Last Saturday was my graduation and I was honored to give the valedictory speech. It was a speech dedicated to our generation, often called as “Generation Y”. It was a speech about courage. As my outfit, I chose a white Ao Dai, the traditional Vietnamese dress. In white, it is also the school uniform of my parent’s hometown. Wearing this dress reminded me that it is a privilege to strive for self-fulfillment and that my ancestors had gone a long way to make it possible for me to be in this situation. Since the speech was hold in German, I’d like to give you the English translation below.
P.S.: Thank you Matthias, for recording :)
Dear Mum and Dad,
I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that I’ll be standing here in front of everyone to give the speech. I’m pretty nervous and actually I didn’t follow Mr. Spoun’s [the president] advice to keep my figure – my dress is too tight, please don’t be mad [I talk weird things whenever I’m nervous].
Dear fellow graduates,
let’s take a look to the left and right to thank our families and friends, our professors and fellow students, our lecturers and yes, also President Spoun for accompanying us on our way, so that today, we all made it here.
Today, we can be really proud of ourselves, without false modesty. 35 courses, 180 Credit Points, 27.000 hours of workload. Well, officially. We rather spent half of the time barbecuing on the great court – of course sustainable, vegan tofu-sausages – paddling on the Ilmenau [local river] and yeah, let’s be honest, we also spent some of that time waiting for our € 1.50 Rum-Coke at the Pesel [local bar]. But all these hours, all these different experiences, all this is part of it – part of the “Leuphana Bachelor”.
And from here on? The doors are open for us! I’d even assert that possibilities for our generation are limitless. That we have the privilege that all those doors, walls and rooms vanish and we are standing on the green meadow. (There is at most one little fence on the green meadow, because we chose the wrong Minor and do not have enough CPs for our desired Master).
But the green meadow also has its downsides. At first, still impressed by the size and the lush green, by many of us the feeling of freedom will be replaced by a feeling of narrowness and restlessness. Generation-Y articles are flooding our social media streams and try to describe this phenomenon why many of us are so discontent despite the green meadow. An oversupply of opportunities and possibilities causes a feeling of dizziness. Disoriented we are standing there and do not know which direction to take. We are undecided. And out of fear to be left, we just start running with the crowd, we run, without knowing, what we are actually running from.
At this point I would like to wish our generation courage.
I wish us courage in two aspects.
At first, I wish us the courage to slow down. I wish us the courage to stop and to detach ourselves from the constant race, from the development of time. Courage, to take three big steps back, to sit down and breathe. Breathe deeply. Courage to free ourselves for a moment from the noisy world, to – among all the other voices – hear our own voice, listen to ourselves. All the well-intentioned, wonderful advice of those around us often blend into a babble of voices and so many times drown our own voice. All the opinions can be so loud and present, that we eventually begin to believe that they are our own.
So: Take a deep breath, and listen to yourself. Take the time to dream, to develop your own visions, take the time to become aware of yourself. And do this again and again.
The second kind of courage that I wish us, is the courage to start running. Start running and go our own ways, discover new paths. As a compass not the head, but the heart. For many of us the rationality starts sprinting, while the heart drops behind. But believe me,in the long run it is the rationality running out of breath, while the heart happily jumps past. I wish us the courage to pass through dark valleys, too. For I am sure that if we continue to run, soon it will go uphill again. I wish us the courage to take risks, the courage to errors. We decline any possibility in our heads, because we are afraid of making a wrong decision. We can not decide for an option, because we are afraid of missing another. We take a cautious first step, however, return immediately as soon as another direction pops up, which seems, for that moment, more convenient than the first one. The risk is: We are moving around in circles. Will we ever be brave enough to rush into one direction?
Be brave, listen to your heart and start running!
I wish us courage, the courage to evolve ourselves so that we are satisfied with us. Just as satisfied as Salvador Dali was once. Namely, he said: Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dali.
I wish everyone of us many mornings, where we wake up, are delighted to be ourself and be happy about what we do.