SID Commencement Speaker: Brontte Hwang '15, MA SID/MBA'21

May 24, 2021

Brontte Hwang, MA SID/MBA'21, in a commencement cap and gown in front of green vines
Brontte Hwang '15, MA SID/MBA'21

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be here with you today on behalf of the sustainable international development graduating class of 2021. Beloved Heller family, friends, loved ones, pets, esteemed guests: Thank you for celebrating with us today the countless hours of group projects, papers, readings, and lectures that we’ve overcome to get our master’s degrees today, and thank you for being there with us through it all. And don’t worry—if you need to ask us one more time what “sustainable international development” means, we gladly explain.

My fellow graduates: Our journey at Heller may have come to end, but the friendships we’ve made have not. I mean this with all my heart when I say that it has been an absolute privilege meeting and getting to know you over the last two years. I can honestly say that our SID cohort is full of the kindest, realest, most genuinely heartfelt people I know. We are truly a vibrant and caring community that comes from all walks of life and around the world. And it is with absolute gratitude that I can confess: you all are the reason I chose to come to Heller. You all carry with you tremendous stories of how you came to Heller, of the sacrifices you and your loved ones had to make and continue to make, your dreams and visions for a better world, and the voices and stories of your communities back home. That is what brings us all here today.

Sustainable international development doesn’t just mean we work in NGOs or nonprofits or the UN, although some of us might or already have, but it means we look at the whole picture. We’ve all had experiences that brought us to Heller because we realized we can’t solve one issue without addressing the entire ecosystem. We can’t just look at education or women’s rights or environmental issues because they’re all interconnected, which means we’ve got a lot of work to do! But fortunately for us, we’re in this together like different parts of one body and there’s no one I’d rather do this with that you all to make this world a more beautiful place for everyone.

Before we go out into the big wide world, I want to leave you, my precious friends and classmates, with a word of encouragement: Have no fear. Whether you have a job lined up already or have no idea where you’re going next, just remember: you are capable of so much more than you know and even when you feel like you can’t, you’re not in this alone. The road ahead will be tough. Conflicts will happen, plans will be derailed, we will be put into groups with people we don’t like. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond and we can choose to respond in love. I’m not talking about a lovey-dovey kind of love, but the substantial, action-driven kind of love I’ve seen on display at Heller, for our communities, our friends and families, and for the world; the kind of love that clothes people, feeds people, and saves people. Perfect love that drives out fear. People often think the opposite of love is hate, but in reality, it’s fear—fear of the unknown, fear of what others may think, fear that things won’t turn out the way we expected, or fear that we are not enough—and that paralyzes us from being who we’re meant to be and loving others for who they are. But let me echo some brave voices of the past to remind you of this today: we must not be afraid because we were born to do this. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

Friends, this is it. We’ve equipped ourselves with the knowledge, skills, and experience we need and now we’re ready. So, get up, do your victory dance, savor the moment, and truly celebrate. Then get your battle cry ready because you and me, we’re going to change the world.

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