Good evening President Le Roy, Faculty, family members and fellow... before you tonight, I’m genuinely proud to be one of...

Good evening President Le Roy, Faculty, family members and fellow students. As, I stand
before you tonight, I’m genuinely proud to be one of you. First years that have made the
dean’s list in your first semester, I know the transition from high school – the increased
workload, the exponentially increased social life, the surprising existence of laundry – such
a transition is a challenging one. Your presence here attests to your fortitude as you have
striven for academic excellence, despite the challenges. Sophomores and juniors who have
persevered through the initial shock of college life and are now steadily progressing
through college at such a high standard, I salute you. And finally, my fellow seniors... if you
are here, it means you have consistently dedicated yourself to achieving a standard of
education which encompasses so much more than just the daily grind of completing
assignments. Congratulations, you have made it – almost.
When I first came to Calvin from Zimbabwe, I was excited to become independent – away
from my parents, community and even country. I had a vision to succeed on my own, to
become an independent man. But, as I reflect upon my own Calvin experience, my journey
has been anything but an individual one. And as I prepare to leave, I cannot help but be
reminded of the Southern African idea of Ubuntu.
Ubuntu, a Zulu word, doesn’t have a direct translation, but it is a concept which
acknowledges our shared humanity and states that our lives are inextricably intertwined.
Ubuntu encapsulates the idea that “I am what I am because of who we all are/I am because
we are.” For us as Christians, I think Ubuntu is an extension of our belief in community.
Because we believe we share not only humanity, but the image of God, we have an even
stronger tie to each other.
I have seen this idea of Ubuntu in my years at Calvin through the connections with some
remarkable people who have been pivotal to my success here. I know each of you has your
own examples of Ubuntu lived out. For me, Ubuntu looked like my mentor Chris Klein who
showed an active interest in my life during my first semester at Calvin and then patiently
walked with me through the challenges and joys of the last four years. It looked like Prof.
Vander Griend and Prof. Looyenga who demonstrated a passion for Chemistry and their
students which stirred and validated my own interest in the field. It looked like late nights
with my housemate, Zion, struggling together to understand and master the intricacies of
biochemistry. It was in the conversations and interactions with thoughtful friends who
helped me keep perspective as we worked through questions of faith, identity, justice and
our purpose in a broken world. It looked like breakfast with Prof. Louters, whose enduring
kindness and considerate questions were a significant part of my senior year. Ubuntu was
present when my friend Greg left his job in the middle of a work day to drive me to a
medical school interview in Detroit after my bus broke down. It looked like the pride and
encouragement of my parents whenever they heard about… well, pretty much anything I
became involved in at Calvin.
So tonight is a celebration not only of each student here that has excelled, but all those
who have been part of this success – one made possible largely because of the friends,
family members, professors and mentors who have invested in each of us. On behalf of all
the students here, thank you, for engaging in Ubuntu with us.
First years, and all those who still have time left in your Calvin Career, I’m genuinely excited
for you. As you pursue distinction in all aspects of your life, soak up the moments of Ubuntu
and be intentional about how you invest in others. Congratulations, for not only completing
a challenging education, but for committing yourselves to academic excellence. Seniors, we
have had the privilege of four years of growing and learning together as others have
invested in us. Now, seniors, as we leave, we have the opportunity to develop our own
spirit of Christ-like Ubuntu. Who will we invest in?
As we think about the success of this last year, and everyone who's been part of it, and the
hopes of the future, I leave you with words by South African Archbishop emeritus,
Desmond Tutu. “We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from
one another, whereas we are connected and what we do affects the whole world. When
we do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” Thank you.