Natalie Mason Barbieri

Natalie Mason Barbieri



First, let me start by saying congratulations to all of the graduates, especially my classmates in the School of Education. We did it! I know that for many of us, it took a lot to get here. And let's be honest, this school is not easy and it is not cheap. It took many of us working extra jobs we truly hate, taking out loans, and finishing assignments until late hours in the night to get where we are now. We should all realize this truly amazing achievement that we've made.

With that being said, I want you to look around at all of the support we have. Our parents may be here, some of which travelled thousands of miles to literally see you walk across a stage and receive a piece of paper. Our siblings, our relatives, and so many people that helped us to be here today. I know that for me, without that support, specifically from one very dedicated and amazing teacher, I would have never started nor never graduated.

Being here right now brings in a lot of feelings. Some of us are happy, we're ecstatic, maybe even surprised that we made it here. Others, sad that it's over because we may have to leave or move away from people we truly love, and maybe for some of us, grateful that we can now move on to the next steps in our lives and find a job.

A few months ago, when I was asked to speak here today, first I said no. But a memory, something that I hadn't thought about in years, came to mind. Six years ago, when I was working as a Teach for America teacher in Washington DC, two of my students were having a discussion about achievement. One student said to the other, "Hey, we're gonna graduate soon. You know what that means, right? We're done." And the other student looked up with no hesitation in his voice, and said, "No, we're just getting started." These kids were 14 years old.

Natalie Mason Barbieri

This isn't easy. Where we are right now wasn't something that was given to us. We earned it. Many people here moved from their homes, some of us half way around the world, away from our families and our friends, our comfort zone, to pursue an education in Japan. There are many people that have never even left their hometowns. We're courageous. We're inspired. We're motivated. We will be the next piece of the puzzle.

Look, I really didn't want to come up here and make a lame speech about achievement. I know that we've heard these things a thousand times, if not from our parents, then our friends, our school counselors, our mentors, or our professors at Temple. But, no matter how much we want to push away or ignore the truth, we really have made great achievement in our lives. And, if I could leave you with any thought, it would be that we truly are and can become the next great leaders in the world that we live in. We really can make an impact. We really are able to change things, if not today, then tomorrow; if not tomorrow, then the next day. To all of the graduates, we've already made the first big leap.

Thank you.