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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Senior Speech by Kylie Linh Hoang '20

In 2016, the Fall of our very first term at Knox, we experienced what can only be described as a historic election. For many of us, it was our first time voting in a presidential election. For many of us, it was incredibly difficult to come to terms with the outcome. The day after the results were finalized, I remember classes being close to empty. I remember the fog that descended over campus as we tried to imagine a just future for ourselves and our neighbors in the midst of such hateful rhetoric being perpetuated through the country’s most powerful office. 

But I also remember the Anti Trump Walk-out and Rally. I remember the No Human is Illegal protest. I remember the “Know Your Rights” flyers that were posted all over Seymour, and I remember seeing my classmates with megaphones on the Gizmo patio and cardboard posters right here on the steps of Old Main. 

The class of 2020 was immediately thrust into a global circumstance that required us to decide what truly mattered. Overwhelmingly, we decided it was each other. 

Over the course of four years, we exemplified that decision by making ourselves heard in any way possible. We protested, we petitioned, we tabled, we lobbied. We educated ourselves and each other both inside and outside the classroom. We learned how to create intentional communities based on mutual respect and care. Knox was far from a perfect campus, but it was the first place that I ever felt like everyone made an honest effort to be good to each other. 

Although the election was over in a day, the systems of power that enabled its outcomes still impact every member of the Knox community. I use this term not just to refer to current students and alumni, and staff and faculty, but to all of these groups and our loved ones as well. This Knox community extends further than just campus, Galesburg, or even the US. Being a member of the Knox community means being a member of a global community, and making that effort to be good to all of the other people in this community, no matter how many years separate us from our time on campus. 

When COVID-19 hit in the middle of our senior year, it exacerbated the inequities present in our communities. I saw peers attending classes and typing papers from their phones, because they no longer had access to campus computer labs and did not have laptops of their own. Unstable internet connections lowered participation grades, and a lack of privacy in family homes made concentrating nearly impossible. All of this in addition to the constant feeling of sinking doom as we navigated what has infamously opened every email for the last two years as “unprecedented times.” As we all sheltered in place, I realized I didn't know how to be good and do good for my community. Luckily enough for me, Knox professors did. When Zoom calls took up too much bandwidth, we used Slack chats for class. Instead of requiring traditional papers, projects like online exhibitions, poetry chapbooks, and art projects were gladly accepted. Parents and younger siblings were accepted as par for the course when learning from home, and we made the most out of our virtual learning spaces. Not only were assignments and class styles modified to fit our needs, but check-ins were more frequent and the care that our faculty put into building online communities for us was tangible. While experiencing the same anxieties, restrictions, and setbacks that we did as students, our Knox faculty demonstrated how to handle these aptly named “unprecedented times,” with love and grace. 

The kind of love and grace that our faculty showed us is the kind of good I hope we all bring to the world. Doing good can and should mean protesting, petitioning, and lobbying, but it can also mean something as simple as choosing to be kind and supporting each other through turbulent circumstances. The community we created at Knox will always be unlike any other, but my hope for the class of 2020 is that we take these experiences and use them to bring good to all of the new communities we join and build. I hope we use these lessons learned as a tether to the vibrant community of Knox and I hope that we, as a class, are remembered for being a force for good in the world. 

A belated congratulations, Class of 2020. We’ve more than earned it.

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http://www.knox.edu/news/commencement-2020/senior-speech-kylie-linh-hoang

Printed on Monday, October 18, 2021