On My Graduation Day
Pravini Wickramanayake, originally from Sri Lanka and winner of the Ando Momofuku Honor Prize*, spoke on behalf of the graduating Class of March 2016 at the graduation ceremony for the College of International Management on March 18. The speech is posted here in its entirety. We hope it will help you travel in time to the end of your four years at APU and picture what you can achieve by then.
Your Excellencies, the President, Distinguished Guests, members of the faculty, staff, our friends, families, and of course my fellow members of the outstanding graduating Class of 2016: Welcome to a very special morning!
First and foremost, I’d like to take a moment to graciously thank my father and mother – who have come all the way from Sri Lanka – and my brother, whose presence I am missing this morning, as well as all of my family and friends. Thank you for believing in me even at times when I didn't believe in myself, and for all the sacrifices you’ve made to allow me to walk the road of happiness and success. I consider today as a defining milestone in a blessed journey for me, for I know that I have given my family what they truly deserve to witness and to be the reason that they are smiling today.
I am eternally thankful to the late Dr. Momofuku Ando and Nissin Foods Holdings, for it is because of his desire and vision to foster the future leaders of the Asia Pacific region that I am standing in front of you today. Thank you for your generous support with this award. I am humbled and honored being given this valuable opportunity.
Fellow graduates, today marks the end of an unforgettable and meaningful chapter of our lives, and the beginning of a new one. Time has flown by so fast. I still remember how we all unfolded our lives here at APU in an environment that was once so strange to us, but has now become our home.
Thinking back, my first Japanese lessons consisted of a class of 24 students, with 15 different nationalities represented in that one room. Also when we could hardly speak any Japanese, we had Workshop II, where we were put to work with Japanese students struggling equally with their English. I had to let that sink in for a bit. I had to think about how I was going to approach, communicate, and work together with the other students in that room. I knew that it was not going to be easy. That is where I learned my first lesson: To treat others as how you would like to be treated. At that time, every one of us was programmed in a different way, with different stereotypes, thoughts, and images. All that programming had to go. As we learned that communication is more than words, all those barriers started to slowly break down, until there were none left.
Bit by bit we started to learn how to communicate, regardless of where we came from. Eventually it became more personal, and we developed bonds of strong friendships filled with respect, trust, and loyalty, and love started to prosper. Fellow graduates, we will meet lots of new people in the life we begin tomorrow. Treat them in the same way we treated each other: with love, respect, and trust.
With this strong foundation from my first two years at APU, I took a step forward in my third year to choose Accounting and Finance as my field of interest and to share what I have learned, both at APU’s and international conferences. I want to whole-heartedly thank my seminar professor, Dr. Michael Cortez, for teaching me that the things that I am passionate about are not random, and that they are my true calling. Thank you for the valuable lessons you have enriched me with, for identifying my potential, and for guiding me in the right direction. You are undoubtedly one of the reasons why I stand here today.
Dear friends, think about how far we have come, both as individuals and as a class.
We stand here today completely transformed; different from who we were prior to walking this journey. We’ve made it through these four years despite the ups and downs, the achievements and struggles, the understandings and misunderstandings, and the successes and failures. Yes, our hearts were together, and we grew both mentally and physically.
Fellow graduates, from today onwards, believe it or not, you will miss taking the bus to APU. You will miss the greetings and warm welcomes you receive from all around the world as you walk through campus. You will miss the never-ending announcements and messages on Campus Terminal, and swiping your ID card to enter Pangaea for long meetings, or even going to McDonalds for meetings. You will miss queuing up in long lines to watch your favorite multicultural week performances, and above all, you will miss your circle of friends from all over the world that have turned into family.
I would like you to now look back on your lives here at APU, back to where you started. Close your eyes and think for a moment. Think of an achievement or a beautiful memory, something that you are thankful for and received only because of APU. It may be as simple as a team project you worked hard for, the friendships you created, or the journeys you have travelled thanks to the network of connections that you have built here. Whatever it is, let’s take pride in telling the world that it was these countless opportunities and the unique experiences that we have at APU, have molded us into who we are today.
APU: I speak on behalf of all the graduates in this hall today. No matter how successful we become or how old we get, we promise we will not forget this place and the warm-hearted community of Beppu.
Maya Angelou said: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” That, my friends, is what gives your story a purpose and meaning. We have the power to contribute to society in our own way. In doing so to the highest of our capacities, our class will have more influence and empowerment than any other generation. Quite often, it is this journey that teaches us a lot about our destination.
Today, as we leave the comfort of our college life, we part ways with a little bit of anxiety and hesitation, and with the excitement of putting our APU credentials to test. I would like to remind you that true success and happiness can only be found if you achieve this one goal in your life. There really is only one goal. That is, to quote Oprah Winfrey, “to fulfill the highest, most truthful expression of yourself as a human being. You want to max out your humanity by using your energy to lift yourself up, your family, and the people around you.”
Extend yourself in kindness to one another and make a difference in the world.
Congratulations to the Class of 2016! I wish you all the best in life.
- *About the Ando Momofuku Honor Prize: Since the opening of APU, this award has been given to the most prominent graduating student each graduation period. The prize was funded by Dr. Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen, founder of Nissin Foods Holdings, also a former student at the Ritsumeikan Academy and an advocate of life-long learning. When he passed away, the corporation continued its support to APU. The prize allows the student to visit the corporation and receive an award of 1,000,000JPY (approximately 9,000 USD) for their future activities.