Joshua Ekirikubinza's speech - AKA Mombasa's graduation, 2015
Teachers, I would like to begin with you. I am not going to thank you right now. However, I will start by saying sorry. For every time we ducked when we saw you coming down the hall, knowing we were not going to hand in that piece of homework. For every time we extended that deadline so far that it became inexistent. For every time we treated the piece of paper we are about to receive as your problem and not ours, and for every opportunity to thank you that we missed, thank you for being there from the beginning and here with us at the very end.
Parents, thank you. Those two words come nowhere near expressing the gratitude I know that every single student seated in front of you feels. Thank you for the support, whether financial or emotional. Do not worry; the product of your labor is awe-inspiring. In front of you sit the pioneers of the next generation, the heroes who will shape the world and leave a resplendent legacy for decades to come. DP2s, I just made a lot of promises to your parents, your job is to turn those incredibly romantic notions I sent flying their way into reality. And while it may seem like I just placed an immense task on your shoulders, I only ask of you what you are more than capable of.
In two years you have overcome every single obstacle that the IBO managed to throw at you, even though I know you imagined they sat in a boardroom discussing how to make your lives as difficult as possible. Now you are at your graduation and I know a lot of you are probably wondering what it was all for. I sincerely hope you do not expect me to give you that answer. In fact I hope you realize that no one in this room or outside it can give you that answer. As cliché as it is to say, the only person who can answer that question is you. Why did you decide to do a program renowned for its rigor? I hope it is because somewhere inside yourself you believed that you do have the ability to do anything you set your mind to; which would make everything I promised earlier a piece of cake.
So if I have not made myself clear yet, the world is yours. It is yours to shape and mould, yours to save and re-vitalize or yours to ignore and let crumble. If there is one thing you should know going forward it is that you no longer have the luxury to sit back and watch. You had about eighteen years of your life to do just that and I hope you enjoyed it. Soon the decisions about the world we live in will be left up to you. Make sure that when you are attending the next generation’s graduation the legacy you hand over is one that you are proud of.
The way to such a legacy is of course no walk in the park. There will be challenges, but the greatest one, I believe, is the day you question how special you really are. The day you stop believing you can impact the world around you is the day that ability is eternally lost you. Do not let the world tell you what you can and cannot do. Do not subscribe to the bigotry and intolerance that runs rampant throughout the world, you are far too intelligent for that. Do not gauge your abilities by comparing yourself to someone else. If you look to your left or right you will find a classmate and a team mate, not your competition. You do not benefit from being better than the person sitting next to you. I do not often quote people because I am ambitious in that I hope to create a few of my own one day, but Ernest Hemingway once said “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility lies in being superior to your former self.” Thus the key to your success does not lie in being better than everyone but, and the administration in no way coerced me to say this, in having a growth mindset. Please do not be that dentist who argues you are more important than the engineer.
Be accepting of the people around you. You cannot hope to change the world if you cannot even begin to accept the people within it. We are different. That is a reality you will have to accept. Also, please remember when you re-shape the world you affect everyone. Every culture, every race, every ethnicity and every religion. It is a complex puzzle, remember that. You can only solve it if you understand it.
Do not your let your education amount to just a piece of paper. As the incredible sagacious Albert Einstein said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” When you read that over 8,000 people died in an earthquake in Nepal earlier this month, do you simply let that statistic ring through one ear and out the other? Or do you let such facts inform your decisions about what you want to do to change the world? Do not think accumulating wealth is the way you change the world either. If you think I am being dishonest then how about you consider that there are over 5 million millionaires in the US alone. There is a treat in it if you can name more than 100 of them. I believe you know less than 100 names because they have not done enough to change the world. Martin Luther King Junior died without any financial assets at all or a will, almost 50 years later we still revere him. In the end you deserve to have your name written down in the annals of history, not a checkbook.
Finally remember as wonderful as you are, there is only one of you. You are one piece in a seven billion piece puzzle. Try and fit as snuggly as possible, keep your elbows, knees and feet in a position that does not bother anyone else.
So as I conclude this intentionally overly verbose speech, I leave you with a simple fact. Those are crazy enough to believe they can change the world, are often the ones who do. So here’s to the crazy ones - we can disagree with them, hate them, love them, quote them glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you cannot do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. I hope that you are all crazy enough to do it.