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  • Maya Funada

Maya Funada '22.5's May 2022 Commencement Speech

Video of Speech & Description by Maya Funada:

For previous graduations, Hamilton uploaded individual commencement speeches on its YouTube channel right after the ceremony. This year, however, the communications office is taking a while to upload individual videos perhaps because it is discussing whether it should (or can) publish my speech. Since I doubted Hamilton would upload my speech, I decided to share my own version of it before the College.

Moreover, the way Hamilton reacted to my spicy critiques during and after my speech further highlights who and what they really are, so I wanted to explicitly describe that in my speech. I also added visual and audio aids to my video in order to contextualize my critiques.

I’d really appreciate it if you share this video with your friends and family so that future Hamilton students will no longer have to face the same issues as we did.


Maya Funada's Speech:

Thank you, Mr. President and other decision makers on the stage, for providing so much content for my speech.

I was curious about how a random nerd, like little ol’ me, could represent nearly 500 diverse graduates for this special day. To address this problem, I emailed every single member of the Class of ‘22, legally from the public directory.

Many of you, like the typical Hamilton students, enthusiastically responded to my inquiry. Others, also like the typical Hamilton students, never got back to me.

If you didn’t receive my email though, you probably took some time off during the COVID year, just like myself. I’m sorry you didn’t get my questions but I’m more sorry that we have one more semester to endure.

But for those of you who will finally escape from the brutal Clinton weather, I asked two questions:

One, what is the most rewarding change you have experienced at Hamilton?

And two, what is the most disappointing change you wish had or hadn’t happened?

Oh don’t worry, I’ll keep my language PG 13.

In my survey, our biggest disappointment was the pandemic. But surprisingly, many of you praised our resilient and curious responses during covid as our most positive change.

For example, some of us took Zoom classes at 6 am in the West Coast or 3 am in East Asia, but eventually we all learned to show up to class in pajamas from bed, even in the afternoon. Under the strict regulations for indoor socializing, we all learned to hang out with our friends outdoors, even in the 30 degree temperature.

You see, Hamilton students don’t just give up. Instead, we use our resilient curiosity to envision how to conquer persisting challenges. Since we juggled our school work with household responsibilities or mental health struggles intensified during the pandemic, our friendships and mentorships have shaped this incredibly caring environment.

This is how we’ve conquered the adversity!

Having gone through such chaos demonstrates just how strong our class has become, both individually and collectively.

Our resilience in the face of Covid maintained this community, because we refused to let go of our home. Yet, the very same resilience transformed our community, because we hoped to improve this ironic “Hamily.

Throughout this semester, for example, we advocated for reproductive justice, although the administration scolded us for expressing free and thoughtful speech, through honest posts online, creative banners in Commons, and satirical pieces in beloved campus publications.

Rather than forcing an over-simplified “common ground,” we wisely applied the liberal arts principles of critical thinking and effective communication, which Hamilton proudly celebrates especially in its marketing materials. In this way, our fearless, resilient curiosity always pushed us to question the status quo and seek systemic change.

“Because Hamilton” addressed the use of date-rape drugs with victim blaming, the entire campus wore black to join the demonstration organized by survivors.

At first, we didn’t even know what kind of change was needed. Yet again, our resilient curiosity inspired us to ask critical yet compassionate questions.

During the Black Lives Matter movement, leaders of Black and Latinx Student Union collected over 1600 signatures to petition against a performative diversity initiative, which had excluded experts on campus who had already been working hard toward racial justice for years and decades.

This past March, nearly a quarter of the school filled the library to learn about targeted and organized faculty harassment within our own community and US higher education, about which the administration has yet to make a public statement. But I just made it now!

Even in preparation for this graduation, HEOP scholars have updated an obsolete commencement tradition by surveying hundreds of students in an effort to have our multilingual names pronounced correctly.

At the end of the day, I am grateful for our Hamilton education that has enabled us to not only recognize these carefully sanitized issues but also take bold initiatives to make the world more just and equitable.

And more importantly, we all care about Hamilton enough to make it better, not just for ourselves but for those who are so dear to our hearts.

Black female anthropologist and author Zora Neal Hurston wrote: “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.” Our four years at Hamilton were ones that asked resilient and curious questions.

Some are personal: where should we take our lives after “Knowing Thyself”? How should we stay in touch with our life-long friends and mentors?

Others questions are systemic: How will we make finance more sustainable and fix white-supremacist education? How will we combat anti-queer bigotry, body-size stigma, and ableist structures?

We also asked deeply reflective questions: “Am I good enough?” “Am I curious enough to confront my own biases while actively learning about issues that might not directly affect me?” “Am I resilient enough to challenge the very institutions my life depends on while actively giving up some of my own privilege to support the marginalized?”

I’m not sure yet. After all these years at Hamilton, we still might not have compelling answers to these uncomfortable yet necessary questions. And most likely, we will keep finding unexpected and more complex questions in the real world. But this community has given us every tool and every reason to bravely venture into discomfort.

This is how we’ve grown! And that’s why I’m hopeful for our future. I’m hopeful because I’ve seen our resilience enhance this community with our relentless questioning. I’m hopeful because I’ve seen our curiosity challenge us to take nothing at face value. And I’m hopeful because I know we don’t just give up.

Beyond this Hamilton bubble, we may not know how to initiate change at first. But with the resilient curiosity that we have mastered together, our questions only mean “we don’t know yet.”

Congratulations class of 2022 as well as ‘21.5 and ‘22.5!

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