Mackenzy McMorris ’22 (Black Studies; Finance) gave the 2022 Student Commencement Address at SUNY New Paltz on Saturday, May 21. The full address is transcribed below.
Firstly, thank you, President Christian, for your tireless efforts in making this campus what it is today, you will truly be missed! Thank you, faculty and staff, for your hard work and dedication to us students and thank you to my beautiful graduate peers for filling this campus with positive energy, and persevering each and every day to get where we are presently.
Good morning, all, and welcome to the first REAL, traditional commencement experience since pre-pandemic. We have waited a long while for this special moment. I am honored to stand before you and celebrate our accomplishments together, and it’s imperative to acknowledge just how far we’ve come. We’ve survived and navigated a pandemic thus far, while wearing the many hats we do. Our experience has been like no other, but we capitalized on the opportunity to become pioneers of educational innovation and we’ve strived to be seated here today. This mustn’t go overlooked. Though, I cannot progress further without taking a moment to acknowledge those who could not be here today. Many of us have lost loved ones, many of us are affected by current political conflict both domestic and foreign, many of us are simply traumatized from these past few years alone. I ask for us all to take a moment of silence in respect of those aforementioned, and in honor of those who could not be here with us today.
Briefly, here’s a little about me, at 20 years old. I have completed a dual degree in just three years at New Paltz, with a Bachelor of Science in Business Finance and Bachelor of Arts in Black Studies, magna cum laude. A few of my notable campus involvements included, President of the Business Association for Students of Color, Liaison for the Scholar’s Mentorship Program, Accounting Tutor, Ambassador for the School of Business, and Sole advocate for the SUNY Student Voices Action Committee. I am also a recipient of the 2022 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.
I’m also the first generation in my family to be born in America. Both of my parents were born and raised in Jamaica, and the soul and spirit of our rich heritage runs deep through me. My father is my biggest inspiration, working tirelessly his entire life to ensure I’d be able to live the life I want.
Furthermore, I want to recognize a few family members and those on campus who have supported me. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for motivating me each day to be better than I was yesterday. Morgan and Mylan, my dear little bros, you push me to be your biggest role model in all I do. Tiana, my college sweetheart, thank you for your everlasting love and support. Mark Rumnit, the director of Scholar’s Mentorship Program, you were the first one to give me a chance on campus, thank you for believing in me and seeing my potential from the jump. Lastly, Anthony Dandridge, Rendesia Scott, Skeeter Richardson, Dean Backhaus, and so many more, your teachings, mentorship, and encouragement has led me to where I am today. My appreciation for you all is overwhelming and eternal.
SUNY New Paltz has taught me the importance of community. I’d like to give a special thanks to the Scholar’s Mentorship Program and Black Studies Department: the second oldest Black Studies Department in the country, for giving me a home away from home. You’ve given me a plethora of resources that I’ve used and needed to find myself, create impact, and make a positive difference in the lives of those around me. I am grateful for all my knowledge acquired and newfound confidence to be a catalyst and advocate for change. To all my proteges, mentees, and other friends I am leaving behind, continue striving for success and stepping out of your comfort zone, it’s been heartwarming to watch you all grow these past few years.
The great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his monumental work, “The Purpose of Education,” stated how:
“Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false. The real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”
It has been said that one of the hardest things a person can do is think for themselves. I ask all of you to remember these words and as you make decisions, make them for you, especially those that will impact the future only you’re in control of.
Dr. King further stated, “The function of education therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” It’s quite evident that we’ve gone past that; we all are leaving here with something more than we first came with as new students. I look before me and see nothing but the future of this world. Through trials and tribulations, you all have proven that success does not happen overnight, rather, consistency and fortitude will help pave the way. I’m tremendously proud of you all, and you’re a reflection of the greatness that awaits your departure from this institution.
If you’re a first-generation student, if you’ve broken barriers and defied the odds against you, if you’ve made countless sacrifices to earn your respective degree, I’m extra proud of you. Take each day as it comes and live your lives to the fullest extent! Further solidify your passions, try new things, make your dreams a reality, but most importantly, enjoy every next step you take. The spirit of our Orange and Blue has prepared you to advance forward; cherish your memories as there will be millions more to make!
I appreciate your time, and I wish you all the best of luck. It’s been a pleasure.
Congratulations to this year’s SUNY New Paltz graduates! Thank you.