“Money is important but success is not defined by pursuing money but pursuing meaning”- Mrs Stuassi
July was the month of graduations in most UK universities. I write this to celebrate everyone graduating across the country, the thousands of international officers, teachers and staff who have been part of their journeys, but most of all- the parents who have sacrificed and invested so much in a UK education for their children.
I believe that educators all over the world will agree that the most rewarding aspect of the job is the opportunity to work with, and support so many young leaders of tomorrow. Therefore, it was a double honour for me to hear Mrs. Staussi’s inspiring and emotional speech replete with a good dose of humour.
I have listened to many graduation speeches in the 10+ years that I have been working in international higher education, not to mention the annual barnstorming performances by University of Sussex Chancellor, Sanjeev Bhaskar. However, this particular speech truly stands out for me, to the extent that I think it needs a Medium to share with others and I think Sanjeev would agree.
Firstly, before the speech, a short story to contextualise the background- stay with me please. This is the story of Dominique Staussi and her international education journey which culminated in a speech by a very proud mother at a graduation dinner to celebrate her daughter’s achievements.
I met Dominique at a recruitment event in Nairobi, Kenya exactly three years ago and even then I was impressed by the depth of questions which went beyond the standard questions on rankings, facilities, etc. I found myself subjected to a barrage of thoughtful questions, which resulted in an interesting conversation similar to one of giving advice to a younger sibling.
I was surprised when Dominique said that she had made her decision and only wanted to study at Sussex. I learnt a very important lesson that day- the importance of empathy is often underrated in marketing and sales.
Fast forward three years and I have had the pleasure of interviewing this young lady for the role of International Student Ambassador at Sussex during which she made the most of university life by setting up a Zumba society, running a mentoring and social entrepreneurship programme with Sussex Enactus and many more initiatives.
For the thousands that graduated in the month of July, you’ve heard lots of speeches but I think this one is well worth the read.
Special thanks to Mrs Staussi who has given her permission to share this speech, albeit with some redaction.
Graduation Day Speech by Mrs Staussi on the graduation of her daughter from the University of Sussex.
Graduation Day. Just uttering those two simple words makes me
emotional. As parents, we want our kids to realize their full potential
and make a difference, regardless of their career or your field of
study. We want you to make good decisions and we know too that
you will fail sometimes but that you will learn from your mistakes.
And that may not necessarily be a bad thing.
We pray your mistakes are small ones, but if not, we hope that you
will possess the courage and integrity to do the right thing in the face
of adversity, peer pressure and the inevitable — easy way out.
“DOMZ” — Your Dad, your brother and I, your Nana, your uncles, aunts and
cousins and your whole extended family here — could not possibly be
any prouder of you than we are today!
We’ve been blessed by having the opportunity to watch you grow from
an incredibly cute small child into a beautiful young woman.
Only yesterday it feels like it was your first day at nursery school
where you sat at the gate with Daniel the guard, waiting patiently
through the whole school day for your Dad to collect you. You
wouldn’t go into the class because Dad was coming to get you and you
were not going to miss that.
Though it may seem to you that it' taken forever to reach this point,
it happened all too quickly for us. l’ll admit that it saddens me to
see you start the rest of your life, however it cannot compare to how
happy and proud that I know you are so well prepared and dedicated
to your dreams. Never lose sight of those dreams and never
compromise anything to reach them.
Having said that, I encourage you to remember that life is made up of
a lot of small journeys and you want to strive to make them as
enjoyable, interesting and rewarding as possible. When you embark
on a journey you never know what will happen along the way and
where it will end up, which, at least to me, is incredibly fascinating.
Regardless of the path you choose I know you’ll be fine. But try to
pursue something you really want to do although it is not always easy
to know what that is.
One piece of advice: never let money be the primary motivator for
what you decide to do. Success is not measured by your job, your
education, how much money you have or what kind of car you drive.
So, what is success? Well let me tell you, money is pretty nice.
I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that it’s not about money, cause money is very nice. I like money. It's good for buying things.
But having a lot of money does not automatically make you a
successful person. What you want is money and meaning. You want
your work to be meaningful. Because meaning is what brings the real
richness to your life. What you really want is to be surrounded by
people you trust and treasure and by people who cherish you. That's
when you're really rich.
Now as we stand here with you on the verge of another milestone, we
know this one involves big change. This milestone isn’t about just
growing up, it’s about being a grown-up. As a parent, this moment
causes us the most pride and the most pain. Our brains are full of
excitement and wonder for you, but our hearts feel something
different. We know the magnitude of the milestone and we know
A few final tips before you launch (sniffle!):
▪ Even in the most challenging times never forget that you have a
voice and the power to change things. You are now of voting age, so
▪ The longest distance between any two points is the shortcut.
Wanting something now means you will probably pay later. Be willing
to work hard, get dirty and have blisters.
▪ Remember that you always have a choice. No matter what the
▪ Be brave enough to say I’m sorry, or I love you, or I forgive you.
▪ Show gratitude to all of those people who have gotten you to where
you are today. Don’t look down on anyone unless you are helping
▪ Confidence, combined with a passion to make the world a better
place, can be a very positive force.
▪ Surround yourself with people who remind you of how amazing you
are, and avoid the ones that don’t.
▪ Life doesn’t always follow the plans you have made out for yourself.
Be prepared for highs and lows. Celebrate the highs and ask for help
during the lows.
▪ Remember: There is no place like home. Never forget that you
always have a soft place at home, even if your brother wants to turn
your room into his man cave.
▪ Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.
And our last tip to you — we also trust you know to call your Nana,
not us, if you find yourself overdrawn on your bank account.
Find me on LinkedIn or Twitter- @Tosin_Talks