The graduating class of 2021 shared a single emotion: preservation. Being able to survive the most recent years strengthened the class and created a sense of connection and family between its members.
During Saturday’s commencement, the host, campus Associate Dean of Students Alfred Day, recognized the original settlers of the Berkeley area, the Huchiun. He acknowledged everyone benefits from the land in the Berkeley area and that it is the responsibility of the UC Berkeley community to acknowledge these original residents and their current prosperity.
“Consistent with our values of community diversity and inclusion, we have a responsibility to acknowledge and make visible the university’s relationship to Native peoples,” Day said at the event.
After this acknowledgment, Day introduced the student speaker, Sahar Formoli, a student from Sacramento who graduated with a double major in political science and molecular and cell biology.
Formoli began her speech by reminiscing on her acceptance, a shared event that all the graduates experienced.
“I didn’t read the entire acceptance letter, only the part that said welcome, and that’s how I felt: welcomed,” Formoli said at the ceremony. “That didn’t stop me from feeling like an impostor.”
Formoli said even though all of the staff on campus and students had accepted her, she still felt that she was less capable than the other students on campus and thus unwanted.
She shared how she felt during one of her professor’s office hours when she told the professor, who was also from Sacramento, that her current goal was just to be able to graduate.
In response, her professor then told her she was “capable of anything,” according to Formoli.
Formoli said the best advice she received was that the only limitations that exist are the ones you allow.
“We are an incredibly diverse class of students from every background. Our life experiences made us who we are and have proven time and time again that we can do anything,” Formoli said. “We are a part of a university that led the free speech movement; a university that didn’t back down from a fight for justice; a university that, regardless of what the world said, marched forward for a fight for justice.”
Keynote speaker and UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ was the final speaker of the ceremony.
Christ opened her speech by congratulating the graduating class and celebrating its success even through the pandemic.
“Let me begin by offering my deepest and most heartfelt congratulations to the members of this remarkable and resilient graduating class,” Christ said at the event. “Though the fates saw fit to place unprecedented and unforeseen challenges in your path, you kept your eyes on the prize, you persevered and prevailed.”
She noted getting a bachelor’s degree is challenging during a regular time, making it even more difficult to do so given the disruption COVID-19 has caused.
Christ shared her thankfulness that it was possible to hold the graduation in person, without a Zoom screen. She added that she was thankful family members were able to join the graduating students during the celebrations.
“Hold tight to all the things you carry from Berkeley, and may they serve you and the world around you well,” Christ said to end the event. “We are immensely proud of what you have done, and even more of who you will become. Roll on, you Bears.”