A Commencement Congratulations, but Not for the Degree

by Lashanna Bryant on June 1, 2021

A Commencement Congratulations, but Not for the Degree

by Lashanna Bryant on June 1, 2021

Unfortunately, this is my final blog post for Because Arcadia. However, I am happy that in concluding my time here, I am able to share the speech that I gave at Commencement as the recipient of the Senior Golden Disc Award, addressing the Class of 2021. This speech is very close to my heart, as it was greatly inspired by the trials and tribulations we have all been going through for some time now. I didn’t want it to be cheesy, though, and tried to be as authentic as possible. In writing this speech, I wanted to acknowledge my struggle with losing my mother to cancer, my grandfather to heart complications, and how I wished they could’ve been here for graduation. But I know they are watching over me and would have been so proud to see me and my fellow classmates walk across that stage. I believe the future will be brighter thanks to the amazing students who have graduated from this university. 

Also, I wanted to personally thank all of those who nominated me for the Senior Golden Disc Award. It means so much to me that my peers and educators see me as a leader within the Arcadia community. I have always strived to be involved and as helpful as I possibly could be, because the general welfare of the school was always, and will always, be very important to me. I know that my fellow nominees were just as deserving and amazing in their own right as well. 

Here it is:

Families, friends, faculty, staff, trustees, and members of the Class of 2021.  Greetings. 

I am not going to start this speech with a quote by somebody who's been dead for a hundred years, nor will I say something along the lines of “these are unprecedented times.”  Not today. Our reality is far more real to us now than it has ever been. No saying or recycled phrase can ever depict truly the circumstances we are under, and have been under, for some time now. However, there is one particular word that comes to mind for which I believe perfectly encapsulates today, and that is, “Congratulations!”

You’re probably assuming I mean “Congratulations, you’ve completed your degree!” and while that is an amazing accomplishment, that’s not exactly what I want to praise you all for. Congratulations, to the mothers and fathers who went to school and took care of their children full time. Congratulations, to the students who suffer from mental health issues, but still found a way to get out of bed in the morning. Congratulations, to the people who lost someone this year but still pushed through anyway. To the people who discovered a new hobby, to the people who conquered a fear, and to the people who, in the face of adversity, still found their purpose in life. I cannot tell you how proud I am to know that you exist, and the things you’ve accomplished, no matter how big or small, have allowed you to be here today with me. Thank you for that. 

To the people who discovered a new hobby, to the people who conquered a fear, and to the people who, in the face of adversity, still found their purpose in life. I cannot tell you how proud I am to know that you exist.

- Lashanna Bryant

Arcadia University has been my home for the past four years, and to say that I love this school wouldn’t do it justice. That’s not enough. Being a student here has shaped me as a person. Lashanna from 2017 is not the Lashanna in 2021 (especially the weight). Why does that matter though? Obviously over the course of four years someone is bound to change, right? That is true, it only takes 9 to14 days for a caterpillar to undergo metamorphosis into a butterfly. And it only takes a mere seven weeks for a flower to fully bloom. Change is expected, but the type of change is what makes us who we are. The Class of 2021 is going to face many obstacles and for some, that may be worrisome. You’re going to have to make tough decisions, experience firsthand what it’s like to be on your own and to lead by example — because now we are the ones that have to make things happen. The world expects a great deal from us. While that may sound overwhelming, we can do it because we are not just ordinary graduates — we’re Knights. We are advocates, inquisitive, activists, powerful, open-minded and, despite being told no, we have always found a way to say yes, actually we can and we will. 

Growing up in Allegheny and being a child of a mixed race, I was often told things that no child should ever hear. I was consistently being discriminated against for not “fitting” into either race, being forcibly secluded and feeling like I was never going to belong anywhere. At Arcadia, I found a way to be who I am unapologetically and I, just like every single one of you, fought to get here today — I lost my mother, I lost my grandfather, I lost friends, and I even lost my mind at times. I had a million reasons to just give up, but I didn’t, and I hope you don’t either. 

So what’s next? What now? The story of the past few years you’ve been at Arcadia have been an incredible one. No matter what you decide to do, the world will be waiting for you and we’re so excited to live in the future you create. While today’s Commencement may only be the beginning, being a Knight is forever.  

Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2021!