Fatai Popoola, MSW '14, Delivers St. Kate's Graduate Welcome Address
A Renewed Dream
Members of the Faculty
Fellow Graduating Students
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am greatly honored and delighted to welcome you to the 2014 Commencement ceremony of Saint Catherine University, Graduate College. Let me welcome you in some of the languages that celebrate diversity here at Saint Catherine University:
In my native Yoruba: Ekabo
In Somali: Ku soo Dhawaada
In Spanish: Bienvienidos
As a young man from Iseyin, a little town in southwest Nigeria, West Africa, I came to Minnesota nine years ago with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. I come from a family of nine, the seventh child, the first and the only one to make it to college. As you can see, the dreams of my family rested on my shoulders. My dream, therefore, when I came to America was to find a good job and begin to contribute as a responsible citizen to the development of my new community. But no one would give me a job, primarily because of my accent. Fortunately, St Kate’s recognized my potential, gave me an opportunity, and renewed my dream for a better tomorrow. I can truly say that I did not discover myself until I entered the School of Social Work at St Kate’s - St. Thomas. In my first year, every time I spoke in class, my classmates acted as interpreters. As you can see, that has changed now.
I have no doubt in my mind that we all chose to come to Saint Catherine University not only because we had dreams for a better tomorrow, but because we were also resolved to work for a more just society with well-functioning families and individuals. We wanted to be more than degree-recipients. We aspired to be responsible, ethical leaders with broad perspectives on issues and with more reflective minds on the needs of our people. This is the mission of Saint Catherine University and this mission resonated with our aspirations when we came into this institution years ago. Tonight, our dreams have been renewed and we are fully prepared to go out into the world to use the Catholic intellectual tradition, and social justice teaching that we have learned here, to lift the standards of our people around the world.
My fellow graduates, you will agree with me that navigating through Graduate School is not an easy task. Meeting the deadlines for the rigorous research papers that we had to write was not only difficult, but required many sleepless nights. The readings we had to complete before every class were not only long, but very challenging. The open and wide-ranging class discussions were sometimes uncomfortable. Added to all those, the time clocked in community engagements, internships or clinicals seemed never-ending. However, with tremendous support from the faculty, our families, friends and fellow students, we faced these challenges. We used the rich resources and conducive learning environment provided to us by the administration of this great university – and, together, we succeeded.
Our success has brought our families and friends here tonight. We have all achieved the goals we set for ourselves, at the beginning, of our programs. Our dreams and aspirations for a better tomorrow have been rekindled. Now, we are in a better position to serve our communities in this country, and across the world.
But, as we celebrate tonight, we should not forget that we are graduating in challenging times. Many problems remain unresolved: economic and social injustice persists, racial disparities continue to exist, homelessness and unemployment remain severe, complex health laws are being legislated, resources are dwindling, the ozone layer is depleting, our climate is getting warmer, and we are yet to bring back our girls.
Nonetheless, I am not worried. I know, that we will RISE to the occasion and create change that will reflect our passion for social justice. I know that we will make the world a better place than we found it, uplifting people everywhere.
In Ibo: Nnonu
In Swahili: Karibuo ni
In Hmong: Nyob Zoo Zoo siab
In French: Bienvenue
And in native Yoruba: Ekaabo.