The Power of Friendship — Haverford College Commencement Speech

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Before coming to Haverford, I remember telling myself, “Alliyah, this will be your time to show who you are”. After a challenging senior year of high school, I had an opportunity to start over and to push myself to become a better and stronger person. I chose Haverford to help me complete my mission because it checked so many boxes that were important to me. The size was perfect, the faculty and staff were friendly, the commitment to having a positive impact on the world was strong, and I was only a few train rides away from home.

The day I arrived for Horizons, a pre-orientation leadership program for underrepresented students, I was cheesing from ear to ear and bouncing with excitement. This was the moment I had prepared for: the chance to make a difference. As move-in time with my family slowly began to end, my father pulled me aside and told me, “I want you to have fun. Find good friends. Love your time here and actually enjoy yourself.” The words he spoke were clear but felt heavy. In attempt to be a wiser and more mature Alliyah, on my very first day of college, I nodded my head in agreement and said “But of course!” Little did I know, that this would become the most important lesson I learned during my next four years. So Daddy, you can relax now. You were right and all the tuition dollars you, my mom, and Toy put up went to good use!

Keeping my dad’s advice in mind, I invite you to take a moment to think about what leaving here today truly signifies. What do the degrees that we are so rightfully (and finally) about to receive mean to you? Not to your job, your grad school, your parents, Haverford, or even society — but to you? Is it solely another piece of paper? Is it the marker of your intelligence, hard work, and creativity? Does it speak to your challenges? Or just to your successes? For me, my degree will be a combination of all these things. This degree is definitely a symbol of academic excellence and an indicator of leadership skills. But as we stand here today, beautiful and strong, this degree is also a marker of our commitment to be good students, good people, and most importantly good friends.

As we all know, Haverford is not easy, socially or academically. We learned that racism, sexism, classism, transphobia, and many more oppressive structures are not exempt from our bubble. We learned that trauma lingers in our community spaces and everyone can be triggered by someone or something. We learned that protesting needs to involve more than just chants and emotions. We learned that real concerns including food security or getting a winter coat can be a struggle, even at Haverford. We learned that even though Haverford embraces trust, concern, and respect, we don’t necessarily share an understanding of what that means. Yet even in the midst of these challenging lessons, we learned to that the only way to truly find the answers requires the vulnerability, power, and love that true friendship contains.

I would not be walking across this stage had it not been for my friends. From the very first day, my best friends Kiamani, Hadiyyah, and Shantal, have been there urging me to finish my schoolwork — on time, making me laugh when I’m stressed and overwhelmed, and constantly supporting me with every new challenge I take on. Throughout our four years, we were able to pass on our bond and extend our friendship to amazing people like Talia, Travis, Vicky, and Q, who always build me up with love and hold me in the light. Even in the last few months of finishing my thesis and completing senior year, I made unexpected friends like Devin, Becky, and JT who reminded me of the most important lesson of all, which is that we all deserve to celebrate our hard work and have fun.

Our friendships are the ultimate symbol of my degree and time here at Haverford. Your trust in my capabilities and your commitment to seeing me thrive gave me the confidence to become a proud Haverford Graduate. The underlying principle of friendship, which advocates for and sees the fullness and spirit of another, has been my guide to finding myself and showing who I am — which is a reflection of beauty, self-love, compassion, and hope for better.

I would like to end my speech by first thanking all of my siblings, family and mentors for coming out and supporting me to today. And finally, I would like to ask you all, my friends, to prepare yourselves. Prepare yourselves to show the world, again and again, who you are. But when you show them, remember to have fun, remember to love, and most importantly remember to be a friend.

Thank you.

Artist and Curator