Class of 2022: Senior Class Representative Address
Olivia Anderson ’22
178th Ohio Wesleyan University Commencement Ceremony
May 7, 2022
Hi everyone, welcome!
I’m incredibly honored to stand before all of you today. Your presence and support as our families, friends, and mentors mean more than you know.
Today, I represent Ohio Wesleyan as something real and tangible, not carefully marketed, covered in flashy lights, or adorned with surface-level promises of fun and opportunity. This university and its students comprise far more than could ever be explained in a promotional brochure.
There is no universal experience here—each one of us has walked our own individual path on this campus.
However, we do have two very special things in common: ambition and adaptability. We, of all classes, have endured the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Despite all the odds being against us, we have persevered.
As you look upon the Class of 2022, I urge you to see what I see: overworked students in classes, labs, studios, and rehearsals from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. who still grind through assignments as their self-care is put on the shelf.
Young adults learning to cope with their own mental illnesses and still supporting friends who are struggling.
Queer folks who withstand snide looks and torn-down pride flags, and still remain vocal about their identity.
Students of color who still deal with harassment in the 21st century.
International students who have gone so long without seeing their loved ones in person and still excel in their studies.
Students who've watched their parents pass away and still show up to class.
All this, and we still find the grit to keep going. I myself have struggled to muster the strength to eat lunch or brush my teeth amidst battling my own trauma, depression, and anxiety. To any graduating student who also needs to hear this: you are not too much, nor too little—you are enough. You shine.
We are the backbone, the supportive gears in this machine. Ohio Wesleyan is so strong because of the fragments of ourselves we've used to build the foundation. In return, we're gifted a community of loving mentors, a lasting education, and a place in history.
I invite you now to think of a professor, staff member, or student who has transformed you for the better. I urge you to express that gratitude—to thank those people who have made you who you are today.
The most rewarding way to end my journey here is by lifting the curtain, reminding everyone of what we truly are: a collection of the most resilient people I have ever met. So willing to stand up even in the face of adversity. So vocal about reform even in the face of tradition and opposition. So motivated to keep going even in the face of exhaustion.
I want to trigger a release. Give us all permission to let go and prioritize ourselves now. Only then will we be able to look back and see the immense growth, progress, and change we have made for this school, and most importantly ourselves.
There is one more skill we must add to our repertoire of ambition and adaptability—and that is grace. As difficult as college is, we're told at this age to “dream big” and “shoot for stars,” when what we really need sometimes is to be gentle and take things slowly.
We have already set our sights on greatness and achieved so much—including this milestone today. Each one of us has something to be proud of.
I say embody it, own it! We still need to act with grace, but now is not the time to be modest about our accomplishments. We of all people have the potential to act on what we know we deserve.
I leave you with this: we've all dealt with our own challenges in the past few years, but we mustn't wallow in them. Acknowledge those hardships, accept them as a part of your journey, and move forward. Not with guilt, haste, or judgment, but with grace.
As an artist, I've learned to work with my mistakes in this manner. Sure, it may seem easier to start over when you slip up. However, I've found that the best artwork embraces those "defects."
Embody it, own it.
I encourage you to step back from today, give yourself credit, and take a break. We've earned it, after all. And when you are ready: take all you have learned here and start your next journey. The world waits for you.