[INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC] PAULINA KENNY: Welcome to the 2021 convocation ceremony.
JUSTIN SIMMS: We have a great group of speakers for you all today, including a student poet, remarks from President Pollack and VP Lombardi.
PAULINA KENNY: And our featured speaker, the amazing Roxane Gay.
JUSTIN SIMMS: Congratulations again to the class of 2021, and--
BOTH: Go big red!
LAURENCE MINTER: Silence swells the souls of our speech. The pen is ready, now what truth shall we speak? History is ours. Farewell to the hill, look how far we've come. From the analyst to the actor, the future doctors to the diplomats, the engineers to the athletes, tell your story wherever you go.
Let your actions speak volumes that books cannot contain. Let your voice be the sword that protects. Let your presence be the mirror that reflects righteousness.
We've created oaken shields of safe spaces and sorrowful moments. Shared symphonic stories over the slope. Released frustration over tweets and beats. We danced until the dawn then studied until dusk. Preliminary examinations pushed us to our peak, even though we had them like every other week.
Nasties was our nesting place, and the North Star gave us direction. Curriculum revealed to us coded languages that we will carry back to our communities. Our privilege was planted on stolen land and seized by Straight Takeover turned sacred spaces for commemoration.
Ithaca's gorgeous beauty is greeted by clocktower chimes and college town lines. We assembled like Avengers with our activism. Protesters are the soon to be professors that will continue to speak truth beyond syllabi.
Snow days were slim until Corona slid in. It felt like our thoughts were in a box, and our dreams were on lock. Down deep, we had to dig from within until the world reminded us that we are needed, and why we are needed.
Even though things got rough, and we felt depleted. From international flights and last minute hikes, we had to return to a place of residence. Reminding us that home is where the heart is filled.
Goodbye Zoom, farewell breakout rooms. In 60 seconds, we will return to the main space and resume. Only this time we'll be speaking to the world, and our audience will be at attention.
Tassles are turned, tables are set. Families are filled, our dreams are met. Remember where you come from.
Never forget the garden you were grown in. The tears that traced your trail, the prayers that paved your path. Our presence here was predestined.
Whether you're the first or a transfer, we all trailblazed our way in. Our lineage led us here. We are the legacy.
Progenitors of peace, bring on the pomp and circumstance. The crossing of the stage is but a turning of the page. Our footnotes illuminate our lower points. Subtitles reminded us that we can't be defined by phrases. In phases we conquered calamity and all you're listening to now is the citation.
Remember those who co-authored your experience, from the roommates to the Randoms. Let your illustrations flow beyond the Canvas. Don't allow the dorm of your dreams to remain dormant.
Expand your faith beyond the campus of your understanding and reach altitudes as far as the hill we've climbed. We've suffered our share of losses. Flames within our fire turned smoke, transforming but never leaving the base of our body and mind. They shall transcend through the torches we carry.
Allow me to introduce anxiety to achievement. Depression to degrees of excellence and perseverance. Know that your story is a sun that shines brighter than any situation that you may face, but you have to share it.
So when you speak, shout it. When you think, create it. When you meet injustice, challenge it. Use your gift to grace the readers that you didn't even know were there. If you're not sure how, or what comes next, then just be. Because all that you will ever is all that you are, and you are enough.
I say this message in the name of the Spirit, hoping that your chronicle is catalyzed with confidence. They say the Cornell name will take you far. But remember, the cover page is but a piece of your story.
YUNTING FANG: Today is the day we have all been waiting for. The sunset on the slope, the late night grind at Olin library, the impromptu visit to get dairy bar ice cream. We used to think that all this good time would never end. Yet here we are, and we really have made it.
Today, we stand here with hearts full of gratitude to celebrate our times together, good and bad. Here's to our class of 2021.
ASMA KHAN: From joining the Big Read family at orientation--
ELIZABETH FARKOUH: to our first homecoming.
ASMA KHAN: And failing our first prelim--
ELIZABETH FARKOUH: to brunch at RPCC.
ASMA KHAN: And sledding down the slope.
ELIZABETH FARKOUH: And getting rained out at our first slope day.
ASMA KHAN: Declaring our majors.
ELIZABETH FARKOUH: And stressing about the West Campus housing lottery.
ASMA KHAN: And being amazed at dragon day.
ELIZABETH FARKOUH: And throwing fish on the ice at Lynah Rink
ASMA KHAN: And missing pre-enroll.
ELIZABETH FARKOUH: And constantly debating Trillium versus Terrace.
ASMA KHAN: And getting COVID tested twice a week.
ELIZABETH FARKOUH: Watching the sunsets on the slope.
ASMA KHAN: From Cornell becoming home.
ELIZABETH FARKOUH: And to Cornellians becoming our family.
ASMA KHAN: It's been a great four years far above Cayuga's waters.
ELIZABETH FARKOUH: And now to the one who began her Cornell journey with us four years ago--
BOTH: President Pollack!
MARTHA POLLACK: Class of 2021, family and friends of the graduates, and members of the community, welcome. I am delighted to celebrate the senior convocation with all of you, and to warmly congratulate our graduating seniors, wherever in the world they may be. As we look ahead towards commencement this weekend, we also look back on everything that has brought you to this point. All of your achievements since coming to Cornell, and particularly over these last three semesters, are now forever a part of the long history of this university.
The challenges we faced together through this pandemic have ranked among the most significant we face since our founding. And together, we've come through them. Being a Cornellian has always meant being part of a community with a mission. An institution for any person and any study where truth is sought for truth's sake, and knowledge has a public purpose.
This year, being at Cornellian has also meant having the courage and the commitment to do what no one has ever done before. Together, we found new ways to engage in just about every part of the teaching and discovery that have been at the heart of our mission for 156 years. We've achieved what many people told us a year ago was impossible. And together, we've come to the end of this extraordinary year. That we're here today celebrating this convocation is a testament to every one of you, and a testament to our entire Cornell community. Congratulations to you all.
JOJO CHENG: Hi, class of 2021 graduates! I am extremely excited to introduce our student speakers, Gloria and Sarah, and our convocation chair, Hassaan. Take it away, you all! Woo!
HASSAAN BIN SABIR: Hi, everyone. Congratulations. I'm Hassaan, your senior convocation chair. Each year, the convocation chair gives a speech to the graduating class, pretending to know more about life than the rest of their peers.
This time, things will be a bit different. The truth is, I didn't really vibe with the idea of sitting here on my own. Here's why-- I just don't think I know more about life than the rest of you. I'm 22, and I'm still figuring it all out.
But most importantly, if there's any lesson I've learned over the last four years, and over the pandemic in particular, it's that I need other people to sustain me, to make me more human, to bring joy or bants to my life, and to get me through the everyday. We all do. So it's only fitting that I share the stage today with Sarah and Gloria so they can help me get through the rest of the speech, and because they're pretty cool.
SARAH BRICE: Hi, everyone. I'm Sarah Brice. I studied agribusiness analytics in the Dyson school. I'm from New York City. Congratulations, you're all awesome!
GLORIA OLADIPO: Hi, everyone. Congratulations! My name is Gloria Oladipo. I'm majoring in government and minoring in English, and I'm from Chicago, Illinois.
HASSAAN BIN SABIR: Although the identities, experiences, cultures, and backgrounds that make us who we are diverge, all three of us are united by a shared belief in the power of the collective, of our need to lean on each other, and an awareness that our stories on this campus are interwoven with those of the people that surround us. We will share parts of these stories with you today, with the hope that there will be snippets of our journeys that you can identify with.
SARAH BRICE: At least for me, it's been quite the journey, and maybe you can relate. Freshman year is a fun one. I had a wonderful freshman year roommate who was down to bike to the farmer's market with me, attend social events we weren't exactly invited to, and even try out random group fitness classes at Helen Newman with me.
Honestly, sophomore year was more challenging. I stopped running on autopilot and started to figure out who I was, why I was studying what I was studying, who I wanted to be around, and how to take care of myself on all days, good and bad. Junior year, though still academically and socially a challenge at times, pushed me to start finding my identity more than ever before. I lived in a co-op and studied abroad in a pretty random place. Tried to make friends quickly, like we all do.
And then COVID hit. And like all of us, I was forced to hit pause. And the future was anything but expected.
There was that long period where everything was so unknown. But somehow, being in that period allowed me-- allowed all of us-- to take that step back and reflect on what was meaningful to each of us, and what we truly needed, which I think many of us found to be each other. I know for me that although pursuing my interests through coursework has been a very valuable part of senior year, creating and making change with the people I live with and talk to-- whether that be through conversations in class or building a business, or planning a dinner party-- has shown me that together, we can build this life full of meaning. Because even though things are challenging at times, at the end of the day, our experiences are collective.
GLORIA OLADIPO: Sarah, I completely agree. As graduation approaches, I am so excited to see where people will go next. You all are going to kill it.
From working on Wall Street or a nonprofit, or somewhere in between, all of us are taking first steps to try something new, be bold, and be brave. Being able to take these next steps are a privilege. So many people aren't here with us for reasons outside of their control. As an individual and as a class, we've only been able to make it this far because of each other, a little hard work, and a little luck.
As freshmen, we went to Willard Straight Hall, did a sit-in and protested racial injustice on our campus, sentiments that have come around for this past year. We lobbied for better mental health care and services at Cornell Health-- services that I've used to this day. We demanded better scrutiny of Greek life and also lobbied as RAs to get the things that we needed. We've come together when COVID hit and created mutual aid networks and funds to make sure that all students were taken care of when they need the things that they needed. The power of being together has prevailed every single time, and by leaning on one another, we've been able to make strides to make campus a better place.
When you first walk in as a freshman, we're told so much of the Cornell experience is individual. We're told make sure to study, go to office hours, all of these different things between being dropped off at daycare-- first year housing-- to experiencing orientation at Bailey Hall, we're told so much about the individual things that we can do succeed. Go to study hall, go to campus lectures, talk to you professor, make friends, be a great student. But we never talk about the things that we can do together to make campus a better place. From what I've seen and what I found when I've been with my friends and my support networks, that's when I've been the most successful. From my friends, to the Posse scholarship to OADI, to 626 Haven Women's Resource Center, communities that are carved out for vulnerable students make sure that we can all have the resources to thrive.
The next few steps are going to feel really scary, because they are scary. It's so easy to feel like the great unknown is something that we all have to take by ourselves, but we have each other. We always have. We have people who care about our success and well-being. I'm really excited to see where everyone ends up and figure out new ways to support the next Cornell class.
HASSAAN BIN SABIR: Our need for each other, though, isn't only about what we achieve together. Often we like to think that our lives are sustained by our aspirations, those grand or not-so-grand ambitions which we are constantly striving towards or seeking to discover. The truth is, though, that most of the time, we aren't searching or striving. We're just existing, and that's OK. That existence is made more meaningful, more joyous, by the people around us. They do so not through grand gestures, but simply by being themselves.
For me, just watching my flatmate obsessively file his nails over the last few years has calmed my otherwise chaotic mind. It has been my other flatmate's chaos-- him banging on my wall when my alarm goes off and banging his feet when he walks-- that has, in some weird, convoluted way, brought order to my life. And finally, when things have gotten tough-- and they have many times-- I've heard my friend Small's voice ring in my head, telling me to fight through it all. And I have.
We'll all have to fight as we enter the real world, a world that is both uncertain and unrelenting. But an uncertain world doesn't necessarily mean an uncertain life. We don't need to find certainty in the realization of some far-off vision or goal. We can't, because no one really knows where they'll be or what they'll be doing 30 years from now.
There is certainty where we are right now, in the people you're watching this with, who have been with you throughout the last four years. Look at them, cherish them, and think of the ways in which they have brought joy, comfort, and meaning to your life. Wherever you are and whatever you do, they and others will keep doing that. And that's the only thing that we really know about our lives. At least, it's the only thing I know about mine.
AMBER HAYWOOD: Hi, everyone. I'm so honored to welcome our 2021 convocation speaker, Roxane Gay. She's an American writer, professor editor, and social commentator. Gay is the author of the New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist, the novel An Untamed State, the short story collection Difficult Women, and the memoir Hunger. She currently serves as a contributor to the New York Times and as a visiting professor at Yale University.
RENELLE MENSAH: The class of 2021 is fortunate to have a speaker who represents our class values-- creativity, activism, resiliency, passion, integrity, and empathy. Her calls for multiculturalism and mutual respect are more salient than ever. From race to gender to socioeconomic class to orientation, our generation is presented with new challenges and new opportunities, and it's up to us to meet the moment. We're excited to have Roxane Gay send us off on our own journey into a world that we, too, hope to shape into a better place.
AMBER HAYWOOD: Please give a warm virtual welcome for our convocation speaker--
BOTH: Roxane Gay.
ROXANE GAY: Congratulations to the Cornell University class of 2021. You have done it and finally graduated. I'm sure this is a thrilling moment for you and your families. I wanted to take a moment to thank the senior convocation committee for inviting me to give this year's convocation speech. It is a real honor.
I have always wanted to be a writer. And I have always believed I could be a writer, even when there was ample evidence to the contrary. There was a time in my 20s and 30s where rejection was constant. And that rejection wasn't ennobling. It did not make me a better person. It made me salty, mostly.
It also made me work harder. Sometimes it was pure spite pushing me forward, making me write every day and try to improve my craft. I was going to show each and every editor who rejected my work that I could write well, that I was good enough. And eventually, I was.
As you know all too well, we are emerging from a global pandemic slowly, awkwardly, nervously. We have collectively experienced a really difficult 18 months, from the last gasps of the Trump presidency to the capital insurrection, to the staggering loss of life to COVID-19. We are dealing with the socioeconomic consequences of the world essentially shutting down while we waited for a vaccine that would make proximity possible once more. And we are dealing with the inexplicable politics of what it means to share this world with other people and the responsibilities that we have to one another.
But I'm not really here to talk about all that. You know what we've lived through to one degree or another. Journalists have done a meticulous job of narrating each excruciating moment of the sky falling. You did not have the senior year you were expecting, nor did the class before you. So much, great and small, has been taken from so many.
Graduation is supposed to be a celebration. You worked hard or you did what you had to do to matriculate, you learned a few things, you made friends, and you made mistakes. Now you have a degree, a piece of paper you will probably never see again once your parents are done admiring it. I could not tell you where any of my degrees are, but I can tell you what it took to earn each of them. I can tell you how they have contributed to who I am today, and I hope that is true for you too.
In the first few weeks of quarantining, it was the longest I had been in one place since 2014. For the past seven years, I have been living a dream I did not even know I had. The dream I thought I had was to write a book worthy of being published. The dream was for a few people to read and maybe love that book. I did not dare to dream of anything more than that. I didn't even know what there could be beyond that. It is hard for modest expectations to be disappointed, and so I kept my expectations incredibly modest.
For the 35 years or so I had been writing my way to 2014, I had a singular goal-- to write good stories, to write those stories on my own terms, to write without having to shape and reshape myself to accommodate other people's expectations. I think I just wanted to be free. At four years old, and I've told this story many times, I wrote stories about people living in imaginary villages that I drew on a napkin. At 10 years old, my stories were about the wild adventures in dense jungles and underground cities, all inspired by the places where my brothers and I would play.
For many years, we lived next to an empty lot. And one summer, we spent all of our time digging holes in the ground and we made tunnels between each hole. We decorated and furnished and called them our houses. We ate snacks in them. We would walk through the tunnels, which were really just deep ravines, to visit one another. We stole my dad's lighter fluid that he used for barbecue and his box of matches, and we made fires that could have easily gotten out of control but for the grace afforded to feral children. It was glorious. We were grimy with mud and joy.
At night, alone in my bedroom, I loved imagining that we lived full time in our tunnel world. I loved imagining how that would come to pass and what might happen next. And then there was Pitfall, named for the Atari video game, a slender thatch of woods near our neighborhood. A small, murky stream ran through it, and people often threw large junk items like old refrigerators and car parts down there. It was a thrilling and secret world.
We spent hours climbing the trees and playing with old junk, looking for treasures. Adults never interfered with these magical places. There were no rules. I took that carefree energy to my writing. The borders of my imagination expanded.
Before long, I wanted to imagine more than the places where we played. I wrote about countries I only heard about in the news or read about in our encyclopedia set. This was well before Wikipedia. The knowledge was there, but it was slightly harder to come by.
I wrote about stories set in outer space because I was fascinated by the space shuttle. I wrote stories about being a surgeon who worked in an emergency room because that seemed like the height of accomplishment and sophistication. I wrote stories about living in New York City because that's where many of my relatives lived, and whenever we visited, it felt like a completely different planet, everything so raucous and bold, the graffiti everywhere, people making their mark.
I was a pretty shy and quiet kid for lots of reasons. I was not one to speak up in my day-to-day life, but I did it in my writing. On the page, I made my mark. I won't say I was fearless, because I wasn't. Instead, I was committed to saying what I wanted to say in the one place that I could.
As I got older, I continued telling stories. Some bad things happened, but I'm not here to talk about that, either. Bad things happen to all of us, and I don't say that to minimize my trauma or anyone else's. Instead, I say that to me, we are all more than our suffering.
What you need to know is that I changed. I grew even quieter and harder, but on the page, I grew bolder. I started taking more risks in my writing. It wasn't very good, but I didn't let that get in my way. No matter what I had going on in my life, I wrote and I read and I wrote and I read. I took myself seriously as a writer, but hopefully not too seriously.
I made the time to write whether I was in high school or college or grad school, working an overnight shift in a video store or as a bartender, or whatever other terrible or slightly less than terrible job I had. I was able to honor this commitment to my craft because writing was and is my true North. It is the one thing I can rely on in an unreliable world.
I never dreamed of becoming wildly wealthy or famous-- and no worries, I'm not in any danger of that happening. I just dreamed of being seen and heard, and maybe understood. In one way or another, I think that's what most people yearn for.
When people who were not related to me first started paying attention to my writing in 2009 or so, it was unexpected. I had resigned myself to working a day job and the obscurity of writing for an audience of one. Certainly I wanted more, but I wasn't going to wither away without that something more, and still, I kept writing.
All the while, my family was supportive in that they understood I had a love for writing, even if it was inscrutable to them. They also worried, and so they encouraged me to make responsible choices, which, as a good Haitian daughter, meant doing one of the three following things-- becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. I call that the Haitian career trifecta.
I certainly tried, but every time I made a responsible choice, I was deeply unfulfilled, and frankly, quite lost. As an undergrad, I first majored in premed, and then architecture, and then finally English-- the closest thing I could find to what I wanted to become. A few years later, I went to grad school because so many people told me an English degree was worthless, and that to become employable I would need something more.
Let me assure you, the degree is incredibly valuable. English majors are like Swiss Army knives with critical thinking skills and excellent taste. I got a Master's degree in creative writing, and a lot of people told me that, too, was worthless. They meant well. They weren't trying to discourage me as much as they were trying to prepare me for a world that is often disappointing.
As I get older, the more I value irresponsible choices-- the choices that terrify us and require taking risks, and often end in disaster. But it's fine if you want to mitigate risk. For every irresponsible choice I have ever made, I have also made a responsible one. Until 2019, I actually had a day job so I could try to make something happen with my writing while also paying my rent and having health insurance and otherwise making ends meet.
My students often talk about how their parents disapprove of their desires to major in creative or other supposedly impractical fields. I can't stand it. As a writer, I often see people discouraging new writers by cataloging every single challenge they might face and sharing every single conspiracy theory about the Cabal that is publishing. It makes me wonder why they are trying to pull up the ladder they climbed. It drives me to distraction when people discourage others from pursuing our ambitions by telling them everything that is working against them and not leaving any room for the possibility of hope.
Anyone with an ambition to become something more than they are is crystal clear on the obstacles between where they are and where they would like to be. Naysayers want you to tame your potential until it can satisfy their lack of imagination for what is possible for you. They want you to believe that only responsible choices are available to you, because those are the choices they made for themselves.
Simone Biles is an extraordinary gymnast. Right now she is the best in the world and there is no one even close to her. In both practice and competition last week-- or a week before I made this tape-- she successfully completed a Yurchenko double pike vault. It is a complex and dangerous move that involves flying through the air and flipping and holding positions that are unfathomable to me.
Biles became the first woman to perform this move in competition. It's so difficult that no one else in the women's field is even practicing the move. When Biles performed this vault in competition, her score was a 6.6, which is in line with her other scores for less complicated vaults. The judges refused to reward the difficulty of the move and there is little that Biles can do about it. In discussing the undervaluing of her work, she remarked that they don't want the field to be too far apart. And what that means is that they literally want her to be less excellent so mediocrity can rise, so the rest of the field can keep up with her, even though she is not meant for them to keep up with.
In a New York Times article, Juliet Macur observes that, "but there also may be a fear that Biles is so good that she might run away with any competition she enters, simply by doing a handful of moves that her rivals cannot or dare not attempt." Simone Biles is facing a profound lack of imagination. But she is, as you might expect, undeterred in her relentless pursuit of excellence. Her imagination is without borders. She will continue performing her dazzling and difficult moves in gymnastics whether the Gymnastics Federation approves or not, because, she says, "I can." She can, and her competition cannot, and she refuses to make that her problem, because it isn't.
Meritocracy is one of the greatest myths ever told. In a perfect world, in a just world, you have a dream, you work hard, you perform well, and that dream will come true. Unfortunately, we live in a flawed and unjust world where some people achieve success and amass power, despite being mediocre, simply because they are white, or they're men, or heterosexual, or able-bodied, or a documented citizen.
We live in a world where our identity and how we are perceived can greatly limit the opportunities available to us. We face unjust systemic obstacles as we try to traverse the distances between our goals and where we are. Those of us who are marginalized in some way, we don't have the same responsibilities as our more privileged peers. We don't face the same expectations. We are constantly reminded that even when we are two or three times as good, it may not be enough.
We don't get to embrace the value of failure, because we are regularly reminded that failure is not an option. The motivational platitudes of most graduation speeches aren't going to do a whole lot for us because we're dealing with any number of oppressions while also trying to figure out where we go from here, how to make ends meet, and what it's going to take-- what it will really take-- to pursue our dreams.
If this is your reality, make irresponsible choices, but you do so with your eyes wide open. We survived a pandemic, and I don't think we say that nearly enough. We survived a pandemic. We have had so much time to think about what really matters and what doesn't.
All of you who are here today, celebrating your graduation, you have a lot of life ahead of you and you have a lot of choices to make. You are going to grow and change, even if it doesn't happen in the ways that you plan. As you walk into the unknown of the rest of your life, please tear down the borders around your imagination and what you believe is possible for yourself and for your community. Do not let the fears and insecurities of others keep you from your ambitions for a remarkable life. You can understand the realities of the world without believing that reality is unchangeable. We change our realities every single day.
As you build the life you want, make the irresponsible choices that no one else is going to understand. Ask for help when you need it. If you have to chart your own map to success, however you define it, share that map with others on the same path.
Be fiercely committed, and fiercely kind. Be relentless. Find your true North, that thing that makes your world makes sense. Always follow your true North, wherever it may lead. Congratulations, all of you.
HANNAH BIENER: Thank you so much to Roxane Gay for sharing those words of wisdom with us. And now we're excited to announce our final speaker, Vice President for Student and Campus Life, Ryan Lombardi.
KASSIDY HAMILTON: Dr. Ryan Lombardi joined our Cornell community back in 2015. He supports a broad array of programs and services that make up our student life experience.
BOTH: Take it away, Ryan!
RYAN LOMBARDI: Congratulations, class of 2021. I certainly wish that we were all together on Schoellkopf field right now, but unfortunately, many things have changed this year that won't allow that to be the case. But that won't stop me from saying congratulations, and from spending just a couple of minutes as we wrap up this convocation. This year has taught us a lot of things, and I hope the least of which for you is not two things importantly-- resilience and community.
Now, first off, resilience. This year has been difficult beyond measure. We've all had to do things that are not what we expected, and your senior years are not what you had hoped for at Cornell. Yet you've persevered, and here you are on the eve of your graduation from one of the world's greatest universities. You did it! And you have so much to be proud of for that, and I am proud of you for that. And I'm proud of the way that we came together as Cornellians, and we stayed strong, and we made it through this difficult year as one.
And that leads me to the second point, which is community. This year has taught us a lot about community, about the need to look after others before ourselves, and to make decisions that are in the best interest of the broader community, and not just the Cornell community. We made a bold decision last fall to open and to have a full year, as best we could under these very difficult circumstances. That required all of us to make sacrifices, but we did that because we knew there are others in the community that had much harder times ahead of them than us.
And so we were willing to put others before ourselves in the local sense and in the National sense. And I hope, as you wrap up your time at Cornell that this is a lesson that's enduring for you-- that you continue to put others before yourselves and that you dedicate the energy that you have, and the wisdom, and the talents, and the skills, and the knowledge to doing for others as you move forward beyond Cornell. That is what represents being a true Cornellian.
As you move into the next chapter, I just want to always remind you that you're always a member of the Big Red family. You'll always have a place in Ithaca, and I will always be excited to see you if you come back for a visit. So please, stay in touch, take good care, and once again, congratulations.
SHAMANTH MURUNDI: Hi, I'm Shamanth. I'm a biological engineering major and part of the convocation committee. Thanks so much, VP Lombardi, for that amazing speech. And thanks, everyone, for watching our convocation video. We hope you had a great time. And to all my fellow classmates out there, we're now graduates. It's time to make our mark on the world. Go class of 2021!
COREY EARLE: Congratulations, class of 2021. You will forever be part of Cornell history as graduates in one of the strangest years ever. I'm Corey Ryan Earle, class of 2007, and some of you might know me as the guy who teaches the Cornell History class.
Now that you're alumni, my advice is to stay connected-- to each other, to the student organizations you were part of, to the faculty and staff who made a difference in your lives, and to the University and Campus itself. Come back often, go to alumni events, be a mentor to current undergraduate students, get involved and take advantage of the wonderful Cornell alumni network, which you will be part of forever. Best wishes for your next adventure. I will see you at reunion and Homecoming, and Go Big Red!
MAKDA WEATHERSPOON: Salaam and hello, class of 2021! Congratulations, you got it done. My name is Makda Weatherspoon and I am a senior lecturer of Arabic in the Near Eastern Studies Department.
Now that you are finished with your undergraduate studies, I want to share a tip with you that I wish I had known when I was your age. And that is you don't have to know right now what you want to do with the rest of your life. Life is open-ended and subject to many changes.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't have any plans. It does, however, mean that you should be alert to all the changes around you and not be afraid to adjust your plans accordingly. Most importantly, whatever you end up doing and however long it takes you to get there, be sure it is something that makes you authentic and proud. Something that makes you feel you are carrying out your purpose in life. I wish you the very best, and please always stay in touch. A million congratulations to you again. And as we say in Arabic, alf alf mabruk.
ANDREA POAG: Hi, everyone. My name is Andrea Poag, Director of Student Services in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. I want to take one last chance to give you a piece of advice as you leave us today.
Continue to be curious. You can learn something from every person that you meet if you just take time to truly listen to them and try to understand them. Use that curiosity and the knowledge that you gain from it to continue to expand your mind, to make you a better person each day. Use that knowledge for good. Use that knowledge to make this world a better place.
Thank you for leaving your mark on Cornell. We are so happy that you spent your time with us. You will always have a home on the hill. Congratulations, and Go Big Red!
AMBER HAYWOOD: Hi, everyone. We're the 2021 convocation committee, and today we're on the Arts Quad asking some other seniors hard-hitting questions. Let's go!
Excuse me, what's Martha Pollack's last name? Quick!
SPEAKER 1: Pollack.
AMBER HAYWOOD: OK, true. Is it Nasties or Louie's?
SPEAKER 1: Which one I like more?
AMBER HAYWOOD: Nasties or Louie's?
SPEAKER 1: Louie's.
AMBER HAYWOOD: Quickly, can you name your favorite person at Cornell?
SPEAKER 2: Amber Haywood.
AMBER HAYWOOD: Period. I'm Amber Haywood. Who's your favorite professor at Cornell?
SPEAKER 2: Sabrina Karim.
AMBER HAYWOOD: What's Martha Pollack's last name?
SPEAKER 2: Pollack?
SPEAKER 3: Sir, for a dollar, would you rather go to a frat party or literally anything else?
SPEAKER 4: Literally anything else.
SPEAKER 3: Thank you! A.D. White, very important question-- do you prefer Nasties or Louie's? What bronzer do you use? It's looking great! What are your thoughts on pigeons?
GLORIA OLADIPO: OK, for a dollar, can you name a black person at Cornell?
SPEAKER 5: Besides Gloria?
GLORIA OLADIPO: You know me?
SPEAKER 5: Yeah, Chicago!
GLORIA OLADIPO: OK, yeah you win!
SPEAKER 6: Excuse me! Excuse me! Do you know what time it is?
SPEAKER 7: What's your favorite thing about Cornell?
SPEAKER 8: All the nature.
SPEAKER 7: What are you going to miss most about Cornell?
SPEAKER 8: The people, definitely.
AMBER HAYWOOD: Who's your favorite professor?
SPEAKER 9: Luben Dimcheff.
AMBER HAYWOOD: What does he teach?
SPEAKER 9: Architecture.
AMBER HAYWOOD: Are you an architecture student? You're really cool, bye! Mr. Cornell, where did you live freshman year? Why does your name start with E.Z. when this school is so hard? Quickly!
Mr. Cornell, how many people have you seen streak across the Arts Quad? That's a lot of cheeks.
SPEAKER 6: Are you proud of your son for getting into Cornell?
SPEAKER 10: Yes.
AMBER HAYWOOD: Thanks, everyone, for tuning in. Congrats to our graduating seniors. Let's go!
SPEAKER 10: And tonight--
GROUP: Your bed!
[MUSIC- "FAR ABOVE CAYUGA'S WATERS"]
Far above Cayuga's waters with its waves of blue, Stands our noble 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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In a recorded address delivered as part of the virtual Convocation ceremony on May 28, author and social commentator Roxane Gay challenged the Cornell Class of 2021 to be true to themselves and to their dreams, however wild they may be.