Speaker: Moeketsi Justice Mokobocho ’19
It is both a wonderful privilege and a tremendous honor to be standing in front of you today. Class of 2019, you are the embodiment of resilience, patience, perseverance, survival, and a bright future. And I want to congratulate you on a job well done. You have worked hard, you have earned it, and you deserve it.
Allow me to take this opportunity to express my most heartfelt gratitude to all the people that have made this moment possible. Our parents, friends, and families—thank you for the unconditional love and support that you gave to us every step of the way. I want to particularly thank my parents and family for all the sacrifices they have made for me to have made it this far in life. Sue McDougal, thank you so much. Thank you so much Sue for being such a wonderful wonderful mother to all the international students. A huge thank you to the Lugo family for being an exceptional host family and being very supportive throughout these four years. Churchill Elangwe, I always thought that guardian angels were just biblical creatures until you stepped into my life. When my mental and physical health threatened both my life and my academic career, you selflessly sacrificed your time and made sure that I was okay. You gave me purpose and you gave me life. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
Thank you to our professors for providing us with a high quality education and ensuring that we are all well equipped with the necessary tools to fearlessly step out into the world and face it. Thank you also for being an incredible source of emotional support when the academic journey seemed to be unbearable, which 99 percent of the time was unbearable. Thank you for reassuring us that our GPAs are not the best representation of our capabilities. (Although I wish the hiring companies and grad schools would do the same.) But in all seriousness, I am forever humbled by the enthusiasm, the passion, and the energy with which you have helped us to grow, constantly reminding us that a C-minus is only proof of the fact that we are only human, and we will make mistakes, but what defines us is how we handle these mistakes.
Professor Moloney, it is because of you that today I am crazy enough to refuse to leave this world without finding a cure for cancer, as insane, as naive as that sounds. Thank you for believing in me and always being in my corner regardless of the situation. Professors April Chiriboga and Joshua Martin, thank you for giving me the opportunity to enhance my skills and follow my passion for science. Thank you for the support you continue to show me beyond my academic life.
Finally, I want to thank the entire Colby staff for working tirelessly to ensure that we have the best of the Colby experience. We often took for granted the fact that every single day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. we can walk into a dining hall and food would be readily available for us; the fact that our campus is safe; and the fact that we mostly don’t have to worry about the chaotic messes that we often create after a whole weekend of full-scale indulgence.
But today, I want to recognize and appreciate every individual who is part of the Colby community and has made our four years in this institution worthwhile. I think it is unfair that I have to summarize my gratitude for you all in under three minutes. Because, honestly our graduation today is a manifestation of your true love and support. I wish I could thank each of you personally. But then we would be stuck here for the entire day.
When I made my journey to Colby, I carried with me nothing but one suitcase and a heart full of dreams and ambitions. And after what felt like an eternity of assignments, exams, deadlines, bitter cold winters, spontaneous fun days and Chainsmoker songs, I am proud that I would leave Colby with more than a Biology degree. I take with me all the wonderful relationships that have sustained me throughout these four years and will continue to do so beyond the confines of the Colby bubble. I also take with me a sense of belonging. This has been the most important part of my Colby experience, because unlike 80 percent of my peers who come from Newton, Quincy, Chelsea—or anywhere that is 20 minutes outside of Boston—my home is 17 hours away from here. By flight. And my whole family is all the way in Southern Africa. I do not get to see and hold my family as much as I’d love to. I do not have the choice to go home for the weekend, surround myself with family, and just for a little while forget about how rough my week has been. And when my loved ones pass away, it is hard to get closure because I am too far from home to properly pay my final respects and say my final goodbyes.
I could go on and on about the challenges of not being able to enjoy the presence of my family. But my point is, even in those perilous and lonely times, Colby has given me families away from home that have given me the strength to power through the entire four years. Families like the grief group which was facilitated by Kurt Nelson, the Colby African Society, Vuvuzela Dance Club, The Colby Eight, Club Volleyball, Colby Dancers; and individuals like Kawa Hassan, Robin Shafer, Ron LeClair, Cindy Davis have all fundamentally redefined the meaning of family for me. And for that, I am thankful. And I hope that I have had as much impact in your lives as you have had in mine.
I will also leave Colby with the battle scars of an imperfect journey. Racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and classism have also been a part of my Colby experience. It is frightening how incidents of bias usually directed at students of color, queer individuals, and some religious identities have become so common on this campus. We have become so used to these incidents and yet they continue to shock us every day. Such behavior deprives members of our community of a sense of belonging and singles them out as impostors. We desperately need reconciliation. Colby needs to heal. And for that, we need to be more aware of the people we share this space with. We need to make a conscious effort to be sensitive to watch the identities that constitute the diversity of this place, so that we think twice before deliberately hurting other people based on their identity.
We need to understand that diversity without inclusion is just a statistical quota with no constructive impact. We cannot describe ourselves as a community when the only time that different groups on campus interact with each other is when they have mandatory damage control meetings. Know the diversity around you. Interact with it. Attach a face and a personality to it. Even then, do not fall victim to keeping a company of token minorities in an attempt to justify offensive behavior. Then, and only then, can we take pride in and celebrate our diversity.
As unpleasant as they are, I am grateful for these experiences too because they have given me a realistic view of the community that we live in. And more than hurt me, they have prepared me for the outside world. My only fear is that with time we might be inclined to move on and forget these experiences. And if we forget these memories, future generations might have to relive the same unpleasant experiences. And for us who are leaving Colby, if we choose to forget, then we have nothing to guide our interactions with the people in whatever space we find ourselves in.
Therefore, I challenge you to keep these memories alive because they give us a frame of reference through which we can make an informed and conscious effort to restructure our ideologies so that they do not perpetuate systems of injustice. We need to keep a fresh memory of these incidents in our minds, because as soon as we forget and move on, they resurface within both individuals and institutions. And when they do resurface, as much as we focus on dealing with the perpetrators of these injustices, we need to also dismantle the institutional structures that perpetuate ideologies of social injustice, because individuals might come and go. But ideologies, if given a chance, they will remain. And not only do they remain, but they spread.
In conclusion, I want to say to you, my fellow graduates, as you walk up these steps and receive your degrees or diplomas, take a step backwards, and appreciate not only how far you’ve come, but how much further you are about to go. Because this is just the beginning, as cliche as that might sound. Some of us already have big plans for the future, and some of us are terrified because we still have to figure it all out. Regardless of your situation at the moment, I want to reassure you that you are more prepared than you have ever been. You have the necessary skills and the support from your friends and family. So we can close this chapter without any fear and bravely walk towards the future. As we go out into the world, remember that this is the time to catch all those dreams that we have been chasing all along. Make it a duty to live your dreams, because no one else can live them for you. This is a time to make success, the essence of our existence. You have the power. And the time has never been more perfect for you to use that power. On that note, Class of 2019, let’s go out there and set this world on fire.