‘Perseverance and grit’ describe UW-Green Bay graduates and student speaker Jacob Lau

Jacob Lau Speaks at Fall 2022 Commencement

UW-Green Bay Class of 2022 student speaker Jacob Lau, a Public Administration and Political Science graduate encouraged his fellow grads to continue to dig into their perseverance, determination and grit as they begin “the next race of life.” Lau shared his personal inspiration during UW-Green Bay’s morning commencement ceremony on Saturday, December 17 at The Weidner.

Lau’s full commencement address is here:

Good morning respected teachers, administrators, parents, and the amazing Class of 2022. Before I start, I would like to thank all the teachers for coming through for us these last couple of years and therefore I ask all the graduates to stand up and join me in giving all the teachers a round of applause. 

Since we’ve spent the last few years giving icebreakers, how about we start with one more? My name is Jacob Lau and I’m a Political Science and Public Administration major. My fun fact is that I hope I never have to do another icebreaker again.

The last few years have been tumultuous, to say the least. When thinking about what theme to select for this speech, only one word came to mind to describe our college experience, Perseverance. 

The idea of perseverance is built into the lore of the Phoenix.

The Phoenix is an ancient mythological creature found in folklore spanning several cultures that symbolizes renewal and rebirth. It bursts into flames before beginning its new life and soaring.

As we arrived as bright-eyed 18-year olds seething with excitement, ready to explore our new home, we also dealt with feelings of uncertainty. Do I deserve to be here? What do other people think of me? Will I make any friends? All these thoughts and many others were working their hardest to bring us down, yet we persevered.

As we entered our next year, those initial feelings went away and were replaced by new ones. Am I doing well enough in class? Why do my friends have their majors picked and I don’t? What classes will help me in my career the most? And while these feelings were perfectly valid, they also were surprisingly good at causing anxiety. Yet we still managed to persevere.

Just as 2020 was starting and we were getting ready for spring break, I’m sure none of us expected to be sent home and not return until September, but that’s just how things pan out, I guess. And while online classes were a suitable temporary solution, I’m sure all of us would be fine with never doing another zoom class or completing another canvas discussion response. Yet we all managed to persevere.

As school started back up, feelings of anxiety over school were coupled with genuine fears of a deadly virus. In addition, Covid restrictions did a great job of lowering the rate of infection, but they also did a great job of isolating us from one another and crippling the aspect of community once found on campus. Yet us being here today is further evidence of our perseverance.

This is not to say that perseverance is an abstract idea for all of us, however. If you look back at the last four or so years, you’ll find an experience when you truly persevered and grew from. A moment that might not have yielded an award, but a moment you were proud of yourself for not giving up, or for taking a risk, or for helping someone who struggled, just like you. For me, that was battling through the pandemic as an immunocompromised person, still managing to remain active on campus while also maintaining my mental health and avoiding the virus. (Knock on wood.)

When reflecting on our experiences throughout college, I cannot help but be reminded of a quote from Walter Elliot. “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other”. So, while Covid may have robbed us of two of our most important formative years, the experiences we gained and the grit we have displayed have contributed to who we are as people today. As we leave here as graduates, just know that the next race of life is starting. While it may not seem like it at times, you will persevere and rise above, just like you’ve done throughout your time here.

Before I leave, I would like to take the time to thank those who have helped me throughout my college career. To my wonderful parents and family, thank you for always supporting me in all my endeavors. I cherish the freedom you have given me to pursue my dreams. To my professors Katia Levintova, David Helpap, Ashley Heath, and the many others I’ve worked with during my time here, thank you for providing me with the tools to succeed in my future career and for your unwavering support through tough times. I wouldn’t be here onstage today if it weren’t for the amazing people who supported me along the way.

Congrats UWGB Class of 2022, we finally made it and for old-time’s sake, Go Phoenix. Thank you.

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