Watch the senior speech by Steffi Antony '17 »
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." And in these two sentences, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, encapsulates my Knox experience.
Change began the moment we received the letter saying that we had been accepted into Knox College. Fast-forward four years: Having survived 12 terms of Knox plagues, the polar vortex, the new MyKnox page, countless fire alarms, endless nights of crying into our books, and trying to explain the trimester system to the outside world, here we are in our caps and gowns. We made it. Within these years, each of our unique Knox experiences revealed to us that we must always strive for that change.
For some of us, this change meant packing up our bags and moving a few hours away from home, and for others it meant moving across the country. And to all my brave international peers sitting here, this change meant moving halfway across the world from the place that you call home. From 14 different countries, we all came together here in our very own Galesburg, Illinois. For many of us first-generation students, this change created a heightened sense of independence because we had no one back home to help us maneuver through this new chapter of life. Change began when Knox brought us every corner of this world.
Then began those extensive suite meetings, running through tunnels of screaming people at Play Fair, endless icebreakers with our orientation groups, and the weird tradition of shaking every single person's hand at Pumphandle.
After orientation week, we dispersed throughout campus. We worked infinite campus jobs to be somewhat financially independent. We took on leadership positions. We made the Seymour library our home and the Gizmo our second home. Or was it the Gizmo our home and the library our second home? Either way, we found home. For some of us, this change arrived through the discipline and hard work that we achieved through those 5:00 a.m. lifts for our sports teams, and for others it was through spending every waking minute at the library trying to work through organic chemistry problems. This discipline arrived in the form of numerous hours spent at dance practice for Dance Squad or Terp. And for some of us this discipline meant writing hundreds of pages for our creative writing portfolios.
We accepted and absorbed this consistent change. All of us "SMC rats" accepted that our weirdly shaped building made us more directionally aware, and that no other building would faze us ever again. To those of us who took classes in GDH and Old Main, we know that every single day was leg day. We changed when we raised our hands and made sure we were heard, even though we knew someone else was ready with a rebuttal. However, it was also when we realized that listening is just as crucial. Change happened when we packed our bags and went off to the Women's March in D.C. to stand up for what we believe in, or the time we stood up here for the diversity initiative our freshmen year and listened to the struggles of those with disadvantaged social identities. Some of us found this change, growth, and acceptance in the various organizations that we joined. Personally, I found this change, growth, and acceptance within my sisters of Delta Delta Delta.
Maybe it was during our study abroad experiences, or while we were cooking with our cultural organizations for I-Fair, or maybe it was during our times playing video games in Post Lobby; we all found our personal adventures during our time here at Knox. Sometimes our adventures came from the strange friendship we shared with the squirrels on this campus. Maybe the biggest adventure of all was Flunk Day,which is not a real thing, but it is always tomorrow.
Now, I want to take a moment to thank all those who helped us experience this change. It wouldn't be right if I didn't give my Amma and Appa a shout-out for consistently loving and supporting me every step of the way, and also for transferring money into my bank account every two seconds. Here is a shout-out to all the moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, professors, mentors, and every single person that comes to your mind when you think about your Knox journey. We wouldn't be here without their love and support.
Despite our unique experiences at Knox, we found discipline, the value of hard work, and growth in this change that Knox brought to all of us. And today, as we scatter into the "real world," I hope we continue find growth in change. Change that doesn't stop until every voice is heard. Change that doesn't end in speech but in action. Change begins with acceptance, and that is what Knox taught us. Knox taught us that this acceptance begins when the disadvantaged are heard, when the oppressed are lifted, and when we just stop to understand the struggles of those who are least like us. Change doesn't arrive on its own. Change is what we bring.
Congratulations, Class of 2017. Change does not stop here.