SID Commencement Speaker: Sonam Deki, MA SID’23

May 21, 2023

Sonam Deki wearing a gownGood evening to our distinguished dean, faculty, family, friends, and, most notably, the 2023 graduates. I commend each of you for your unwavering determination to learn and boldly pursue the life you envision for yourself.

I have learned many things throughout my life, but there are two highlights that I will treasure as I continue ahead — one from Heller and another that prepared me for this journey. First, my mother’s example has been my longest education! She worked tirelessly to provide for her family, and to offer me what she couldn’t possess: a college education and better opportunities. She instilled in me the value of working for a cause with courage and integrity. Today, I dedicate this accomplishment to my mother, who influenced me to be the person I am.

The Heller School provided my second highlight. Heller’s multiculturalism allowed me to experience the world without having to leave campus, to meet individuals from places I've never been, and learn from their experiences. My friends who represent minority and indigenous peoples, you inspired me every day with your passion and determination to make a difference in your communities. My colleagues whose countries are in political turmoil, your will to get up every day, complete assignments, and attend classes taught me fortitude and perseverance. I applaud you for not giving up this dream, for sharing your journey, and for enriching our community at Heller!

As a graduating class, we were on the frontline of this so-called “new normal.” We swiftly adapted to the dual mode of learning and navigated together through some of our toughest classes. When classes commenced in person, it felt nice to finally see uncovered faces and treasured the opportunities to bond over group work. But the beauty of this cohort was that the notion of “too busy” did not seem to exist. Despite balancing heavy workloads and personal lives, when friends and colleagues were struggling, there was constant support and community. You made concerted efforts through WhatsApp messages and other gestures to help one another feel emotionally safe. Through these highs and lows, we found a family, built on empathy, kindness, and respect. Today, we are graduating not only with the knowledge and professional skills gained but also with a deep sense of how important we are to one another as peers and colleagues. Above all, we graduate with a new global family!

On behalf of the graduating class, I want to thank each one of you present today; this wouldn’t have been possible without your support! Most importantly, I want to thank the professors and staff for constantly being our biggest cheerleaders — for believing in us and for motivating us to never lose hope!

Finally, as we prepare to take on our new responsibilities, let us be the change we wish to see. Let us continue to lead with compassion and kindness. The world needs it now more than ever! Congratulations to the class of 2023 on accomplishing this extraordinary milestone — onward and upward!