The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
Kindly allow me to take you back to the first step that has resulted in your being here today.
Dear family, friends and well-wishers: think about the first memories of the graduand whose invitation you have gladly honoured today. It may be that first cry when they were born, how they wept when you dropped them off on their first day of pre-school, how their behaviours caught your attention in the dormitory and classrooms of their high school, or just how helpful, or otherwise, they were to you on your first encounter.
Dear Staff and Faculty: Do you remember how, we, in 2013, fumbled to answer the “tell me about yourself” question during our interviews? Or what you thought of “those kids” and the many questions we had about Ashesi and its values during orientation?
Dear graduands: Reminisce about your first thoughts of Ashesi, your emotions as you went through making the decision to accept the offer Ashesi had given you; through to the first day you walked through these gates.
HERE. WE. ARE. A thousand miles from where it all started but all because of those first steps; those first moves.
Nana Oteng-Korankye II; Nananom; Distinguished guest speaker; Representative of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast; Representative of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Mines and Technology; The Executive Team, Trustees of Ashesi University College; ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to “HERE WE ARE”.
The class of 2017 is one colourful thread intricately woven into the tapestry, called the Ashesi community. In our vibrancy, we have stood out! Coming from various spots within the 4 corners of mother Africa, and the world, it was common place for our Ghanaian year mates to quickly correct our Nigerian year mates when they pronounced “L.O.V.E” as “lorve”; and our Kenyan friends strongly arguing against adding pepper to food to make it spicy. In the end, we got to learn to appreciate our differences and came to the realization that, all these arguments were exchanges of love.
We were not only diverse in nationalities, but in terms of our dreams, our motives for accepting the Ashesi offer, and the mental orientations we possessed. Some of us came to Ashesi because our friends were coming, while others had to follow their family tradition, and their parent’s dreams of enrolling at Ashesi. Even as freshmen, we had year mates who would strongly argue and defend topics that were not “defendable” while I found it hard to even say my name out loud. Some of us had dreams; dreams to graduate from Ashesi with first class honours and land the best-paying jobs or start the next business empire on the continent, while others were looking to champion social change and leave footprints of their work on earth.
After four years on this hill, HERE. WE. ARE; unified in our differences.
HERE. WE. ARE; certain that we do not hope to be anything other than ethical and responsible members of society.
HERE. WE. ARE.
We are a culmination of toils, tears and the triumph of toughness. As said by Longsfellows “the heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling up in the night”.
Our journey at Ashesi has been characterized by toiling up in the night, literally. The prolonged Entrepreneurship group meetings that went on until 2 am; the codes that refused to compile; the presentations—from Text and Meaning through to Capstone thesis and applied projects, made us happily make do with lecture hall chairs as beds.
We did not only become nocturnal beings; we became tougher. Sometimes our programmers thought they should be praised for making a program work, but they were usually greeted with Dr. Korsah’s “can you do better?” And when Makosah announces that “it will come but the form”, you know that all hope is lost in that upcoming Intro to Finance exam. On our journey to toughness, you could hear on replay on the music list of most class members Awurade b3gye steer no while others had Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel”.
Today, HERE. WE. ARE.
We have no doubts as we sit here today in our graduation gowns and embellished tassels, with our feet burning in our new shoes while offering silent prayers that the sun does not melt our layers of makeup before we take our photos. That the contributions of the faculty and staff, especially the small actions that we may have overlooked, have collectively transformed us.
HERE. WE. ARE
Not only excited that our toil and late nights are being honoured with a great ceremony as this; we are also excited for the fact that we are graduating from Ashesi as people with a sense of purpose and responsibility.
If I tell you about how we landed a class party, ladies and gentlemen, you will know that our struggles have not only been academic-related. I think Chantel is in a better place to tell that story.
HERE. WE. ARE
Even more excited for the fact that we have made great friends who will be the co-founders of our business ventures, godparents to our children, and the loves of our lives for as long as we live.
HERE. WE. ARE
Feeling super proud that we have left eternal footprints of our stay here at Ashesi. We do not even have to try hard to spray on the walls that “we were here some”, because we would not only be dealing with the wrath of Casper our Director of Operations if we did, but more because the spirit of Ashesi will not forget us.
During Kwabena and Michael’s tenure as leaders of the Student Council, the campus was so vibrant that I almost, almost regretted studying abroad that semester. The Staff and Faculty appreciation day initiated during their tenure has become an Ashesi tradition.
The spirit of Ashesi will not forget us.
Parents in Berekuso are happier that they can pay only 1 Ghana Cedi as fees for their children’s kindergarten education because of the Educare Initiative started by our very own Efua, Hudson and Susanna. We all have no doubts that Valentine’s day on this hill will not be the same without Latifah and Tobel’s Breakfast in Bed. And oh, who would bring the market to the people again, like Wilma’s Bucket Deals did?
To the staff and faculty and the entire Ashesi community: HERE. WE. ARE!
With our lives changed after our encounters with you. Your mentoring and coaching have carved out an army of thinkers who believe in the power of possibilities. We appreciate your efforts; you are awesome, and today, we say a collective THANK YOU.
Ashesi gave us a safe space to discover who we are, identify opportunities, and work towards finding solutions to them. We no longer consider ourselves inferior of achieving great feats. Not when our lecturers and staff members are doing so.
To the Ashesi University Foundation and the MasterCard Foundation, and to all donors whose financial support has contributed to our education, we would like you to know that, you made many of our lives brighter.
To our parents: HERE. WE. ARE!
… the products of your hard work and sacrifices. Our names will be renowned for generations to come through the works of our hands – just because you gave it all for us.
To the world: HERE. WE. ARE!
… ready to leave you a better place than we found you. We will be doing all we can to make your big picture more beautiful, even if our jobs will be just washing the paint brushes for the artist. Rest assured that the strokes on your canvas will be a whole lot better with the Ashesi Class of 2017.
Dear Class of 2017, Ashesi has taught us many things, but one lesson that has stood out for me is about the essence of making small contributions towards achieving a big dream.
Ashesi has taught us that the donors, the lecturers like Sena and Dr Amankwah, the Operations personnel like Anna Reimmer, the shop attendants like Fiifi at Essentials, and the gardeners, are the people who make big dreams like Dr. Awuah’s Ashesi, a reality. So if you start out playing supporting roles and are always behind the scenes, do not feel less of yourself. Do not undervalue your contributions. Know that you are playing a major role in a big game, because the bigger picture will not be the same without your contributions. And of course, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Class of 2017; HERE WE GO!