Remarks to the Class of 2020
by Senior Class Speaker Viridiana Villalva Salas ’20
102nd Commencement
June 12, 2022

Good morning friends, family, faculty, staff, alumni, and the Connecticut College class of 2020. 

As a first-generation daughter of two Mexican immigrants, it was only underneath the comfort of my hand-me-down red tiger blanket that I mumbled the words of the college graduation speech I hoped to one day deliver. Needless to say, I never imagined this lifelong dream would come to fruition two years after my actual graduation year. Regardless, it is my distinct honor to be standing before you today, looking upon the faces of some of the brightest, most driven and resilient people I have ever had the pleasure of calling my friends.

As we sit here, moments away from finally crossing the Connecticut College stage, I would like you all to think back to two years ago. Think back to when most of us were on our final Spring Break, and we found out we would not return to finish our senior year on campus. Think back to when you committed to your current Master’s, PhD, or fellowship programs. Think back to when you applied for your first job out of college. Think back to when the world united in protest over the murder of George Floyd, and the world that you knew seemed to cease to exist. I ask you to remember these historic moments over the course of the last two years to remind you of the strength that we all possess that has allowed us to get to this point. This is the strength that we are gathering here today to celebrate.

We are here to celebrate both the strength exemplified by each and every one of you over the last two years, as well as the persistence we all needed to finish our research projects for the first All College Symposium, thesis statements, and capstone projects while adjusting to one of the most significant changes in educational history. Some of us persisted while confronting narratives that claimed we could never be academically successful because of our gender, our ability, socio-economic status, or the color of our skin, and became the first in our families to graduate college, even if it happened from our living rooms. Now, we will be remembered as the class of COVID-19.

But we are also the class who, despite all of the challenges presented by the global pandemic and the uprise of racial tension, adapted to the unprecedented circumstances in order to make the world worthy of us. Though COVID-19 unexpectedly cut our time here short, the love we felt for one another never seemed to fade. We continued our friendships over the last two years and sought each other all across the country. Some of us moved to Boston and New York simply to be near our Conn community. Some of us even got engaged and married to other camels since the last time we were all here! The strong bonds we have created over the years managed to persist and provide a sense of comfort and warmth during unpredictable times. Thus, I am grateful. I am grateful to have been a part of our campus community. 

Over the last six years, we have challenged and shaped what it means to be a Camel. As a community, we have used our passion for activism on our campus to gather ourselves on Tempel Green to engage in discourse about important topics affecting our nation, such as the declaration of Connecticut College as a sanctuary campus as an act of love for our undocumented and DACA brothers and sisters. We have grown to understand our impact on the world around us, evident through our shared desire to protest, donate, and stand in solidarity in the face of racial injustice. And in a time where war has further divided our society, we have continued to see the value in our shared community, evident by how many of us returned for this momentous occasion.

We are a community of individuals dedicated to academic and personal excellence. The Class of 2020 is composed of scientists who painted in Cummings, artists who ran the tracks of our athletic center, and athletes who volunteered in local New London schools. Even more importantly, the Class of 2020 is filled with people who dream of a world that is more just, more fair, and filled with more radical love. With the support of our families, advisors, professors, class deans, coaches, and fellow classmates, we have accomplished and persevered through more than any other class has within the past decade.

In honor of the people who have personally supported me throughout my education, I would like to take a moment to share a short poem I wrote.

To the man and woman who gave me life
You are the tigers on my red blanket
You are fierce, warm, and timeless
The true symbol of a Mexican home
Let the world hear you roar mija

You came to this country for us
So that we could make this life
The life of struggle and beauty
One worthy of us

Your unconditional love and lectures
All one and the same
Always saying
Ponte las pilas

si es algo que quieres hazlo
If it’s what you want
do it

You came to this country for us
So I could take our culture
Our struggle
Our beauty
Our native tongue
And learn to

Habla para que sepan que lo te tu tienes que decir es importante
Speak so that everyone knows what you have to say matters
That we matter

To the man and woman who gave me life
You are what burns a core of my being
The force behind my hardheadedness, dedication, and determination
The true defining characteristics of a Villalva
Completely embedded in my DNA

Para el hombre y mujer que me dieron vida
Here’s a poem for you
Here’s a poem for us
Performed on the only stage worthy of you
It’s a small way of saying te quiero
I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you
And thank you for keeping me warm 

As we embark on new journeys, I ask that you go forth with the determination, dedication, and devotion you have shown this campus, and never stop fighting for a future worthy of you, even if a global pandemic tries to stop you. Congratulations Class of 2020, thank you for keeping me warm.