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Jonathan Dong’s Speech


How’s everyone doing on this fruitful day? I am honored to have earned this privilege to speak before you, my peers, the faculty and staff, the administration, and everyone else in the zoom room.

Before I begin this speech on such a monumental day in our lives, I would like to thank everyone who made the Hill safe and operational for us in the midst of this pandemic. We couldn’t have lived through this unique academic year without the help of facilities management, Bon Appétit, campus security, and the administration. I would especially like to shout out Leo the lion and Kevin from facilities, for never failing to put a smile on my face every day.

Thank you to the faculty and professors for being so flexible, understanding, and compassionate to all the students this year. Shout out to my South 306 day ones for keeping me ever so sane, along with all the goobers I’ve met along the way.

Thank you to the Posse Foundation and my Posse for keeping it real and helping me along my personal and academic journey. Last but not least, I want to thank my grandparents, ma, ba, my brothers Ethan, Nathan, and most of all my sister Grace, for providing the support and love necessary for me to succeed.

Graduates, faculty, staff, and everyone on zoom world. Hope everyone is having a wonderful morning cause I am. Congrats to us, for making it here!! The class of 2021! Give me some noise y’all!! Congratulate yourselves, we made it.

Now, I’m glad that we are making it through COVID-19, but jokingly (joking aside??) this isn’t our first rodeo, we have gone through some wild things throughout our four years on the Hill, we survived the infamous norovirus our freshman year — when the dining halls at the time looked eerily similar to the dining halls this year, and don’t forget about hand-mouth-foot disease our sophomore year — my body was on fire all week!

We also had some recurring casual struggles that seem to happen out of the blue, like 3 a.m. fire alarms, your phone screaming at you in the morning after hardly getting an hour of sleep, trudging through 5 feet of snow for an 8 a.m. class that you didn’t even do the reading for, turning a KJ study room into your home office for the week, maybe even your 6-foot snake got loose in Bundy — crazy things happen.

The point is, we have been through so much together on this campus, from minor inconveniences to major pandemics and remote learning. Outside of diseases, we have also witnessed the collective shifts in the political climate of our country, and what that meant for everybody in the nation. Although those things make us feel powerless, being out of your control, the one thing that we can control is surrounding oneself with the people that you know and love. Your fellow Hamilton peers, and the way we came together to protest and mourn over the latest tragedies shouldn’t be as common as they are but are needed now more than ever and we need more of them now more than ever.

Even through the thick and thin of it all, there are some memories that tend to stick out. Memories of laughter, memories of excitement, memories of happiness, (and memories of getting just a little lit on this campus.) Now these memories tend to develop the fundamental basis of who we are, and these memories share one theme in common, and that is sharing a moment with friends and loved ones.

Speaking of memories, do you remember your first time in Commons, during rush hour, you’ll know what that’s like. Coming in right at noon, witnessing the chaos that would ensue as everyone is trying to grab a quick bite right before class, and waiting in line for like 20 minutes just for some grilled chicken. Then you go to grab your utensils, and there’s nothing but knives, no spoons or forks in site.

Or even on your first day of orientation week, when you were running around Steuben Field, seeing all these new faces, feeling this sense of unfamiliarity to the space, and just trying your very best to look for your orientation group amidst the hectic nature of new experiences. But through all this chaos and uncertainty, you got to meet new people, who at first only share one similarity, and that is being in this space together.

Now throughout my four years here at Hamilton, I witnessed the beauty of our class, I watched us go out and make our own communities, like the Aquaponics club, where we work together to advance knowledge of sustainable alternatives to the traditional agricultural practice, or the Asian Student Union, where members get together to create a safe space and converse on their shared experiences outside and on campus.

I see members of our class work closely with Student Activities, to host events, some as small as knitting or pot painting and before COVID, clubs hosting large gatherings such as Latin Ball hosted by La Vanguardia or Block parties hosted by BLSU. And, our community isn’t just isolated on the campus, we don’t just only care about ourselves, but we care about the people that we don’t initially perceive as being a part of our community. Groups like HAVOC provide Hamilton students with the opportunity to serve a larger community outside of their own, off the Hill. We define our community rather than falling into one, and that’s what makes Hamilton students so special.

Today... we graduate Hamilton College, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world. And once we leave the hill, no later than 5 p.m. eastern time, we will bring with us legacies, theses, friendships, and memories to share with the world. We leave the home we created on the Hill, only to realize that home isn’t a place, but a conglomerate of people.

Hamilton is more than just a college campus, it’s a community that expands outside of the College, it’s a network of leaders and scholars that spread across the whole globe. So, when you feel away from home, remember that home isn’t that far away, and really it could be just around the corner.

Thank you so much, enjoy your day today, and be happy that the next chapter in your life has begun.

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