My College Graduation Speech at UC San Diego
“We Can Be the One, and We Have to Be”
Before coming from China to the United States for college, I indulged myself in a lot of American TV shows. I became so engaged in those conflicts and topics that the characters were involved with as if I was living the life of those theatrical circumstances. When I arrived at UCSD as a freshman, I gladly found out how much the television shows had prepared me for the transition; however, at the same time, I realized that this new life in America was so much less dramatic than all those screams and fights in the reality TV show. The diversity and challenges that I was exposed to from TV — they turned real right in front of me.
It would be a challenge for me to feel included in a new environment, and Marshall welcomed me into the community. Res-life and the college spirit have embraced me and guided me toward becoming an “engaged citizen.” The biggest challenge for me, during my first quarter, was being exposed to all the questions and discussions in DOC (the year-long “Dimensions of Culture” program). I still remember how intimidated I was to speak up in the discussions on topics such as stereotype, gender, races and minorities — topics that domestic students seemed to be very familiar with. Now thinking about all those moments that I learned to just open my mouth and say something, to at least try to participate in the conversations, I have come so far to value how this whole process has increased my respect toward different groups, different ideas, and to appreciate all those bold changes that have brought or will bring improvements to the society. I would never have thought about that if not for UCSD, if not for Marshall.
I remember that one day when I was fifteen years old, Dad came home from a business trip to the U.S. As soon as he got back, he described this thing that baffled me so much, which is A-STOP-SIGN. Yes. He described to me how the Americans managed to wait for their turns to drive across the street without a traffic light. Although I was nodding to my Dad, I could not picture how this mechanism would work at all, especially coming from a place where even traffic lights or fines constantly fail to regulate a driver or a passenger’s behavior. I have been growing up hearing people say, “I don’t have to follow the rules because others don’t” — or — “If I wait, I would never be able to get across the street.” Similar situations too, after I come to UCSD and when I witness issues of academic integrity around me. Mom once read this interesting sentence to me from an article, that “Those who think they have the power to break the rules and get unpunished are the ones who feel the least secured, because deep in their hearts, they know that rules are not existent to protect anyone, they themselves included.” I believe that to be an engaged citizen, we rely on these constructive regulations that put traffic — and everything else — in a right place so that every member in the community would develop based on trust and the sense of being protected.
The final component of my understanding in “engaged citizen” is to be the one to act. In most cases, we really don’t have to go too far to be able to be the one right there to help. I have read precedent cases in which people who needed instant help were surrounded by a crowd of people being aware of it but none of them acted — they all assumed that other people would have done something, or just waited for somebody else to do it. I don’t want to be the one who keeps quiet among the group. A lot of times, especially for students from another country, it is so hard to speak up, or to be the one to lead. But I believe that we can be the one, and we have to be. Every one of us might be facing an entirely new environment, and we could still be the one to help, and be the one to change.
Throughout this four-year journey of studying abroad here, at UCSD, I am fortunate enough to get more engaged, or involved, in so many different areas, and I truly value this exploration. As an individual who thought of herself as an “outsider” — who was unconnected to this concept of “citizenship”, I have now come to believe that regardless of the status that our visa tells us, I, as well as the many other students here at UCSD, bear the same responsibilities that true citizenship call upon us. And wherever we go, we shall always take ourselves proudly as part of the community. It’s such a great honor of mine — today — to be here to celebrate your hard work, your new journey, and this mutual inspiration among us. Congratulations, my dear peers of 2015!
Senior Student Speaker
Thurgood Marshall College Annual Scholar and Citizen Reception, UC San Diego, May 2015
My speech was chosen by the college committee through an audition to be later presented in the annual Scholar and Citizen Reception. The mission & philosophy of Thurgood Marshall College is scholarship, social justice, leadership and citizenship.