Your excellency, Very Rev. Fr. Henri Kizito, the Provincial Superior of the Augustinians of the Assumption Vice- province of East Africa and the guest of honor in our today’s 33rd graduation ceremony, Rev. Thaddeus Kasolo- Rector, Rev. Maticha Nyarombe- the Dean of studies and Vice Rector, Rev. Andrew Mwania- the Head of Philosophy department, Rectors of our different formation houses, beloved lecturers, formators and the entire SMS staff, distinguished guests, parents and guardians, dear members of the SMS alumni, dear friends and fellow students of SMS, and most important my fellow graduands of the class of May 2021, Good Afternoon.
My fellow graduands of the class of 2021, today is one of our long-awaited moments. We are now proud graduands, Congratulations! I thank God the Almighty for letting me serve this day as the valedictorian of the class of 2021, I am greatly humbled. On behalf of all the graduands, I would like to thank you for joining us on this auspicious occasion. With a grateful hand, I am filled with wonder and excitement, contemplating what God has done in our lives despite these tough and trying moments of the Covid-19 pandemic, a time that has brought irreversible changes in the entire history of humanity. We currently see individuals trying to find a new rhythm, meaning and balance in their lives. And while so much has changed over the past year, this global disruption presents an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the same. Despite the enormous and unimaginable loss of life and livelihood, let us hope that there is light at the end of this tunnel as everyone has been extra-cautious and self-alarming. Let us just put our trust in God who is able to calm the storm.
Dear friends, graduation day is an opportunity to look back and reflect upon the great moments we had from the day we got the admission letter to join SMS to this very day. Let us appreciate that SMS has been a breeding ground of intelligent and transformative minds. SMS has given us an opportunity to be exposed to different possibilities in life. It was an opportunity to interact with different personalities and thinkers from all over the African continent and beyond. All along from the times of Socrates in Greece through St Augustine in Algeria to Kant in German, and not to forget our brother Nietzsche who, thanks to God, spared our little faith. SMS has given us guts to dare, knowledge to excel and motivation to succeed. SMS has given us not only quality education but also integral human formation to ensure that we are well built up academically, socially and morally. However, as the prominent English social thinker John Rasmin puts it “Quality education is never an accident; it is always a result of intelligent effort.” Many of you will bear me witness, that the journey to securing a certificate, a diploma or a degree from this prestigious institution is not an easy one, whether it was for one, two or three years. We can all clearly remember the good number of classes we had to attend, different group discussions we had to participate in, late night studies we had to endure, several assignments we had to do and submit within given deadlines without forgetting the stressing impacts of examinations especially Mr. Mowo’s Latin papers. All graduating students, I say therefore, we have overcome many challenges to get to where we are today and we are all a manifestation of hard work, determination and commitment. Regardless of all the misgivings, here we are today. All that has been given meaning at this instant sitting in this graduation square, and it will even mean more when we hold our certificates in our very hands. I, therefore, say to you all, Congratulations!
It is indeed a moment of grace and thanksgiving to God the Almighty who enabled us to sail all through to this level. By our own efforts alone we could not make it. We thank our formators, parents, guardians, sponsors and all people of good will who have sacrificed to support, sustain, inspire and stand by our side all through our studies. I personally thank my parents and all members of my family, brothers and sisters in particular who have been my strength and support throughout my life. Many thanks to the Board of Governors and the entire seminary management for keeping the college focused on quality education, research and community service despite the many challenges of our time. We owe a great deal of gratitude to our lecturers and the SMS hardworking staff in general who have journeyed with us all through this level. In a special way, I would like to extend our sincere thanks to the department of philosophy with Rev. Andrew Mwania as its head, all lecturers in religious and language studies and all the entire staff for their splendent and professional job. We are also much indebted to our fellow students who have been our closest friends and mentors in this journey. Kindly, accept our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for your support and encouragement. We pray that you may be walking in a gown and a cap in a year or two to come. There is no miracle in success. What you need is only hard work and focus. In the words of the most famous entrepreneur Richard Branson, the word ‘success’ requires you to listen, take the best and leave the rest. Also St. Thomas Aquinas, a medieval philosopher and theologian, put it best when he said ‘A true philosopher is one who makes two movements: library to chapel and from chapel to library.” In the library, you’ll find light in the truth of human reason and in the chapel, God will fill you with truth that surpasses your reason. Take courage!
To my fellow graduands, I would like to share with you the thinking of one of the most respected leaders in Africa and the first president of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mwl. Julius Kambarage Nyerere from his book ‘Uhuru na Maendeleo’ (1973), and I quote, “Intellectuals have a special contribution to make to our nation and to Africa, and I am asking that their knowledge and greater understanding as they should possess should be used for the benefit of the society of which we all are members.” The words of Mwl Nyerere remind me of the words of Brian Cronin, a renowned author in philosophy and former rector here at SMS, in his lecture notes on Metaphysics, and this is what he says, “Philosophy is not in books; it is in minds. In fact, Philosophy is a way of life.” These words resonate with a vision of a college to be a world class college that produces transformative leaders for the Church and the society. We are all the products of SMS and so let us make this vision realizable. Let us translate our degrees and diplomas into good leadership that fosters truth, integrity, honesty, excellence, commitment and competence. Our degrees and diplomas will be useless if they don’t address the challenges that face Church and society in our time.
Finally, I am proud to say that the people that I started this journey with are right here with me. I’m sure that the same can be said for you too. Bonds, unbreakable bonds, have been formed out of this academic journey. Let this not be the end of these good relationships. The people that have held you through the most stressful period of your life should also be there through the greatest of your triumphs. Let the support system that we have formed here also take us through the gates of this college and beyond. Thank you for listening.
By Br. Boniphace J. Odera C.S.Sp