Remarks by Tenzin Darwa Thargay '18
2018 Undergraduate Commencement of the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Friday, May 11, 2018
McGuirk Alumni Stadium, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Good afternoon Chancellor Subbaswamy, President Meehan, Mr. Tapper, faculty, our amazing families without whom we could have not made it, and most importantly of all, the Class of 2018!
Firstly, I’d like to begin by acknowledging this land on which the University of Massachusetts Amherst operates. UMass Amherst is situated on the lands of the Pocumtuck and Nonotuck peoples, and their close kin: the Abenaki, Nipmuc and Mohican peoples. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land and with the native communities of the Northeast.
As a first-generation American-born-Tibetan, I have certainly come a long way from the land my family once called home. My grandparents, who cultivated and traded salt on the Roof of the World, escaped Tibet in 1959 following His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Arriving in India as refugees, they restarted their lives and had my parents. In 1990, the U.S. changed my parents’ lives forever. Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1990 allowing 1000 displaced Tibetans to immigrate to the U.S. under its U.S. Tibetan Resettlement Project. Both my parents each received a visa, moved to the U.S., and I was born shortly after.
Standing here before you all, I realize that had it not been for random chance, or having great karma in my last life, I could have led a very different life in Tibet or India. The U.S is and has always been a land of immigrants. My family story and those of our community represent the mosaic of cultures threading our nation and UMass.
In Tibetan Buddhism, interdependence is the concept illustrating that all things are connected to one another, whether we realize it or not. Through studying energy policy, I have realized that energy is a perfect example to highlight this concept— it is a common medium that not only facilitates dynamic global and domestic interaction, but also connects everyone in the world. So, in drafting this speech, I attempted to pin down some things which connect us all, so hear me out.
1. Trying to connect to Eduroam for the 5th time.
2. Pulling your hair out because you don’t know why your SPIRE still has a hold on your account, even though you called the Registrar three times…
3. Navigating through never-ending construction
However, what stands out to me the most about UMass and its students is this trademark UMass spirit of dogged determination and grit. As the public research university of the Five College Consortium, we hustle. We put the hard work in and we get the results. What employer wouldn’t hire us!? Maybe Bomb Cyclones, Meningitis outbreaks, or winning the Tinder Swipe Off Competition to “Party with Cardi” have toughened us up to take on any challenge head-on!
Of course. We occasionally have the soft spot for our go to order of Wings Over—Boneless Honey Mustard, a classic—or a slice of Chicken Bacon Ranch at Antonio's. Just make sure, that when you order Wings Over at 2:00 a.m., you actually give your own cell phone number and NOT your parents’ home phone number back in Boston, like I did. Needless to say, I was surprised that my mom knew my Wings Over order.
But this UMass grit—this indescribable sensation— it lights a fire in all of us to work hard, play hard, and enjoy life. Class of 2018, we represent the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world. Most of us come from working class families, may be the first in our families to attend and or graduate college, or come from across the globe. But whether or not English is your first language, we all feel and share this seed of grit that UMass has planted in us and helped to cultivate.
We are problem solvers, we are fighters, and we find innovative ways to succeed. Don’t lose this grit! However, in order to be effective leaders for the 21st century, we also need compassion. In an era of national and international divide, we must extend more compassion to one another and recognize the interdependence and commonality to heal, collaborate, and advance.
UMass has equipped us with the tools to enter the world and make a difference. Cultivate this grit and compassion to make more good and positive impact in your personal lives, local communities, and the world. Thank you.