SUNY Potsdam Commencement Speech
May 23, 2020
My fellow graduating Class of 2020,
I want to start by first saying that you all deserve everything you have ever wanted in life, no matter how big, or how small. You deserve to be here, at this very moment, that you all have worked so hard to get to. Granted, you aren’t here with me face-to-face, and I really wished you were. No matter where you find yourself today, I want you all to live in this very moment, take all of this in and realize that you have accomplished something immense and extraordinary.
We are the graduating class of the year 2020, and since 20/20 means perfect vision, it is clear that our futures are in plain sight and in arm’s reach. Now, I may not actually have 20/20 vision myself, and can barely read my professors’ handwriting on the board, or even the words on the PowerPoint slides, but I can clearly see the vast potential you all hold. I can see all of the hard work, dedication, perseverance and hunger you have for success, and I can say with confidence that this is just the tip of the iceberg of what we have in store for the world.
I know things may seem hopeless and unfair, given the current state of our country. However, this is what makes our graduating class one of the strongest groups of professionals. We faced a global pandemic, yet, still managed to stay focused, continued to work hard, and achieved our goals. We are the exact type of leaders that this world is going to need in the future. So, don’t think that all hope is lost. I know this may sound cheesy, but this will truly make us all stronger. Potsdam is truly is a remarkable place, and it is only possible because of the life, joy, and laughter that we all bring to it. All of our similarities, and our differences. All of the knowledge and experience. All of the bliss and the pain, make SUNY Potsdam what it is.
Coming to Potsdam was an otherworldly experience for me, as I’m sure was for a lot of you. Living in New York City my entire life, I was exposed to so many different things that many only dream of. I was raised in a Trinidadian household by my amazing parents that loved me dearly and loving siblings that always supported me, making me the man you see here today. Seeing my mom work hard every day pushed me on the road to success to assure that her hard work paid off. I remember something my father would constantly tell my siblings and I. He would always tell us, “Never be a follower, always be a leader. I don't want allyuh to say I should’ve, I could’ve, or I would’ve, but I want allyuh to say I did.” These words shaped my entire being by allowing me to always go for the things I wanted, shooting for the stars, and reminding myself that the sky isn't the limit. This is something I want you all to remember—that your potential is limitless, and that there isn’t anything you cannot do.
Being the first black gay male to become the Student Government Association President at SUNY Potsdam, I can attest to that. Growing up, I used to be shy and quiet, which may come as a shock to everyone, especially those that know me well, or anyone who has ever come in contact with me. However, during that time I was trying to find myself and understand who I was as a human being, but I lost my voice and my confidence in the process. I tried my hardest not to stand out, or speak in fear of being judged. Only participating when it was required, and barely getting my assignments done. There was so much going through my mind on a day-to-day basis that it was hard to focus on other things.
Only when I began high school is when I truly became myself. Meeting others that understood my pain and struggles, no longer having to be in fear of being judged or attacked. I started to see traces of my voice and confidence returning which was an amazing feeling. It was a feeling that I never wanted to let go of, and wanted others to feel the same. When I committed to Potsdam and began my journey was when I was able to be myself 110%, which has allowed me to take on so many different opportunities that have shaped my college experience for the better.
Now there were some challenges living in Potsdam for four years, let’s be honest. Coming from a very diverse community to the North Country was an adjustment, because I became one of the few. But it was because of this why I decided to run for Presidency. I of course wanted to support all of my fellow students, and make sure that our voices were not getting lost as mine did, but I really wanted to be able to represent my fellow students of color, reminding them that regardless of how the odds may be stacked against them, that they can achieve great things, and make history. Shattering the stereotypes and breaking out of the stigma boxes society puts us in. I remember telling myself during my first year at Potsdam that it would be nice to see a black man in that role, and I made it happen by becoming the SGA President this year, demonstrating how far Potsdam has come, but also how far it has to go. Becoming SGA President was the most rewarding leadership role I have ever had the pleasure of holding, and I thank you all for believing in me, and trusting me to make sure that you were represented well, and felt supported.
Congratulations once again to the graduating Class of 2020. I want to wish you all the very best on your future endeavors and nothing but success. If your mind can achieve it, and your heart can believe it, I know you can succeed!