Travonte "Trey" Wheeler '20--2020 Baccalaureate Speech


We were UNSURE of many things when we began this journey as Laurentians,

Majors and minors?

Will we travel abroad?

Friend groups


Student government

We were unsure

But if we weathered the highs and lows of our academic journey, we were SURE of what our ending would entail.

We would have the same fanfare and ceremonial traditions of all Laurentian commencements.

And our greatest worry would be whether we would commence from Creasy Commons or from indoors because of North Country spring rains.

We were sure of these things. That’s why we were stymied and emotionally broken when the virus traveled all through the land, every land, upending our lives. And we were shut down, and we were sat down by the tens, thousands, tens of thousands and millions, unable to experience what we were…sure of.

And when surveying the landscape for someone – anyone to fix it,

When we tried running from it, we kept running into ourselves

For the wisdom of the wise old sage reminded us that the only way out is through.

The virus consumed us and controlled us.

It was a moment that seemed to bear no mercy.

So we had to find mercy within ourselves;

Mercy, compassion to finish the work in a virtual land

that we could not have fathomed 4 years before.

Mercy to remind us that we had not been forgotten

Like so many, we mourned and grieved the many losses around us and within us.

This is not how we imagined things. Reimagining became part of our journey. And in the midst of it all, we Laurentians from every corner of the world, remembered who we were

– who we are!

We are more than the pandemic.

We are Laurentians for life. And that means something.

For the Laurentian legacy courses through our veins. Long ago, Laurentians said, WE HAVE LIT A CANDLE IN THE WILDERNESS THAT WILL NEVER BE EXTINGUISHED. And we could make out the faint glimmer of that candle in the wilderness and we could feel the warmth of the flame in the harshest of days, and the darkest of nights, when quarantine and classes were too much to bear.

History will consult the Class of 2020 about these times.

And we will report that we had to reach deep down and claim the stardust that we are made of.

And no, we will not say that we were conquerors per se, or we were victorious over pandemic. We just faced the day, each day; knowing that each step mattered; getting up after falling down; overcoming the voices, even inner voices that said all was lost.

We will report that

The North Country land still called to us

The chapel bells still rang in our souls at 5 p.m. whatever the time zone

We will report that we gave and received mercy

And whenever we were ready to give up,

We heard the Laurentian voice from within whisper to us



~Shaun Whitehead

Sunday, August 1, 2021