Naomi S. Moore

Bachelor of Art, Psychological Studies


Thank you Dean Wilson, TUJ staff and faculty, honored guests, and our friends and family here to celebrate this cherished moment with us. I know I am not alone in having loved ones who cannot physically be here today due to travel restrictions, and other limiting circumstances. So, for those who are absent or joining us from afar, know that your love and presence is felt, and we deeply appreciate you all.

When I reflect on my six year history in higher education, I notice I have a knack for experiencing university the hard way. My first shot at university, 18 and fresh out of high school, a sudden mental health crisis derailed my studies, so to focus on my recovery I decided to drop out. Fast forward about a year and a half, I am preparing to confidently enter my final year of community college. And, I end up getting hit by a car. As it turns out, managing insurance claims and physical recovery do not mix well with the demands of academia. However, I gathered my grit and proudly graduated with a 4.0. This success against the odds exponentially boosted my confidence, and a year later I headed off to Japan to live the coveted life of a cool, adventurous international student in Tokyo. Then, as you all know, a literal pandemic happened. Honestly, I am a little concerned for what’s coming when I head to graduate school, but I can’t do much but take my chances.


Now, seriously speaking, we all know that our educations have come to this culmination under extraordinarily unexpected circumstances. And despite this years' worth of attempting to maintain a new business as usual with a "power on" attitude, I know our lives as university students have demanded much more from us.

Following university tradition, our academic performance this past year has been evaluated as usual. We have been marked for punctuality, participation, content memorization and even virtual group work. Yet, these grades, while reflective of basic educational standards, fail to capture the tenacity and sacrifice that has carried us to this finish line.

In the midst of completing our studies, we have been required to overcome so much both within and beyond the classroom. Now, the toll that this pandemic has taken on college students is no secret. A quick Google search will tell you that over 90% of U.S. college students are suffering from the mental health impact alone. For us, Zoom fatigue became a norm, as we struggled with concentration and motivation in classes that previously came with ease. For those who chose to continue online classes back in their home countries, time zone differences have meant 11pm or 4am classes, and even failing courses from accidentally missing tests and deadlines. Though oft unspoken, students with disabilities have lost and even been denied accommodations in the transition to virtual learning.

In our personal lives, we have watched sociopolitical unrest erupt in our home countries, and been left to process the collective trauma from afar. We have lost loved ones back home, and been unable to return to say our goodbyes. And with the unpredictable border closures suddenly forcing us to choose between life here or back home, many of us are separated from friends, romantic partners, and family, while yearning for their comfort in the midst of such fierce uncertainty.

Ultimately, these examples only hit the tip of the iceberg. Throughout all we have been tasked to overcome, performing our student responsibilities has often required us to suppress and compartmentalize complex emotions, and to prioritize our work over much needed rest.

Surely, none of us imagined our undergraduate career would end so sharply derailed from how it started. Yet, in the year and some we have spent managing cycles of crisis, we have rarely taken the time to pause and acknowledge that through our hardship, we have demonstrated an incredible capacity for triumph. From discovering new creative outlets to rapidly adapting to virtual education en masse, or developing new research to proudly earning academic honors, students have proven time and time again their commitment to rising above adversity. Perhaps the highest testament to this resilience, is that we faced each day we struggled keep going, and fought to salvage our purpose despite the crushing circumstances.

We could not have predicted missing out on the full, enlivening experience of our campus and classmates in our final time at TUJ. But while we did not choose this journey, but we can be intentional with how it empowers us. We have proven far more than our academic excellence—we have proven that we are profoundly resilient, courageous, and persevering. We have proven that we can overcome uncertainty, exhaustion, loss, separation, anguish, and isolation to not only survive, but even thrive. As time moves on, the rest of the world may forget what it meant to push ourselves past new limits to earn our educations. But if you look around this room, each graduate sitting beside you is a keeper of this collective memory, and the strength of our stories will last long after the applause of our accomplishment fade.

When I dropped out of my first university, I learned a life-changing lesson: the story of your education will always be more than can be captured on paper. Likewise, everything it took for us to achieve this degree during a pandemic won’t be known from our GPA nor the script on that diploma. So today, we proudly celebrate our unspoken triumph: we are graduating from university during a historic, world-altering pandemic. No matter how separated we have been through time zones, geographic distance, and virtual classrooms, together, we have beat the odds. Some of us know what is on the other side of this graduation—working in Japan, returning to a home country, perhaps a next level of studies. Some of us have no idea, or are still sorting out the whirlwind of transition. No matter your next steps, known or unknown, I trust that if we can face them with even a sliver of the grit, resourceful, and perseverance we have shown this past year, and our education as a whole, then we are more than ready for whatever comes next.

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ナオミ S. モーア




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