Senior Class President Michelle Wang’s message to the Class of 2021

Michelle Wang
Senior Class President Michelle Wang addresses Arts & Sciences classmates. (Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University)

Welcome family, friends, loved ones, and distinguished faculty to the most anticipated event of the year.

Can we just take a moment to acknowledge how awesome you all look today? Of course, this speech is prerecorded, and I have absolutely no idea what any of you look like. But I have no doubt in my mind that you all look incredible.

Class of 2021, I want to use our final moments as Washington University undergraduates to reflect on our triumphs and tribulations over the past four years. The past four years have tested our intellect, courage, grit and, most importantly, our patience.

In the last year alone, we have been asked to balance a full course load, maintain our relationships, manage our own well-being, all while living through a pandemic. In addition to that, we’ve witnessed political and social strife pervade every inch of our country.  

I can write a whole thesis about how hard this year has been, but they told me I only have two to three minutes to give this speech. So we have to keep the ball rolling.

Sometimes, it is hard to contemplate the weight of this diploma. At the end of the day, it really is just a flimsy piece of card stock, that just so happened to cost a quarter of a million dollars.

However, what this diploma has given me is something I cannot express easily. And with that, I would like to share a story with you all.

When I was in the first grade, my mother took me to my favorite store of all time: Costco. Besides great deals on toilet paper, which I know is a sensitive topic now, they had an extensive book selection. Here, I purchased the first book I was ever able to read — “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

I couldn’t read most of the words, but neither could my mom. Some nights, we would stay up in bed, and both try to decipher this book, sentence by sentence, word by word, until the pages were falling out.

No matter how stressful or grueling her day was, she always prioritized my education over her needs.

Today, my parents watch their daughter receive the diploma they never did and give this speech.

I am only one of the 350 students among us who will be the first in their family to graduate today.

This diploma might be a flimsy piece of card stock, but it is a physical copy of our sacrifices, dedications and accomplishments.

Family, friends, loved ones, distinguished faculty and the Class of 2021, as I address you for the last time, I wish to tell you one thing:

This diploma may say my name and my major, but it is not mine. It is ours.

Four years ago, when we stepped on campus, we had no idea what to expect.

Similarly, today, we don’t know what the future holds. What we do know is throughout uncertain times, the connections we have established will last a lifetime and the memories we have created will be the ones we will never forget. Congratulations!