Kalli Ostermiller’s Address to the Class of 2023

Published: April 28, 2023 | Author: Southern Utah University | Read Time: 5 minutes

Commencement speaker Kalli OstermillerSouthern Utah University student Kalli Ostermiller is from Tremonton, Utah and is graduating today with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in philosophy. While at SUU, Kalli had the opportunity to be on the Executive Council for the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service, and intern for the Utah Speaker of the House during the legislative session. Kalli’s professors have inspired her to further her education and hopes to earn a law degree to help serve minoritized communities.

Ostermiller’s Address at the University Commencement Ceremony

Hello family, friends, faculty, and most importantly, hello to the 2,309 graduates here today! Now I only had like 5 friends at SUU, so to the 2,304 of you who have no idea who I am, my name is Kalli. I am both extremely honored and absolutely terrified to be speaking today.

To begin, I would like to share a story about the night of my high school graduation. I graduated in 2020, my graduation was virtual, so I spent the night having dinner with my family. Something else you should know; my family has this plate that’s red and says, “You are special today.” In my competitive family, this plate is a very BIG DEAL! And on the night of MY high school graduation, my little sister got this plate for making curfew the night before. Now, I can see you are all outraged on my behalf, and rightfully so, but just wait, it gets even better. When my dad saw the look of shock and disgust on my face, he said, “Kalli, everyone graduates from high school, it just doesn’t make you that special.” After many years of therapy, I am happy to report that today I am feeling special, and graduates, I hope you are too.

I would like to go back in time 4 years ago. You and I were preparing to leave for college. The most common sentiment I heard during this time was, “These are going to be the best 4 years of your life!” I don’t know about you, but when I experienced the reality of college, I felt confused and inadequate because I wasn’t aligning with that messaging. The messaging that was truer for my experience is, college isn’t necessarily the best time of life, it’s just the most time of life. Here at SUU, I experienced the most happiness and the most sadness, the most connectedness and the most loneliness, I experienced the most educational growth and intellectual embarrassment. Even though my college experience wasn’t as perfect as some ‘dreamers’ assured me it would be, RETROSPECTIVELY, I can honestly say, I loved college. I loved it not because of the dates, parties, and accolades, but because I learned more about what it is to be human in these years than in all previous years combined. I tell you that honest synopsis of my experience at SUU because it leads into the first lesson, I want to share today. Life is hard, and we are not meant to go through it alone.

Let me ask you this, how many times a day are you asked, ‘how are you doing?’ How many of those times do you answer honestly? Instead of putting the complexity of our well-being into a ‘I’m doing alright,” it is my hope that we can all start answering with honesty and vulnerability. I hypothesize that one of the reasons it is so difficult to answer that question is due to the belief that we are a burden to those we open up to. This mentality is wrong. Every time you are vulnerable; it allows the people around you to know that they are not alone in their pain, and it creates a space for others to share as well.

It took me a long time to learn this lesson at SUU because I just thought everyone was having ‘the best years of their lives,’ but once I opened up about my experience, I learned that I was not the only one feeling this way. I was then able to feel togetherness when I once felt loneliness.

Fellow graduates, let us all face life’s challenges with honesty and vulnerability because then we can have community and relatability in our pain instead of isolation and shame.

The second lesson I learned at SUU is, life is so much better when you stop trying to be what other people want, and instead, start living true to who you already are.

Like I mentioned before, life is hard, and conforming to societal expectations can provide a feeling of safety. Let me be perfectly clear, WHO YOU ARE IS ENOUGH. There is NO NEED TO CONFORM. I am confident that most of you here today have been asked or told to change something about yourself; whether it be your beliefs, appearance, or even the person you love. Please leave here knowing that any person who wants you to change just does not understand the beauty. of your. unique. identity.
Now, I do want to address the irony of telling thousands of students dressed in the same cap and the same gown that uniqueness is beautiful but despite that irony, let me leave you with this message from my therapist, yes, MY THERAPIST, but I’m sure it will resonate with you all: your worth is not even determined by how many “special” red plates you do or do not receive.

Fellow graduates, we are given the opportunity and responsibility to create a better world for future generations. Let us create a world that allows everyone to express themselves, a world that views authentic individuals as exemplars not threats, and a world that teaches us that our worth is immeasurable and undeniable.

Thank you all so much for letting me talk to you today. Thank you for letting me be vulnerable about my college experience, encourage vulnerability from others, and leave you with the message that your unique self is perfect.

Congratulations to the SUU class of 2023!

Tags: College of Humanities and Social Sciences Political Science

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