Mwelwa Bwalya '10 Remarks to Graduates

May 16, 2010

Hello and Goodbye,
I said Hello to you, June 29th 2006. You welcomed me with a warm embrace that held me long enough to say, “I think I can love it here.” It was in that same embrace that I realized that I was becoming a young adult. For the first time I would be away from my family. I would actually have to wake myself up for class. I was uncertain how I was going to make it through four years.

It seems as if I have blinked only to find myself standing at May 16th 2010. It was in that long blink of four years at SLU that I managed to make 648 friends (this with the help of Facebook). These friends are amongst us in the crowd. Others have already continued their journey to becoming global citizens of change, a fundamental Laurentian. We have become well rounded individuals, people who take an empathetic approach to life, understanding we all come from different walks and journeys that bring us here, to our meeting at St. Lawrence. These years have been filled with bittersweet memories, the kind that make you wonder, “what was I thinking when I did that?” To sweet memories that are added to your heart. Four years mark the growth from rambunctious eager teens to-- what I consider, fine, articulate, exceptionally well rounded women and men. It was within our time at St. Lawrence, we created change, it is the type of change we are unable to recognize, but those who have supported us within this passage have noticed; the metamorphosis from our chrysalis (teens) to become these beautiful monarchs of the scarlet and brown.

Over these four years we have shared losses of friends, those changed the way we viewed life. These friends Innocent Mutetwa , Jonia Mendonca Guterres and Charlie Scanlon are reminders of the change we can bring to people’s lives, they all managed to show us humility and kindness in their time with us at St. Lawrence. Our fellow classmates will always be remembered and carried on forever in our hearts as we continue.

I’m taken back to a conversation that I had with Charlie Scanlon’s father my dear friend who passed away before the beginning of fall senior year. I was taken back to this memory for many different reasons. I felt the loss of a dear friend that I had met right here in this space (Matriculation) August 29th 2006. Charlie Scanlon was a beautiful soul, a young man that had a charm about him that was so sincere and pleasant; we were honored to be graced with his presence at SLU. Charlie’s father mentioned that he had seen a different Charlie than we did; he spoke of the light that shined in Charlie from being at St. Lawrence, a place he regarded his home away from home.

St. Lawrence has a way of lighting a flame within people, for some it doesn’t happen right when they walk through matriculation, in fact for others it is happening as we speak. You realize just what it is that you are letting go of. The thing is, there is a reason why college is only four years long, One—your parents probably would not be so giving after four years of SLU education. Two—think about how many fat bags that would be. Three—just think back to how stressed you were during finals week. Lastly – there is an entire world waiting to blessed with your presence coupled with your inventive ways of making a difference. There are lawyers, doctors, teachers, sociologists positions waiting to be filled. Saying goodbye is perhaps the hardest thing that people have to do. Once again that uncertainty I felt when I first arrived at St. Lawrence, I must face once again before leaving.

St. Lawrence you have become the place that I now call home. When I first arrived I was unsure, did I want to grow up here? Needless to say the people that I have met at St. Lawrence have become more than just classmates, they have become my family. It was within the spaces of academia that we came to learn about the different walks of life that people came from. It was here that I shed the misconceptions of failed media that portrayed whiteness with privilege and of course blackness with bitterness and anger. It was through classroom power points and heated debates we learned that we had only being hurting each other by not interacting. It was out of the classrooms that we challenged economics standings, choosing to neglect them and welcomed differences in our peers.
My fellow classmate Gavin Bennett said it best as he was leaving London after studying abroad. The poem best reflects of the difficulty we are having with saying goodbye

I said Goodbye today
And it hurt in the worst way
It wasn’t that, “So have a nice weekend and I’ll see you Monday”
Or the “Goodnight, I’ll see you tomorrow”
It was the long goodbye, the sigh goodbye
The I can’t speak goodbye because words
Will only remind me of the conversations I may never share with you again
The fear goodbye
The my contact is dry, this aint a tear in my eye goodbye
The goodbye where I just want to hold you
So that I can absorb that essence that is YOU
I want to bask in your scent
Because scent is the strongest sense tied to memory
And through your aroma you’d live on timeless in my memories museum
We did the long hug goodbye
The kind where I rub your back
And you rub mine back
And together we exhaled
Because inhaling would only lead to another memory we’d create but
Never be able to experience again
I want to tell you that I’ll see you soon
Or that I’ll see you tomorrow
But tomorrow for us maybe
Months, Years, or even Light Years away
I said goodbye today
Not the haste luego goodbye
But that airport goodbye
The I have to go through customs now, so your journey ends here goodbye
The touch my hand to the glass, while you touch the other side goodbye
This farewell divided me
“I’m gonna miss you” is what I sincerely mean and all that I can say
I said goodbye today
And it hurt in the worst way


May you take the road less traveled so that you may be beacons of change and hope for our future.