Valedictory Speakers

Brown, Rachel

Friends, family, educators, and distinguished colleagues—Aloha.

When I first came to Hawaii Pacific University, I was seventeen years old, fresh off the coffee farm in Kona, proud to be given the chance to prove what Hawaii public school graduates are made of. From my first moments in college, I felt a responsibility to perpetuate the values taught in my Big Island schools: values like honor, commitment to excellence, and love of land and family. For no person born and raised in Hawaii Nei exists alone: I owed it to Naalehu Elementary, Kealakehe Intermediate, and Konawaena High to excel in my studies. It was my duty to all of my beloved senseis over the years to remain true to myself and my cultural heritage. And most importantly, I had a responsibility to every local kid who ever dared to hope for something more, to prove to all of the children of Hawaii that if you can dream it, you can be it. Today, I feel so grateful for the opportunity to have done all this and more, to stand before you today as a true daughter of Hawaii paying homage to the past and giving hope for the future.

Nothing makes me happier than being chosen as the representative for this amazing class, and I’d like to take a moment to thank just a few of the people who helped me along the way. All of my teachers in the college of liberal arts, thank you for helping me discover my voice, and thanks especially to Dr. Catherine Sustana for signing the paperwork and making it all happen. Thanks to the Creative Writing Club for being small but great in spirit. Thank you, Hawaii Pacific University, for giving the girl from Ka’u a scholarship and a chance. My friends, too numerous to count, thank for your love and patience. My family, and my homeland, thank you. All I ever wanted to do was make you proud.

And of course, my classmates, the graduating class of 2007. No one is more surprised than I that we are finally all here together to celebrate our commencement. In freshman year, graduation seemed as far off as a star in the night sky. But this night, your night, you are stars fallen to earth. You did it. And no one is more proud of you than I. Class of 2007, I may be your speaker, but this achievement belongs to you, to everyone here who briefly made Hawaii Pacific University your home in the pursuit of your dreams. So thank you for the beach parties, the ghost walks, the book swaps, and the art walks; thank you for the poetry slams, the plays, the boar hunts at Hawaii Loa, and Intercultural Day. Mahalo nui loa from the bottom of my heart to everyone who made this possible. Graduates, I salute you. You rocked my world.