The over 1,600 new graduates of the University of Guyana (UG) were yesterday urged to stay and make the country great once more.
Kibwey Peterkin, the Valedictorian of the Class of 2016, issued the challenge during his address at UG’s 50th Convocation Ceremony at the Turkeyen Campus last evening.
Although his hair was dyed Indigo blue, it was the least noticeable thing about him after he took the stage.
During his speech, a nervous Peterkin not only quoted the likes of US president-elect Donald Trump but also popular dancehall artist Alkaline as he encouraged his fellow graduates to persevere.
“We, from this night henceforth, will make Guyana great again; it will be tremendous, it’s going to be bigly,” he said, sending the audience into an uproar of laughter and cheers.
This response would continue for the entire 15 minutes used by this year’s winner of both the President’s and Prime Minister’s awards to deliver his speech.
On a more serious note, however, Peterkin, having completed one of the most grueling degree programmes at the university, spoke of the value of perseverance even as he urged graduates to celebrate their success.
He added, “We must bask in this moment of relief, pride and elation. We have finally completed the chapters we began four or five years ago… The paradigm shift begins even as we drink in the nostalgia of our memories made here. Although our futures may be uncertain, although we may not know what tomorrow holds, a famous street poet said it is time to conquer the world…Even as we think of our future, let us revel in this moment as we celebrate the accomplishment of this major milestone in our life,” he shared.
A total of 1,628 students make up the Class of 2016.
Peterkin also had a message for the university administration as addressed issues that students like him would have faced while pursing studies at the institution.
“The administration wanted my speech to be five minutes, but I had to take a few moments to express gratitude for the increase in miscellaneous fees, the introduction of a graduation fee and the attempted tuition increase,” he declared, tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Predictably, this statement resulted in cheers from most if not all of the graduates, who were seated in the audience.
But even in spite of the challenges, Peterkin thanked the university for seeing this year’s batch of graduates to the end. He singled out his faculty—Health Sciences—for what he said was the opportunity to grow and flourish.
Most importantly, he thanked his mother, whom he said was instrumental in helping him to not only achieve his personal goals but making history at the university at the same time.
To the graduates, he urged them not to skip through the pages in the books of their lives, but rather to commit to their craft and passion while remembering to always persevere, even in the face of inevitable oppression or hardship.
“Devote yourselves to being the best version of you; devote yourselves to doing things great, but be careful if you do that too well [or] you’d be forced to give a speech before 1,600 people… Never let anyone tell you, ‘you can’t’; never give up on your dreams, they are yours; you are your only limit and remember never underestimate your power to achieve,” Peterkin charged.
‘Stay in Guyana’
Deputy Field Manager of the US Department of Energy Dr. Vincent Adams, who delivered the commencement address to the graduates, also used the opportunity to implore the Class of 2016 to stay in Guyana and take up the many foreseeable opportunities that lie ahead. “Times have changed gravely since my generation left these shores… If you have been following the elections in the USA and Europe, you will understand that we are not welcomed as we used to be. Guyana now has the potential to become one of, if not the richest country on the planet, but you are the ones with the tools in leading the way to making this a reality,” he added.
Dr Adams also took the opportunity to reflect on his own journey, much of which he credited to being a student of the University of Guyana. “This degree you will be receiving today is just your learner’s permit for the rest of your drive through life,” he told the graduates before he described what he considered as the attributes that are absolutely necessary success.
“Like me, you may have had the proverbial village that helped you; like me, you have been the first for your family, the first in your street or in your alley, the first in your village to attend university. You are now viewed far differently than you were ever before; you are now a role model, you now have influence and power. What you say and do means something,” he noted
“However, please use your newly-acquired power and stature to be that proverbial village to raise the next generation… Be micro-ambitious, do what you can control and the something you can control is hard work; you don’t have to be smarter than the other person, you just have to be determined and your rise and accomplishment will be taken care of,” Dr. Adams added.
The well accomplished Lindener, who was also amongst the first batch of graduates with a Degree in Civil Engineering, also urged the latest to be prepared for change by ensuring they are able to adapt.
“Be prepared for the one thing in life that is as certain as death; that is change. Be agile, versatile to adapt to these changes… expect career changes, learn and think like a generalist,” he added.
Of more importance, he also emphasised, is having the right attitude, which he believes is a key element in achieving success.
“As UG grads, you have high IQs and good grades but please let it be known attitude is a far better indicator of your success than your IQ… Continue to educate yourself, learning is an attitude not a destination,” Dr. Adams shared.