2021 Honors Convocation Student

Speaker – Kayleen O’Brien

Kayleen O’Brien, ’21

Honored guests, emotional families, and elated friends – Welcome.

Class of 2021, what an honor it is to be standing in front of you – albeit virtually – in celebration of our momentous achievements here at Syracuse University. 

My name is Kayleen O’Brien, and after five incredible years, I will be graduating this weekend with my Bachelor of Architecture. 

It’s hard to believe how quickly our time at Syracuse has passed, and how quickly the real world is approaching. 

To be quite honest — it’s kind of terrifying. 

Saying goodbye to the people we’ve come to love and this place we call home, many of us moving to new cities to start careers or continue our educations, the countless unknowns of what the future will bring – terrifying seems like the appropriate word to sum it all up. 

But I think we can handle it.  After all, what could be more terrifying than waking up to see four feet of snow outside your window?  (Shoutout to Syracuse winters for that one!)

As we begin this process of looking towards the future, terrified of what lies ahead, it seems appropriate to also take the time to reflect on the past. 

Many of us were fortunate enough to get the full Syracuse experience, taking advantage of everything this incredible university had to offer.  Walking into the dome on game day, covered head-to-toe in orange, with that energy in the air that just electrifies you.  Studying abroad and exploring the world with some of our closest friends and colleagues.  Spending countless hours in Bird, probably staying up a little later than our parents and professors would have liked.  Even waking up to find four feet of snow outside our windows —

It’s those experiences that have defined our collegiate career.  It’s those experiences that have shaped us into the incredible and powerful people we are today.  And it’s those experiences that have also prepared us to take terrifying head-on and move forward.

I think during this time of reflection, it is important to acknowledge those experiences which were more difficult than others.  This past year, especially, many of us faced unbelievable challenges we never could have expected, forcing us to adapt and overcome that which we could not control.

But, we’re all here now — a testament to our resiliency, flexibility, and incredible strength — eager and excited to see what the world will throw at us next. 

In this terrifying time of uncertainty, remember just how strong we are.  As graduates of Syracuse University and the Renee Crown University Honors Program, remember that we have all faced terrifying before and that we can do it again.  Remember all the phenomenal things we have experienced and the exceptional people we have met.  Remember all the times we laughed, we smiled, and we cried. 

So, Class of 2021, it’s okay to be terrified.  Use it to push yourselves forward, reflect on what you have done, and remind yourself that you can face it again.

Thank you, and congratulations!

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