Jainaba Gaye, MA'21, Graduate Student Speech
Jainaba Gaye, MA'21, appears in a cap and gown in front of background of the green Shapiro Campus Center with purple flowers. The Brandeis logo appears in the top left corner and the lower third says "Jainaba Gaye, MA '21, Graduate Student Address."
To the class of 2021.
As we celebrate this incredible milestone, I want to commend each and every one of you for the efforts that you've put in to get here.
It has certainly not been the easiest journey, but I'm positive that it has been extremely worthwhile.
And to Dean Weil, President Liebowitz, Provost Fierke, distinguished guests, faculty, family, friends, and fellow graduates, it is my honor to welcome you as I speak on behalf of the graduating class of 2021.
We are greatly appreciative of your support, which has undoubtedly helped us get here.
Believe it or not, this speech almost never written. But as I looked back at my time at Brandeis, I felt compelled to relay this message to you.
As fellow Brandeis alumna and social justice activist Angela Davis greatly put it, "I try not to take myself for granted as somebody who should be out there speaking. Rather I'm doing it only becauseI feel there's something important that needs to be conveyed."
When I completed my undergraduate program in the fall of 2018, I had absolutely no idea that I would be enrolled at the Heller School the following year. Perhaps, unlike many of my peers, my journey to graduate school was not planned out for years or even months before.
I had always known what I wanted to do. I just did not imagine that this wish would eventually land me at Brandeis, and so soon at that. So, when I stumbled upon the opportunity, I felt nervous, unprepared, but excited at the same time.
Arriving in Boston with very little knowledge of what was awaiting me, I slowly navigated through the foreign new inner terrain in Brandeis. As the weeks went by, I met people from all walks of life with different backgrounds and experiences,but one thing was for certain; we all have one overarching goal which was to positively impact lives.
This goal bound us together. Even though we may have disagreed or still may disagree on some
approaches to achieving this, we were still respectful of one another and helpful in ways that we knew how. Brandeis became a home away from home for us as we tried to find solace within and outside of its walls.
During my time at Brandeis, I was inflicted with great grief and loss, and this is when the true sense of community of Brandeis really shone through.The selflessness, care, compassion, and empathy displayed by the students and faculty were astounding and served as a great antidote.
I'm sure that most of us can relate to this somehow. From being away from home, some of us for the very first time, to keeping up with schoolwork, surviving the harsh dark New England winter, and caring for ourselves. Grad school definitely came with its hurdles.
Last year also brought in a lot of unprecedented challenges globally. As we physically closed our doors in March of 2020, the spirit of community still kept us connected and hopeful.
I remember always seeing this quote by Anita Desai anytime I would go to the Graduate Student Center, and it read, "Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow."
And I'm sure that all of us will attest to this, that Brandeis has definitely become a part of us.
Now, I'm almost certain that all of you must have heard this by now, but I'll say it again, and this time, I hope that you listen to it with much keener ear.
Never underestimate what you can do, whose lives you can impact, and never question your belonging. Life is not accidental, you are where you are for a reason. You came to Brandeis for a reason, and every person that you crossed paths with was there for a reason.
The fuel that you need to succeed is already within you, and today could not be a much clearer manifestation of that. Our journeys may be different, our stories even more contrasting. But as we celebrate today, one thing is for sure, we are more alike than we may think. And while preparation is extremely important for any venture in life, the feeling of unpreparedness should never stop you from taking leaps.
It is great to dream, to imagine great outcomes, but dreams not acted upon, no matter how vivid or promising they may be, is just wishful thinking.
I will leave you with two more quotes from my fellow Brandeisian, Angela Davis. She said, and I quote, "You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world and you have to do it all the time, and sometimes we have to do the work, even though we do not yet see a glimmer on the horizon, that it is actually going to be possible."
This is what I have learned from Brandeis and the Heller School. That change, no matter how impossible or far away it may seem, is possible, and has the potential to impact lives. The effects of which can and will be felt and will ripple through like waves.
So when when things get difficult, I hope you're able to look within and connect with yourselves as well as with those around you. I hope that you are able to lend a helping hand when possible as well as accept one.
I hope that today and beyond, that you will always remember that you're worthy of celebration and that you continue to do so for yourselves, even for seemingly minute milestones.
Thank you and congratulations.