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Text of student speaker Kadiatou Tubman's remarks

Two years ago, through the Union College Civil Rights Mini Term, I visited New Orleans, and heard stories upon beautiful stories from locals.  One story stood out the most. It was the story about “a bridge to the other side” where, on Sunday September 4th 2005, hurricane evacuees seeking safety on the other side of a bridge were met with opposition. However, they refused to turn back. Their story took me to another Sunday: March 7th 1965, on the Pettus Bridge, John Lewis and hundreds of diverse marchers walked in the name of civil rights. Also met with opposition they refused to turn back. There’s a lot we may not know about the history of that Sunday in particular, but we do know the lasting impact it has on all of us today. We know that one Sunday can change so many lives as well as the course of history. And this Sunday, we, the Union College class of 2013, are changing the course of history. Because we, as a class, are living proof that bridges can and will be built, and they will be crossed for a better tomorrow.

Union has been many things for us. For some it’s been a home away from home, and for others it’s been a new beginning. No matter what Union represents for us individually, Union has ultimately been a bridge for us collectively. We’ve come from all over the world- connecting our homes to Union and Union to our homes. We’ve expanded our families, learned to live and grow together. That is why it comes to no surprise that we didn’t just find ourselves here at Union, we, like so many others, created ourselves here at Union.   

In crossing this bridge, one that’s been a lifeline between Union and the rest of the world, we have pushed our limitations, exceeded our expectations, and confronted opposition, while continuously moving forward. In many ways, we have become bridges, connecting our pasts to our futures, our differences to our similarities, our education to our activism, and our dreams to our reality. We are fortunate that Union has provided us the most essential things on this continuous march forward: the knowledge and tools to build bridges, but most importantly, the patience and courage to cross them.         

These four years have taught us that the setbacks can never outweigh the victories, the pride walks or the frozen fours. So when we lose something or someone on our journey to the other side, we aren’t discouraged, instead we continue moving forward, strengthened by the indestructible spirits of the Sean Murphys of the world. So if you ever need proof of how much courage and dedication we had in these past four years alone, I say take a look around you. This, this very moment, is proof of how much we wanted to be at Union, to cross this bridge, and to make it to the other side. Whether we were working to save the world, trying to get through those final pages of thesis and senior projects, struggling with the reality that your declining balanced has just been declined… or the fact that ‘Skellar closes at 1am and “no you may not have free mozzarella sticks!” we were constantly moving forward. Our ability to push boundaries, look boldly in the face of doubt, discomfort, even awkwardness while reaching the other side will be our lasting legacy at Union College. Because this moment is not about leaving. It’s about legacy, what you leave behind.        

Four years ago, we all stood at the beginning of a bridge, if you were anything like me you stood awkwardly and uncertain with a pretty bad hair day. Today, we have finally arrived to the other side. We have made the march, all of us as leaders who connect beyond the classroom in order to connect across continents. We’re moving on and adding to what we’ve built here. Every year we extend: we leave Schenectady only to continue building. That is why I take pride in knowing that what we’ve built does not stop at Union College in Schenectady, New York; but extends to the South Bronx, Boston, Chicago, California, Vietnam, India, France, Ghana, Kenya, and all across the globe.    

So, for those of us whose future paths are clear, I say continue walking with an open mind, and remember that this path has provided many privileges and opportunities. And for those of us who are uncertain of what the future may hold, I say fear and doubt are not roadblocks, but reminders that we are still building. We built and strengthened this bridge out of office hours and roundtable discussions, lasting relationships, waffle nights at Sorum, and at all-nighters from Lippman to Schaeffer library. And even though we’ve reached this end, the moments and memories--our legacy--will last and connect us for a lifetime.

Kadiatou Tubman, Class of 2013