It’s now my pleasure to introduce our student
speaker, Lisa Kamal, who will offer remarks on behalf of the graduating class. Raised
in Malaysia, Lisa had never been to Wisconsin before arriving to UW-Madison as a freshman.
Yet few students have embraced what we call the Wisconsin Experience as fully as Lisa.
She threw herself not only into her studies, but also got involved with many other enriching
opportunities we offer here both in and outside the classroom. A geology major, Lisa earned
numerous honors for her academic work, including a Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship,
the university’s top research grant. The Geological Society of America saw Lisa’s potential, too,
presenting her with its “On to the Future” award for underrepresented students in geosciences.
Outside of her major, Lisa has explored her creative side through performing arts, especially
dance classes. And like so many of you, she is leaving campus better than she found it.
Through her work with the Malaysian Students Association, she helped bring back and invigorate
Malaysian Night, an annual cultural celebration. She participated herself in the productions,
singing, dancing and acting. After commencement, Lisa will be returning to Malaysia to work
for an oil and gas corporation owned by the government. I am pleased to invite Lisa to
offer remarks on behalf of the graduating class. [ Applause ]>>Lisa Kamal: Thank you, Provost Scholz,
for that kind introduction. Thank you, Chancellor Blank, senior class officers for this incredible
honor. [Singing] Raise a glass to freedom, raise a glass to all of us, telling the story
of today. [ Applause ] In my junior year of college, Listening to
the “Hamilton” sound track became my coping mechanism that would get me through the day.
In case you don’t know the musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it tells the story
of an orphan and immigrant who became one of the Founding Fathers of America. After
listening to the album, I dove into the fandom, memorized all of the songs while walking to
class, and waiting for the bus, and before I went to sleep. I came here on a scholarship,
a long way from my home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This opportunity to be here, at the prestigious
University of Wisconsin–Madison, did not come easy or cost little, for any of us. My hopeful
freshman self had started out college with big dreams. I wanted to make the most of my
time here because just like Hamilton, there’s a million things I haven’t done. In the beginning,
the unknown was exciting. Remember those days? I could justify struggling in Calculus, or
chemistry, because, I was only a freshman. And I thought, by the time I am a senior,
I’ll be a pro at everything. But as students, we juggle a lot on our plates. We juggle our
studies, relationships with friends and family, and in my case, most of them were abroad,
separated by a 14-hour time difference. Most importantly, we work towards the promise of
a great future for ourselves. While I was carrying the expectations of many, the heaviest
ones were my own. When I didn’t meet them, the person I disappointed the most was myself.
My second year in college, I suffered burnout to the point of losing motivation to finish
this degree. I’d overwhelmed myself past my breaking point. I kept chasing things that
would look good on my resume, but I stopped feeling passion for anything I did or learned.
And the truth was, all I wanted to do was sleep all the time. I was so desperate to
find the spark of enthusiasm, the same one we all overflowed with at the beginning, only
to feel so helpless. But friends, look at where you are, look at where you started.
You made it here to the last act. You did it day after day. You made the choice to rise
up and give yourself another chance to start over every single morning. And for me, I sang
like my life was a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. And believe me, you did not throw
away your shot. Because, if you graduated having completed most of your course work,
from the comfort of your own bed staring into your laptop, you made it. I see you. If you
graduated having spent all hours of the day in the library or evenings in coffee shops,
you made it. I see you. Or, if you are anywhere in between, you made it. I see you. There’s
everyday human experiences that give weight and substance to the certificate you are about
to receive. Every sacrifice, every bit of energy that you dragged out of you every morning,
even if all you managed to do was scratch the bare minimum, you are here today, you
are graduating today, and I am proud of you. I am immensely proud of you! Now at the end,
I look back and keep thanking God, teachers, and mentors, mental health counselors at the
University Health Services. My family and friend who helped carry me through till today.
I thank Lin-Manuel Miranda for writing his songs, and helping me finish my Nina story,
and for reimagining diverse representations on the Broadway stage. Madison, I’ll miss
your winters, your sunsets, your super frozen lakes. But I look forward to the future that
the University of Wisconsin has prepared me for. I love this school with all my heart.
My fellow graduates, as you proudly leave this campus, remember the dark moments that
shaped us from the ground up, the good times that we are grateful for, and the person we
became because of it. [Singing] We’re going to teach them how say good-bye, say good-bye, one last time. Congratulations, Badgers. (applause)