For the class of 2017, the San Jose State University's Pilipino Commencement committee invited me to be the keynote speaker.
Description of San Jose State University's Pilipino Commencement:
San Jose State University's Pilipino Commencement is a convocation that differs from the department graduations and University-wide commencement, in that it brings a family and culturally-centered focus. Along with its intimacy, Pilipino Commencement honors the accomplishments and successes of its graduates through giving the opportunity to each participant to speak, compiling a montage of everyone’s college careers for families and friends to see, and awarding each graduate with a certificate of excellence.
My goal in writing the keynote speech was to welcome graduates into the unknown (also known as post-graduate life.) I aimed to comfort them with the fact that succeeding-- whatever that may mean to them-- is not a race and that it is okay to take time to figure out what their own goals are. Also, while writing the speech, I made an effort to make it relatable with my own experiences as a San Jose State University graduate myself.
Hello! I am Francesca Mateo!
First off, thank you to San Jose State University, Akbayan, and the Pil-Grad committee for having me. Class of 2017, I am honored to be here with you. Since this speech is for a college commencement, I wanted to get in the true collegiate spirit!… by writing this speech the night before it is due. As in… I began writing last night… and it is due, well, right now.
The first time I attended a Pil-Grad, one particular graduate speech stuck out to me the most. This graduate swaggered his way up to the mic, paused, then said, “It only took seven years.” He paused once more, then sat back down. Nearly everyone stood up in applause. As many of you know, the college ideal is a “four year plan.” If you made it, that’s freaking awesome! If longer, that’s freaking awesome too! What was great about that particular one-lined speech was that he owned it. He owned his college experience.
The quality of your college experience is not measured by how long— or short— it took for you to graduate. Your college experience is measured by how you felt in striving and achieving to be here right now in your cap and gown, surrounded by the ones you love and certainly the ones who love you back.
Throughout this evening, family members of our graduates, you will hear the graduates share— and probably cry, there’s going to be hella crying up here— the graduates will share their appreciation for you. They will also share their appreciation for the family that they made here at San Jose State University. You’re gonna hear lots of shout-outs to roommates, carpool-buddies, bigs, littles, ates, kuyas, adings, homies that stuck with them after a long night bar-hopping on First Street… or, I mean, after a long night studying at MLK library.
Graduates, after coming down from how surreal this graduate season is for you, there’s a high likelihood of you hitting a slump. You’re going to ask yourself, “What am I doing with my life?” When all the ceremonies are over, it’ll truly hit you that this chapter is over and you will begin anew. Whether you got that new job or you’re job hunting, post-grad life will be scary.
But, graduates, think of all of those people you are about to thank while up here. Now look around. These people will continually be there for you, as they did when you needed help studying for that final, getting over an ex, or drinking a little too much at San Pedro Square, whatever. You are not alone. We are all confused and trying to figure out what we are doing with our lives. We all have to push through.
Another thing that’s going to happen over the years from this point onwards is… It’ll seem like every dang person is getting engaged, making babies, or making other life-changing feats. You’ll sit on the couch, staring at Facebook or IG on your phone and wonder again, "What am I doing with my life?” You’ll often reach points of comparison. You’ll begin measuring your life by comparing yourself to others with thoughts like “This person got a full-time job one month after graduation.” or “This person is getting a promotion after only a year!”
Like in college, you’ll feel like you’re on a race to reach that 4-year mark. But, that may not have been your reality. After graduation, you’ll have those feelings of doubts over and over again. Let me tell you about my graduation really quick. The morning of my Pil-Grad, I was making coffee for a cafe near by. The day after— despite that high off of accomplishment— I had an opening to closing shift at Ike’s sandwiches. I quit both of those jobs several months later… to work at another cafe.
I remember at that point, I felt depressed and so unsure of what my Bachelor’s Degree even meant or where to go from there. But, with faith, I continued to push through by trying new things, not settling, and leaning on loved ones— many whom I meant while here. I’m still doing all the above. The biggest difference is I let go of comparing my life plan with others. Also, I grew comfortable and excited with the unknown because— despite post-grad confusion— so much great things have happened and with great people I met while here.
During my Pil-Grad, I had no idea that I would go back to school and get my master’s. I didn’t know that I would run a business with some of my “legendary" adings, “dojo" roommates, and a fellow 35th cab member. I didn’t know that I would be engaged to the token-Vietnamese guy in Akbayan. And, I didn’t know that I would get to stand here, before you class of 2017 with the responsibility of welcoming you to post-grad life.
You really do not know where life will take you so you might as well enjoy the ride.
Do you remember that one-liner speech I mentioned in the beginning? That graduate said “it only took seven years.” Like him, I challenge you, class of 2017, own it. Be confident in where life’s ride will take you. Be confident in yourself that you can get through it and make accomplishments along the way, regardless of how long or how many changes will occur for you to achieve your goals.
Shoot, y’all are college graduates now. You got this.