Today is undoubtedly one of the days that will live with us for the rest of our lives. Like all of you, I look forward to what comes next with giddy excitement and optimism, but at the same time, I cannot help but reflect on the moments leading up to today. I stand here as the valedictorian of the class of 2021, an honour I regard extremely highly. However, I make a conscious effort not to dwell on that fact. Academics is just one aspect of a multifaceted approach to education. In my time here, I have come to understand that AUN does not just educate the student, it educates the person. Thus it would be remiss of me to be blinded by this achievement and not evaluate myself and my time here outside the scope of academics. Indeed, I believe these past four years at AUN have seen me learn more beyond the confines of the classroom than I have within it. Being a part of the Honor Society, an experience I consider to be the highlight of my AUN journey, showed me the virtues of teamwork, character and service. I can confidently say I am now a better person for it.
I recall my professor once said in philosophy class that man’s freedom is limited because he is by nature a finite being. In essence man is not free to do what he does not have the capability to do. In giving this more thought, I realised that man’s freedom is further limited by his knowledge and beliefs. If we do not believe we can achieve something, then are we really free to do it? This is where AUN excels as a development university. The AUN culture affords students the freedom to explore and pursue different interests. It places emphasis not on academics alone but on the idea of a wholesome learning experience. The end result is an environment where people can inspire others by expanding their knowledge and beliefs and consequently, their freedoms. This is evident in students like Christine Vihishima who possess an infectious energy and drive that inspire you to contribute more to society and look to impact the world around you in a positive way. It is evident in professors that inspire you to believe that your potential transcends whatever limits you thought you were bound by.
This all brings me to the central theme of my message today, inspiration. Dear classes of 2020 and 2021, I ask that as you leave here and step out into the world, you reflect on all those who have inspired you during your time at AUN. I do not need to stand here and tell you to chase your dreams. You already know to do that. What I do ask is that you ponder how you go about realising those dreams. In achieving your goals do you make the path easier for those that follow after you? Do you inspire the people you cross paths with? We are ambassadors of Africa’s first development university. Those are not empty words. They stand for something. We have to be different. We are not ones to join the crowd in lamenting society’s problems. We are the ones to solve them. It is easy to look at the world and say ‘I am just one person; how much impact can I really have?’ That should never be the mind-set of an AUN graduate. It is not about quantity; it is the quality of the life we live that matters. Let your passion and drive for positive change be blinding to those around you. Be a source of inspiration for people so that they too can inspire others in the future. This is how we move society forward. This is how we do justice to our status as ambassadors of this fine institution.
My AUN experience has truly been an unforgettable one and I have so many to thank for that. I thank Almighty Allah first and foremost for His guidance without which none of this would have been possible. I thank my family for all of their belief and support. Thank you for believing in me even when I had doubts in myself. I thank the entire Petroleum Chemistry department headed admirably by Dr. Bolade Agboola. I thank you all for your commitment and consummate professionalism. I thank my fellow graduates for sharing in this amazing journey with me and I sincerely wish you the best in all future endeavours. May Allah bless our beloved country Nigeria. May Allah bless the American University of Nigeria. May Allah bless us all. Ameen. Thank you.
Valedictorian – Class of 2021