Jason Nicco-Annan, Senior Class Speaker, 2011

June 4, 2011

Author Paulo Coelho once wrote:

Every warrior of light has felt afraid of going into battle.

Every warrior of light has suffered for the most trivial of reasons.

Every warrior of light has, at least once, believed that he was not a warrior of light.

Every warrior of light has said 'yes' when he wanted to say 'no'.

That is why he is a warrior of light, because he has been through all this and yet has never lost hope of being better than he is.

President Patrick Awuah, Distinguished Guest Speaker, Trustees, Faculty and Staff, guests, family and friends and my fellow colleagues of the Class of 2011. Good Morning.

I am honoured to address you as Class Speaker. I stand here on behalf of my colleagues, knowing that they are, as I am, overwhelmed with pride, joy, and gratitude knowing that we have come this far.

Looking back at our time in Ashesi University can be just as overwhelming, knowing that every day, every memory, every challenge, every step of the way has provided us with the opportunity to learn and to transform.

In the words of English Christian writer and preacher John Bunyan: "I carry with me the marks and scars of battles - they are witnesses of what I suffered and the rewards of what I conquered."

It's been almost four years since orientation, since we trekked from campus building to campus building. That day the distance from Building 3 to Building 2 seemed like a thousand miles.

I remember every interaction, every conversation with my new classmates, how we all shared the same level of excitement and curiosity. I remember our ice-breaking session, and how we all failed miserably to make paper parachutes.

I remember our first Calculus class and how Mr. William Kyei taught us to visualize numbers and equations. His hand gestures were hilarious, but that day we were all witnesses of the fact that Ashesi was a place where our teachers embraced their passion to inspire, thus sparking our passion to discover.

I also remember how my friends and I joked about the number of blue shirts that Mark Poynter, our Text & Meaning lecturer had. Did he have ten? Was it twenty? Did he have one for each day? Or was he just very good at washing one? I never found the number of shirts he had, but another number is much more significant. 81.

There are 81 students seated here today. Eighty-one individuals that have been shaped, touched, influenced and undeniably transformed by Ashesi's illustrious faculty. They have helped us move past the strictures of educational rhetoric and delve into the depths of critical thought, challenging everything. And for that, we as a class are forever grateful.

Speaking of challenges, I ask my classmates: look to your left and right. We all know friends who could not make it this far, not because they were not exceptional or deserving. Some were hindered by financial difficulties, while others found it hard to commit to the values of honour, while others were burdened by personal problems beyond their control. Being seated here today is a privilege and it is by the Grace of God alone that in spite of everything, we are here today. Guided by His Strength, we have pulled through, graduating and going out into the world to be of service to humanity, as leaders, pioneers, and influencers.

As pioneers, the Class of 2011 was the first class to adopt the Honour System for examinations, committing to integrity and ethical behaviour. As early adopters of the honour system we have faced doubts and challenges. But as we leave the school, we hope to solidify our commitment to honour, and to extend our values to public consciousness.

Members of the Class of 2011 also headed significant changes and movements in Ashesi. The Ashesi Community Sponsored Walk was a major event that generated over $5000 for the Student Endowment Fund. Relevant societies such as SIFE, Rotaract and Golden Z were headed by class members and given a platform to operate. Some students in this class were selected to participate in several rewarding internship programmes, seminars and conferences. Others aligned work and mission as leaders and members of the Ashesi Student Council, the Ashesi Judicial Committee (AJC) and the Judicial & Electoral Committee (JEC). Everyone’s individual contribution, no matter how small, has defined our culture in Ashesi.

I speak for every one of my classmates when I say that we are extremely excited about graduation. But it’s the future, the next few months and the many years to follow, that has us most intrigued and unquestionably curious. Four years ago, sitting with rest of the freshman class at orientation, I knew very few by name. Today I stand here, and I am honoured to call them friends. Amongst them I see gifted entrepreneurs, computer scientists, businessmen and women, software developers, programmers and designers and make no mistake about it, the Class of 2011 will make history, not just in our nation or the African Continent, but in the world. The impact of our works and deeds will be phenomenal because we are gifted not for ourselves but for others. Not just to change our nation, but to serve it as well.

In closing, I would like to say a public and heartfelt thank you to our parents, our guardians, friends, and of course, our president Dr Awuah. We are forever grateful to you for giving us the opportunity to aspire for excellence, to simply be better than ourselves. It takes a lot to believe in someone, even more to entrust with them the responsibility of change. We will never underestimate the power of your faith in us and its impact on our lives.

The Class of 2011 is but a small part of the bigger plan for greatness, and our greatest strength comes from your belief in us, as your allies towards the greater good of our world, and as Men and Women of Ashesi. Ashesi has taught us the values of leadership, scholarship and citizenship, but we have also learnt the value of friendship and companionship and the ability to overcome hardship. We, the Class of 2011, are indeed Warriors of Light. And our bright future IS within reach!!

Thank you.