The Graduation Speech Harvard Wouldn't Let Me Give
Tomorrow, Harvard becomes our ex.
OK, I know the title sounds like clickbait. But it is (technically) true: I submitted this speech draft centered around the theme of “Tomorrow Harvard becomes our ex” for Harvard’s undergraduate Class Day (for its comedic speech) and got rejected.
I hope to write a more serious and in-depth reflection of my time at Harvard — for which I am genuinely, extremely grateful for — on my Substack in the future, but for now… to celebrate my last ever day of college classes today, I wanted to share this comedic reflection as a mini time capsule of my time here. Hope you enjoy!
(Note: Many inside jokes and references are made in this speech; I’ve tried my best to explain them through links and footnotes.)
To my fellow classmates, faculty, sleeping grandparents; friends, distinguished guests, and all of you who never matched me back on Datamatch — I am so honored to stand before you today as we celebrate the culmination of our years of hard work, perseverance, and more than a fair share of dinners we all flaked on but forgot to reschedule. And now it’s too late…
Tomorrow, Harvard becomes our ex.
Over the last four years, Harvard has been a central part of our life. Just as we experienced with our exes, we’ve spent countless hours building a deep, meaningful connection here that is hard to let go of.
And just like our exes, Harvard drained us financially and sometimes made us wonder if it was worth the investment. Although if our ex suddenly had $53 billion they might not be our ex anymore…
At times, we had a complicated love-hate relationship. Harvard has produced both section kids who use words like “salient” and my favorite satire publication on campus, The Salient. The school has tried to trick us into thinking that mythical technology such as “my.harvard”1 and “PassioGo”2 actually work, but yet we willingly sign up for the 92 apps offering free food.
Just like our exes, Harvard gave the Music majors the inspiration for our albums, the English majors the characters for our novels, and the Econ majors the soul-crushing sense of loss needed to work 110 hours a week at Goldman Sachs.
Even after our breakup tomorrow, we will be stalking Harvard on social media, reminiscing about how hard we worked to “accidentally” bump into Dean Khurana in the Yard so we could make it onto his Instagram.3 #transformative experience, am I right?
We laugh at the word “transformative” but it’s true — the only constant in relationships is change. I don’t think any other class has experienced more change alongside Harvard than the Class of 2023. We experienced a historical pandemic in our first year at Harvard, and now we’re leaving Harvard in what is predicted to be a historical… recession. We went from wanting to get laid to praying we won’t get laid off.
In the last four years, we lost shopping week, our favorite Netflix shows, and all the money we put in Gamestop. And Bitcoin. And Dogecoin. And FTX. And… our dignity after trying to explain our “investment strategy” to our parents. But at least we’re not Silicon Valley Bank.
We went from being awkward in person to being awkward on Zoom to being awkward again back in person. We witnessed the UC (undergraduate council) fall apart after 40 years… of spamming us with nonstop emails.
We watched the Starbucks in Harvard Square close, and then move across the street. Which is an insanely far distance for anyone who doesn’t live in the Quad. We saw everything be replaced by either a boba store or a Harvard Shop. We helplessly watched even our beloved Jefe’s suffer the fate of gentrification.
Harvard itself prepares us for a constant cycle of change. Our dining halls repeatedly tested our ability to stomach 29 different ways to cook chicken; yes, I counted.4 In four years, we’ve had our PAF (peer advising fellow) as an advisor, our proctor as an advisor, our entryway tutor as an advisor, our tutor’s dog as an advisor, our resident dean as an advisor, the TF (teaching fellow) you dated as an advisor… The cycle never ends.
Even Taylor Swift has reinvented herself in these past four years. Seriously, the Class of 2023 remembers change all too well.
But Harvard isn’t the only one who changed. Each and every one of us has also changed since we stepped through the gates of Harvard Yard and collided with a tourist. At the core of every relationship is seeing how we change and grow from these experiences.
Starting tomorrow, we are officially off on our own. I hope we cherish the unforgettable memories, all the successes and failures, wins and rejections alike, and carry them forward with us while not forgetting where we started from — including our humble beginnings as clueless first-years who wore lanyards on our necks.
Who knows what the future will bring us —
Will we create the next groundbreaking startup… that does not put any of us in jail?5
Will we, perhaps, miss red spiced chicken and attempt to cook it ourselves?
Will we, one day, also become the Dean of College of a school that rejected us?
Congratulations Class of 2023, let’s celebrate today before we break up with Harvard tomorrow!
Harvard’s student portal whose server crashes every time students actually need it (e.g. to enroll in classes)
Our shuttle app that essentially runs a random number generator on when each shuttle will arrive at each stop
Dean Khurana is Harvard’s current Dean of College. He is well-known for his popping 20K+ follower Instagram, his catchphrase “transformative experience,” and his oft-repeated story of how he got rejected from Harvard as a student.
The 29 I’ve counted (probably still incomplete): Popcorn Chicken, Chicken Tenders, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, General Gao's Chicken, Red Spiced Chicken, Herb Roasted Chicken, Rosemary Roasted Chicken, BBQ Chicken, Grilled Chicken Breast, Maple Roasted Chicken, Garlic Roasted Chicken, Jalapeno Chicken, Honey Mustard Chicken, Red Curry Chicken, Buffalo Chicken, Chicken a la Plancha, Broccoli Stuffed Chicken, Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, Mesquite Rotisserie Chicken, Chicken a la Plancha, Chicken Salad, Chicken Piccatta, Teriyaki Chicken, Chicken Vindaloo, Spicy Chicken with Chilies, Chicken Parmesan, Pretzel Crusted Chicken, Chili & Lime Chicken.