Hello friends. An awesome thing happened on Sunday May 22, 2016.
I graduated college. And made a speech.
I didn’t mention in my previous blog posts that I was chosen to make a speech at graduation. Me, this little Filipina girl with gargantuan dreams and a little body. But with thick calves I guess.
My immediate family got to see it live, but for those who have been wanting to read a transcript of it and watch a video, here it is.
All the love,
To watch the actual speech, follow this Youtube link (the last paragraph is cut off thanks to our favorite “out of storage” icon, but I am thankful that the bulk of it was captured):
Seeing that it is my ULTIMATE dream to win a Tony award for best leading or supporting actress in a musical, being asked to deliver the commencement speech of the Comparative Religions department went down as one of the biggest honors, so please allow me to begin by thanking my family, theater family, school family, and my professors who have shown me discipline, compassion and resilience in my journey. I can confidently say that without you, I would not be here, and thus you will all be included in my Tony awards acceptance speech when that happens.
Speaking of musicals, I’ve been performing since I was 11 and continued to pursue acting while pursuing a degree in Religious Studies. Many of you are probably trying to make the connection between the two and as per my responsibility as commencement speaker, I want to leave you all with the powerful thing I discovered as a student here.
I’m a first generation Filipina American and 3 percent* of roles on Broadway go to Asian actors such as myself. When you place those statistics against the other thousands of talented, beautiful women going for the same 3 percent roles, the odds of even being in the running for a Tony are next to impossible. But, I end up asking myself, who then tells the stories of the 3 percent? Their stories deserve to be told too. And I need to tell them. And this brings me to the powerful thing I discovered: the power of storytelling.
As a student of religion, I found myself being immersed in stories. You know, those legends and myths that we read in scripture that set the foundation of our own beliefs as well as give us guidelines on how to live our best lives. And every story contains a hero, who, with the help of characters much like my professors Dr. Solano and Dr. Starr, endures trials and tribulations but inevitably ends up changing the world and saving lives. And that hero sets the standard for how we choose to go about our lives. Why do we read these stories? We read these stories to give us hope and to relate to who we aspire to be because these heroes have technicolor visions and villains they want to fight to make the world a better place. The best part? They are human. Much like us. Unless you’re a Marvel character. But that’s beside the point.
My fellow graduates, all of you are sitting here having completed those trials and tribulations of being a college student, with those technicolor visions and villains you fought and all the Starbucks you bought while being inevitably human. I hope you see that you are all heroes too. And no one can take that away from you. So often, we seek stories about us, to find a hero who has dealt with the same trials we have, to know that there will be a happy ending at the end of all the turmoil we endure in our own lives, and yet here you are, the hero of your own legend about to turn the page and begin the next chapter.
Graduation is about continuing your narrative, even being brave enough to rewrite your narrative, to add color to your narrative, to share your narrative, to change the world in your narrative. That in this mysterious world filled with unanswered questions and unjustified suffering with ideologies violently clashing with each other that we, the heroes, through the pain of our physical world, can continue to write a narrative that tells stories of justice, peace, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. After all, isn’t that what a good story does for us?
So, to wrap it up: What do musicals and religion have in common? Much like what religion and all these incredible majors here have in common. They tell stories: stories of how the earth came to be, of how a diverse culture came to be, of how the hero changed the world. And some stories have yet to be written. It’s up to us, my fellow graduating seniors, to write them.
Thank you CSUF for the most challenging, enlightening and wonderful years of my life, and congratulations class of 2016; let’s paint the world with our stories.