mind. Intend goodwill, embrace the humanity of others, smile a lot, have fun. Class of 2023, congratulations And best wishes to each and every one of you.
All right. It is-- I don't know what just happened. Do I want to know what just happened?
OK. We'll just leave that alone. Marla is going to tell me in a minute. It is now my pleasure to introduce Rumbidzai Mangwende and Selam Woladi. Rumbidzai is a graduating senior in the SC Johnson College of Business, concentrating in finance. As well as being a student, she is also an entrepreneur and is the founder of her startup, EthosSphere
Some of her colleagues are here, I gather. During her time at Cornell, Rumbi became the youngest Black founder to work with the world's largest private equity firm. She was nominated as a 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient, became a TEDx speaker, and her company was recognized as one of the most disruptive business school startups in America. [WHOOPS]
Selam Woladi is a graduating senior in the ILR School with minors in migration studies, inequality studies, and law and society. She is the undergraduate student, elected trustee, and co-founder of The Black Book with a Passion for Writing. Please join me in welcoming Rumbi and Selam.
RUMBIDZAI MANGWENDE: OK. As a sophomore transfer student, I took my acceptance into Cornell seriously. To be Frank, my transition was tough I would think, Rumbi, you're just having a rough week. And then, the next week, Cornell would be like, Rumbi, let me show you. It only gets worse. Silliness aside, I'm sure we can all agree to when things first started getting real. We've all wondered, why did I choose Cornell?
RUMBIDZAI AND SELAM: Why did I choose Cornell?
SELAM WOLADI: I'll never forget the rush of excitement felt from my head to my toes once the realization hit that I got into the Cornell University. I went into O-Week strong. The exhilaration that comes from walking with your friends all the way to College Town from north and sometimes back with utter cluelessness to the severity of the hills, all because nobody understood TCAT yet.
Everyone was starting with a fresh slate, causing a certain openness and a different kind of thrill that I have yet to replicate. The only guaranteed thing that we knew about each other was that we're all Cornellians and starting college together, easy to claim gratitude, despite the anxious first-day jitters.
RUMBIDZAI AND SELAM: How can I claim gratitude?
RUMBIDZAI MANGWENDE: I claim it in friendship. As a transfer, I jumped into deep waters where everyone already had 52 weeks of memories entrenched in their social circles. I had no friends. I had to take initiative if I wanted to build intimate connections. And that's the beauty of this place. You walk in alone, and you walk out with folks that you couldn't imagine weren't in your life before. You find your Macey or your [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH].
You find that excellence is not void of love. We all have stories of friends who would do anything for us. Excellence, married to love. That is why we chose Cornell.
RUMBIDZAI AND SELAM: How can I claim gratitude?
SELAM WOLADI: Throughout our time at Cornell, the gratitude fell deeper and deeper into darkness. The light would flicker on the days where memories were being created, like bonding with our friends over who got their Canvas and Wi-Fi revoked because we forgot to go get our COVID tests done? But it wasn't enough to lift us out of the dark. The flickering light wasn't enough to claim gratitude. We had to rediscover the Big Red spirit.
It means making memories with lifelong friends and college town on a late night. It means going to Lynah Rink and yelling at the other team, it's all your fault, when we inevitably score. It means hanging out with your friends on the slope at sunset with the clock tower going off for an ungodly amount of time. It means being bonded with people from different backgrounds and experiences because of unique experiences guaranteed with being a Cornellian.
The distinct feelings of triumph and elation that embodied O-Week come back full circle, now, at graduation, all for this exact reason. That's the beauty of growing up. You don't realize the appreciation of the little things until you're outside, looking in, when it's too late. Now that it's our final days here, the gratitude erupted with each and every one of you and is shining bright. Class of 2023 embodies so many amazing qualities that are unique to our class since no other class in the history of Cornell can say that they were dealt with the specific cards that we were dealt with.
I say all of this to say, despite the hardships and obstacles, we will always seek light in the grads who [? plummet ?] from the dark. When we begin following our dreams of becoming esteemed researchers, CEOs, doctors, et cetera, remember the 17- or 18-year-old version of you from high school. Regardless of where life takes you, I guarantee you that they are so proud that living their wildest dreams with gratitude glowing from their auras so strong, it's contagious.
Embody that gratitude in every step of the way and let that be your motivation to continue. Before you know it, another chapter of your life will be completed. And what will you have to remember for it?
RUMBIDZAI AND SELAM: What will we remember?
RUMBIDZAI MANGWENDE: We will remember our stories of loneliness, of loving and losing from this area south of Cayuga Lake. We've all pondered, why did we subject ourselves to discomfort, to euphoric highs and depressing lows? What was the end to our means? The end wasn't just to get the Gold Ivy Star. It was to be equipped with the skills to help further our world.
We felt loneliness, so we knew to be inclusive. We felt infidelity, so we to choose loyalty. We feel failure, so we know what it truly takes to succeed. Now, with the brains, the heart, and the ambition ready for our next chapter, it's time to start making an impact. I know that you were told this before, but I'm going to say it again. So look to your left and look to your right.
Look! OK. Make the uncomfortable eye contact, but take comfort in knowing that that person I just forced you to oogle, in the next 10 years, will be running our banks, researching our cures, designing your clothing, or on Forbes 30 under 30. That is why we chose Cornell. We chose Cornell because it's an incubation space for excellence.
We should be proud of us. Any one of our success is all of our success. No matter where we go on this life's journey, we are all forever bonded by the glue concocted in 1865 by a man named Ezra Cornell. So as we leave Libe Slope, may we never leave Cornell. This is now our alma mater. These four years have created who we are. We are more compassionate, more intelligent, probably more tired, but also more resilient than we ever imagined we would be at this age.
That is why Cornell chose us. They saw that we would be number one.
And now, we will graduate from the number one school in New York.
YASMIN BALLEW: Thank you, everyone. Thank you, VP Lombardi, for your insightful words. It's always an honor to hear from you, especially because we know how much you've done to support our class over the past few years. And thank you especially to my girls, Rumbi and Selam. You guys killed it. That was such a powerful performance. Number one school in New York, am I right?
So hi, everyone. I'm Yasmin Ballew, and I'm your Senior Convocation Chair for the Class of 2023. I'm so thrilled to be here today with you all to celebrate, but also to share in the space of reflection for the next few minutes. I want to start by thanking my committee and also the staff and administration who volunteered their time today to make this event possible.
I can tell you, they've been working tirelessly behind the scenes. So let's please give them all the round of applause. And a special thanks to Kyle, in particular, for making me write this speech before today.
All right. So let's get into it. Where were you when you first learned that you'd been accepted to Cornell?
OK, that was a rhetorical question. For me, it was December 10, 2018, sitting at home, alone in my bedroom. That was the day I received the letter that changed my life. I vividly remember the mixture of emotions that overcame me-- relief, fear, and excitement. I still have the video of me absolutely ugly crying saved in my Snapchat "My Eyes Only" folder.
As I reflect on that day, I'm reminded of the long and winding road that led me here. When that letter arrived, it was a moment of validation, a confirmation that my hard work and perseverance had paid off. But little did I know that that was just the beginning of my journey, along with all of you. These past few years have tested our adaptability and resilience in ways that we never could have imagined.
Indeed, life has a way of throwing curveballs at us when we least expect them. Where were you that Friday, March 13, when COVID-19 placed the world on hold?
Another rhetorical question, y'all. I was sitting in ECON 1120, macroeconomics, wondering how I'd survive the next exam. What I thought might be a small break from the dreaded prelim season turned into an 18-month-long adjustment to remote learning, attending Zoom University from our laptops in our childhood bedrooms.
During that time, we were met with challenges that forced us to question our beliefs, pushed us to our limits, and demanded that we adapt in order to thrive. Uprooted from the familiar routines of campus life and thrust into a world of turmoil, we were confronted with the fragility of our plans and the impermanence of our certainties. For me, that meant taking 5:00 AM classes from my California bedroom as fiery ash literally fell from the sky during the worst drought in more than a century.
Gradually and, in many cases, begrudgingly, we began to recognize that the responsibility to the whole outweighed the freedoms lost to the individual. Do you remember where you were on May 25, 2020, when George Floyd's life was taken before our eyes? I was home, hoping for a moment of peace after having just completed my last final of freshman year.
As the world was forced into isolation, there was room for reflection. We confronted the systemic inequities that plagued our nation, compelling us to discard centuries of indifference and embrace the power of unity and diversity. More than that, we were forced to examine our own positions and to recommit ourselves to the urgent responsibilities of active citizenship, a new form of constructive patriotism.
In the midst of upheaval, we discovered a wellspring of resilience. We tapped into our inner strength, drawing from the support of our friends, our family, and community to begin to define a new normal as the next generation of leaders. Resilience is not just about bouncing back from adversity. It's about living in alignment with our values, even when we are met with challenges.
It's about finding the courage to stand up for what we believe in, to speak out against injustice, and to strive for a better world. It is precisely this commitment that inspired my involvement in the creation of the University's first ever Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Toolkit for student organizations. It might feel like a fever dream, but during our time on the hill, we've witnessed moments that have tested our collective conscience.
We have engaged in difficult conversations, challenged our own biases, and sought to create a more inclusive and compassionate society. It is through this self-reflection and growth that we have become catalysts in the collective effort to do the greatest good. Though it would be impossible to name all of the ways in which we all have contributed to this collective good, in a generation whose legacy is marked by disruption, we have, ourselves, become disruptors, instruments of positive change.
In our class of 55% women, 48% students of color, and 13% first-generation trailblazers--
--among us today-- and feel free to give them a shout-out if you know who I'm referring to-- we have the founder of a COVID-19 PPE 3D printing initiative, a Vogue model, an artist and advocate against female genital mutilation, an entrepreneur who's creating the first-of-its-kind South Asian-American yoga clothing brand, a first-generation Bangladeshi immigrant who established the Mutual Aid Coalition for Marginalized Students, and a Cornellian who risked his own life to save another in a New York City subway station.
Still, each of us knows the magnitude of our own unique accomplishments, graduating from one of the most rigorous academic institutions in the world. That said, I want to note that graduating is, itself, an incredible feat that some of our peers were not able to experience. While they are not here to celebrate with us today, they are forever a part of our collective class and community. Let's please take a moment of silence in their memory.
Thank you. As I stand here today, I am compelled to recall those who have come before me. I am the product of generations of sacrifice and perseverance, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity. The first to graduate college, my fraternal grandmother became a nurse practitioner. Challenging social norms discouraging a single mother from traveling alone, she left the US with two young boys to establish health care training programs and mental health clinics in Malawi and Liberia.
My mom's mom, too, is the epitome of resilience. An Iranian immigrant, she left the country to avoid religious persecution and to build a brighter future for her young family. It is this fierce strength and selfless determination that has guided me in my moments of doubt. To have them here in this moment to share with me, along with the rest of my family, gives me a deep sense of gratitude and fulfillment.
If you know me, you know that I'm critical. And much of my undergraduate career has been devoted to supporting the university and living up to its motto, "any person, any study." Upon graduation, it is my hope that Cornellians will continue to strive for this standard and to care for one another, as it is our community which gives us strength. Our class has experienced a tremendous amount of struggle.
And while it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge this reality, I'm certain that it is not without reason. The world needs our resilience now more than ever. It needs our compassion, our empathy, and our unwavering belief in the power of collective action. So, my fellow graduates, wherever life may take us, go forth with the understanding that it is our capacity to compassionately adapt and endure that sets us apart.
We, more than any other generation, have the power to harness our education and experiences to create a new, more equitable normal. As we continue to change the world in ways unimagined, don't forget the importance of gratitude to those who stood alongside you. To my entire family, thank you for your prayers. And to my parents in particular, thank you for your immeasurable sacrifices and for teaching me the power of my own voice.
Thank you, also, to my friends for encouraging authenticity and, especially, thank you to Ken Jeong for making me look really good as the convocation chair. Congratulations to each and every one of you for your remarkable achievements and for the incredible individuals that you have become. May we continue to disrupt in our efforts to do the greatest good. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you all. I'm now so excited to welcome Courtney Davis, our 2023 Convocation Speaker Selection Chair. Couldn't have done it without her. She's going to be introducing Ken Jeong, who we're beyond excited to have. And just a quick intro. Courtney is a graduating senior in the Nolan School of Hotel Administration.
She's concentrating in finance, accounting, and real estate with a minor in real estate. And she's also a Cornell tradition fellow and an active member of the Cornell community through her participation in Black Gen Capital, Delta Sigma Pi Business Fraternity, and, of course, the Chair of the Speakers Selection Committee. Please welcome Courtney to the stage.
COURTNEY DAVIS: Thank you so much for that introduction, Yasmin. And now, without further ado, it gives me immense pleasure to introduce you all to our next speaker. Ken Jeong emulates perseverance, humor, and versatility as a loved actor, producer, writer, comedian, and certainly, unforgettably, a licensed physician. Ken made his film debut in Knocked Up in 2007 and continues to captivate audiences, both in film and television, in unforgettable roles such as Mr. Chow in the Hangover series and Ben Chang in Community.
However, Jeong's many accolades do not end there. Jeong currently serves as judge and executive producer in the Emmy-nominated series The Masked Singer and I Can See Your Voice, respectively. Furthermore, Jeong's long-standing success and acclaim are often credited to his comedic timing and unique brand of humor crafted during his undergraduate years when he began performing stand-up comedy.
Ken returned to these roots in 2019 in his hit Netflix comedy special, Ken Jeong-- You Complete Me, Ho. Jeong is a notably multifaceted professional, possessing an undergraduate degree from Duke University and having obtained his MD at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. At every point in his unconventional career journey, Ken is a testament to passion and generosity, in which his infectious energy consistently uplifts his fellow man.
Ken, on behalf of the entire Cornell community, we are honored that you have joined us as the Class of 2023's Convocation Speaker. The Student Selection Committee was entrusted with the opportunity to represent the students' voices and coordinate an impactful event. We wanted a speaker whose values, achievements, and insights would resonate with our unique college experience.
Having surveyed the Class of 2023 to name the most salient values of the class, we found that Cornellians frequently unite under the labels of resilience, adaptability, and determination. No one can better encapsulate the importance of being dynamic, whether as an actor, father, or medical practitioner than you, who possessed the courage and determination to reinvent himself.
Importantly, you are someone who has been guided by personal values and understands the importance of living life by what is most important to you. You have contributed greatly to the field of comedy and acting by breaking stereotypes in Hollywood and leveraging your platform as an outspoken advocate and volunteer. Finally, your unique path serves as recognition of your core values of humility and service to others.
You continue to bring laughter to others, even in midst of personal tragedy, which is why your life is a vivid illustration of the long-said adage, "Laughter is the best medicine." Ken, we are deeply honored to have you share this momentous achievement with us. At this time, I welcome Ken Jeong, our Class of 2023 Convocation Speaker to the podium.
SPEAKER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Ken Jeong.
[CHEERING, AIRHORNS BLEATING]
KEN JEONG: Thank you so much. Wow. Thank you. Thank you, Courtney, for the best intro of my life. Please do all of my intros at all of my events. It could be a state fair. It could be whatever. And amazing speech by Yasmin. Give it up. So emotional. So inspiring. Love to your family. And Rumbi and Selam. A great, incredible job. Just give it up. I'm so inspired. So inspired.
Thank you, Richmond. Thank you, Vice President Lombardi. And thank you, Dean Love, for having the best last name ever for a dean. Am I right? Am I right? And most of all, thank you to the graduating Class of 2023 Cornell University. Thank you for having me.
I have some family ties here, myself. Shout-out to my sister-in-law, Meredith Willa, a very proud Cornell graduate and a bartender on College Avenue. What, what? And I have friends that have gone to Ivy League schools. I went to a really nice school, myself. But I think Cornell, in my opinion, has the best curriculum of any Ivy League school. Why? Three words. Intro to Wine. And--
--in fact, I am drunk right now. Only out of respect to the Big Red. Am I right? Am I right? I heard drinking, as well as hockey, were Division I sports, here at Cornell. I also heard Intro to Wine doesn't have traditional grades. It's pass out or fail. But I really love the rivalries Cornell has with other Ivy League schools. You have hockey with Harvard. I love the football rivalry with Dartmouth. Big Red versus Big Green, like stop and go. I get it.
In case you're groaning at that joke, my wife wrote it. But what do you expect? She went to Yale.
Right? Right? And this concludes the dad jokes portion of my speech. OK. To the Class of 2023, congratulations. You are the very first class to survive the pandemic from start to finish. From the very beginning of COVID to the end of the public health emergency, you have survived. Spring semester, March 2020, the whole world shut down. And you were the consequences of that shutdown.
You didn't give up. You survived, and now you're getting your degree. And like Vice President Lombardi says, I can't think of a class better equipped for the unknowns of life than the Class of 2023. You have gone through so much. You have lived, lost. And now, more than ever, you are loved. And embrace a brighter tomorrow. And if you noticed, no one ever talks about the pandemic anymore. I'm a doctor. I don't even talk about the pandemic.
It's too traumatic. Are we talking about Pfizer and Moderna now? No. Are we doing toilet paper jokes or disinfecting those wipes that cleaned all our packages? No. And that was just a couple of years ago because we are burned out. We are burned out as a society from all this. And you're especially burned out, if you think about it, because you're actually trying to establish yourselves and finish your college education the whole time.
So if you have any time this summer, my only advice is give yourselves a little break. You've earned it. Give yourself some rest. Allow time to give yourself some credit. We've all been traumatized. All right. All right. Don't get it twisted. I'm not saying do nothing, Cornell. Don't get it twisted. I'm like, yo, Mr. Chau said I don't have to do anything for a year. Toodle-loo, responsibility! No. I'm not saying that.
I'm just saying take a mental break from all of this. You what I mean? Just go offline from social media, even for a moment every day. Just lessen the outside noise a little bit, because life is about to get real loud. And I don't know about you taking a mental break. A real break is not in my nature. Procrastinating? Yes. Putting stuff off due to laziness? Yes. But I'm talking about a real, healthy mental break.
I might be projecting my own issues, but I'm the kind of person-- I don't like to stop. I like to keep moving. I don't always do a great job, myself, taking time for a break. I tend to plow through things. I have this "can't stop, won't stop" mentality that, ask my wife, can be a bit much. But in this case, there is a "stop and smell the roses" factor that I think is beneficial to you guys. Because the one thing that's more important than success is your health.
So exhale. You did it. This is no small feat. And do not take this for granetd because you're Cornell. You're the cream of the crop. You're Ivy League. There is nothing I can tell you that you don't already know. The only thing I can do is celebrate you. So congratulations, from Dr. Ken, for surviving and thriving. So yeah.
And much like what you've been, through COVID, apply what you learned to your future. Be adaptable. Dealing with COVID is about being adaptable. And success, true success, is based on adaptability, how well one can react to the inevitability of change. You don't have to know where you're going. Your life is not predetermined. Me doing comedy was not predetermined. I was adaptable. I was in the moment. And there was a world I could have stayed in medicine. absolutely. There was a world I could have done something else.
But bototm line, I adapted into this. And that's all life really is, if you think about it, is adaptability. And you can't predict where your life is going to go. So you have to be open to possibilities. And sometimes, if you're lucky, these possibilities can lead to life-changing timelines. For example, in my case, medicine brought me to my wife. I got to meet my wife through medicine. And thne, with my wife's support, I was able to change careers to something completely different.
You just never know what life will bring you. I'm a living example of that. You are not stuck in whatever you're doing. Life is fluid. Everything is fluid. If this isn't where you want to be, it's OK. You'll adapt. And if this is where you want to be, be aware that change is inevitable. And you'll adapt. And at those innate qualities of adaptability, you've already honed throughout your college tenure because you've lived with COVID since your freshman year. You went to COVID college at the same time every year.
You've had to adapt in a major way, whether it be lockdown, Zoom classes, hybrid, returning to in-person classes, constantly adapting. And now, you're graduating. And dare I say, you're the most adaptable class who's graduated college in recent memory. So use those applications to your post-graduate life. You are ready to succeed in the real world because, quite frankly, you already have. And I'm still adapting, myself.
As I'm speaking to you, there is a writer's strike that has shut down current TV productions in Hollywood. I don't have a job right now. So what do I do? Be adaptable. Embrace the unknown and go with the flow. And to anyone hiring in the audience, I just want you to know, I'm very available for work. Maybe College Avenue has a karaoke bar I can emcee. Or maybe I'll just go back to school. Who knows? Hell, I'll just come here and audit that Intro to Wine class next semester.
Adaptability. Who knows? Maybe with my luck, I can get into Advanced Vodka. Dare to dream. But enough about me and my unemployment. Now, don't be afraid. We have no choice but to be adaptable, and that is what will make you great. Embrace the unknown, unlock your potential, and become limitless. And in December of 2006, I embraced my ultimate unknown. I quit being a physician.
It was my life-defining moment of adaptability. And with adaptability comes fearlessness. Be fearless. And the best decisions I've ever made in my life is when I was fearless. I was just like you one time, a long time ago. I graduated from a top-notch school. Duke. Yay. Went on to UNC Med School. Boo. And I was miserable. I had discovered comedy at Duke and my love of acting in college. And that was my true passion, my real love.
And there are two types of decision-making in life, fear-based decision making and decisions made out of love. And quite frankly, when I graduated, I made a fear-based decision. I went to med school. I decided to take the safe route of fear-based decision. I did my residency, internal medicine. I even practiced at Kaiser Permanente, an HMO in LA, for seven years as a doctor, as an internist.
And by the way, I'm in no way saying medicine was a bad choice. My wife still practices medicine to this day, and we preach to our daughters the importance of being educated at the highest level. Medicine wasn't a bad choice. I'm just saying it wasn't my choice. It was a family expectation. And with all due respect to my family, I was doing something I ultimately didn't like.
It was out of fear-- fear that if I acted and done what I truly loved to do, comedy, I would fail miserably. Be fearless. It wasn't until I met my wife. Shout-out to my Ho. Yes, that's her last name. Look it up. I had a Netflix special named after the Ho. Stop snickering. How dare you. She's family. Who encouraged me to think outside the box and helped me change my life in so many ways. She reminded me that it's OK to quit a job and do something else for a living.
She knew I was a comedian at heart. Yet still then in my inner mind, I was honestly like, I don't know. I went to a top-notch school. I went to med school. I shouldn't be doing something like comedy. I was full of fear, even then. Be fearless. And in medicine, I had my road set. I was a partner at Kaiser Permanente. I was tenured. I had a job for life. Beautiful pension. Six-figure job. Yet, I was miserable.
And it wasn't until I got that part in Knocked Up that changed everything in my life. It just changed my life. And working with Judd Apatow, working with some of the most brilliant minds in comedy-- like Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, just to name a few-- it was and still is surreal to me. Be fearless. And once I finished filming Knocked Up-- true story-- I went back to work the next day, inexplicably. I went bakc to work. And for waht? I was miserable. I was depressed.
And I was like, OK, maybe this is just my moment, my 15 minutes of fame. And I'll just live my life out as the guy forever known as the doctor from Knocked Up. And that's amazing, but I wanted more because I knew I was capable of more. Be fearless. And it was my wife who noticed I was getting more depressed. I was getting more irritable. I was just getting pissed off for no reason because I felt like I had this invisible ceiling on top of me.
And that is the worst feeling in the world, feeling stuck. And so, the next day, what did I do? I quit my job. I quit being a doctor, and that cloud lifted instantly. I remember that first moment in December of '06, when I quit medicine, thinking I can't believe I'm actually doing this. I don't have to live in fear anymore. I can do this for a living and do what I love to do, something I had an aptitude and a true passion for. And as far as I'm concerned, my real life began that day.
Be fearless. And suddenly, I was able to contextualize, and make sense of my life up until then, just like college, med school, residency. And I realize, yes, all of those things are important and helped educate me of how to go about my life day to day, being disciplined, prepared, and professional. But none of those things matter as much as being fearless. And that is a gut check I challenge all of you to do as you go on your respective journeys.
Be fearless. Make bold choices. And my life, now, continues to be full of them. Don't be afraid to jump out of a trunk naked on Bradley Cooper's shoulder in The Hangover. Who knows? It may just give you a career. Be fearless. Don't be afraid to even walk off your own show in protest. Be fearless. Don't be afraid of life, and you'll inspire others. Be bold. Take big swings. And I remember when I quit being a physician.
My boss actually told me, I can't believe you're leaving all this. I'm like, leaving what, a life of misery? Looking back, I can't believe I didn't leave sooner. The moment I quit my job, that cloud lifted away. I was able to see the light that ultimately led to The Hangover and so many things since then and allowed me to do what I love to do for a living. Be fearless. Be adaptable. That is my challenge to you.
But before all that, give yourselves a little break first. And I'll drink to that. Thank you. Congratulations. And all my love to the graduating Class of 2023. Thank you so much. By the way, this speech was written by Chat GPT. So it's OK.
COURTNEY DAVIS: Thank you.
KEN JEONG: Don't mind me.
COURTNEY DAVIS: I'll just have you stay here for a second. Just stay. I'm going to--
KEN JEONG: OK. All right. All right.
COURTNEY DAVIS: So thank you so much, Ken. Not only did your words rec-- sorry. Not only did your words really touch us-- and I think it was relatable for a lot of us-- but that was my best laugh in a long time. Can't we agree?
So thank you so much. We figured that a doctor from Duke really wouldn't need an honorary degree. So as part of the Cornell tradition, we're really pleased to present you, on behalf of the Class of 2023, with this Cornell medallion.
KEN JEONG: [INAUDIBLE].
COURTNEY DAVIS: This is something that [INAUDIBLE]. No! Please don't. Will you stand?
KEN JEONG: All right. Sorry.
COURTNEY DAVIS: Thank you.
KEN JEONG: Sorry. Sorry.
COURTNEY DAVIS: Yeah, this is something that has been handed out for decades to all of the various Convocation speakers. So you're joining the ranks of some pretty cool people, but we got really lucky with you. And I just watched The Hangover recently, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But as always, you exceeded expectations. So thank you so much. One more round of applause for Ken Jeong.
KEN JEONG: Thank you.
COURTNEY DAVIS: Thank you.
KEN JEONG: And give it up for Yasmin. Amazing speech. Amazing.
COURTNEY DAVIS: You can go back to your-- thank you. All right. Thank you again, Ken. [CHEERS]
All right. So before announcing the final performance of the event-- if everybody could please stay in their seats; we're not quite done-- I'd like to give just a couple of quick notes. As you're leaving the event, please use the Statler side entrance. We're asking people not to leave until after the alma mater. If you need an accessible exit, you can ask a volunteer at the back, where the red curtain is.
Immediately following Convocation, Alumni Affairs and Development is hosting an event in Willard Straight Hall at 4:30 PM. And there's going to be food, giveaways, and other cool, free stuff. So be there. The Cornell Store is also hosting a grad event from 3:30 to 6:00 PM with lots of giveaways and discounts. So again, please stay in your seats until after the alma mater.
And that brings us to our final performance. Founded in 1989, The Key Elements are Cornell's only all-gender rock a cappella group. The Key Elements strive to provide Cornell with awe-inspiring music and an opportunity for students of any background to pursue their musical passions while creating lifelong friendships. The Key Elements aim to celebrate the Class of 2023's resilience and future successes with the following set.
Performing "Dream On" and "All These Things I've Done," followed by the alma mater, please welcome The Key Elements.
One, two, three, four. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. [VOCALIZING]
[THE KEY ELEMENTS, "DREAM ON"]
(SINGING) Every time I look in the mirror, all these lines in my face getting clearer. The past is gone. Ah, it went by like dusk to dawn. Isn't that the way? Everybody's got their dues in life to pay. I know nobody know where it comes and where it goes.
I know it's it's everybody's fear. You got to lose some of your own today.
Half my life's in book's written pages.
Live and learned from fools and from sages.
You know it's true.
All the things [INAUDIBLE]. Sing with me, sing for the year. Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear. Sing with me, just for today. Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away.
Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream--
Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. Dream on.
Dream on. Dream on. Dream on. [VOCALIZING]
Sing with me, sing for the year, sing for the laughter, sing for the tear. Sing with me, just for today. Maybe tomorrow, the good lord will take you away.
ALL: Sing with me, sing for the year. Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear. Sing with me, just for today. Maybe tomorrow, the good lord will take you away. Dream on, dream on, dream on, dream on till your dreams come true.
[THE KILLERS, "ALL THESE THINGS THAT I'VE DONE]
SINGER: One, two, three, four.
SINGER: When there's nowhere else to run, is there room for one more son-- one more son. If you can, hold on. If you can, hold on. Hold on.
ALL: Hold on.
ALL: I want to stand up. I want to let go. You know, you know-- no, you don't, you don't. I want to shine on in the hearts of man. I want a meaning from the back of my broken hand.
Another headache, another heart breaks. I'm so much older than I can take. And my affection-- well, it comes and goes. I need direction to perfection-- no, no, no, no.
Help me out, yeah. You know you gotta help me out, yeah. Don't you put me on the back burner. You know you got to help me out, yeah.
SINGER: When there's nowhere else to run, is there room for one more son? These changes aren't changing me, the cold-hearted boy I used to be. You gotta help me out, yeah. Don't you put me on the back burner. You know you gotta help me out, yeah. You're gonna bring yourself down, yeah. You're gonna bring yourself down, yeah. You're gonna bring yourself down.
SINGER: I got soul, but I'm not a soldier. I got soul, but I'm not a soldier. I got soul, but I'm not a soldier.
ALL: I got soul, but I'm not a soldier. I got soul, but I'm not a soldier. I got soul, but I'm not a soldier. I got soul, but I'm not a soldier. I got soul, but I'm not a soldier. I got soul, but I'm not a soldier. I got soul, but I'm not a soldier.
SINGER: Over and again. Last call for sin. While everyone's lost, the battle is won with all these things that I've done.
SINGER: Hold on.
SINGER: We would now like to welcome the platform party and touch down to the stage to sing the alma mater with us.
SPEAKER: I think some people might be fighting [INAUDIBLE].
SINGER: One, two, three, four.
ALL: Far above Cayuga's waters, with its waves of blue, stands our alma mater, glorious to view. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our alma mater, hail, all hail, Cornell. Far above the busy humming of the bustling town, reared against the arch of heaven looks she proudly down. Lift the chorus, speed it onward, loud her praises tell. Hail to thee, our alma mater. Hail, all hail, Cornell.
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The Senior Convocation Ceremony is a Cornell tradition that takes place during the Senior Days leading up to Commencement Weekend. Convocation is a student-led event that celebrates the accomplishments of the undergraduate graduating class. Highlights of the event include a student speaker, a student poet, student organization performances, University leadership, and an invited guest speaker.