2019 University Medalist Tyler Chen’s Commencement speech

2019 University Medalist Tyler Chen’s Commencement speech

September 7, 2019 0 By Kody Olson


– Hey everyone. This is crazy. I didn’t realize the
real perk of the medal is that I get to stay under this tent. Sorry, but. Okay. So, real quick before I start, I just want to give a huge shoutout to all the parents, families, and everyone who’s out there for us today. We wouldn’t be here
without you, so thank you. (cheering) I guess, maybe I shouldn’t
clap in front of the mic. Sorry, sound guys. Okay, here we go. My friends, teammates, classmates, fellow graduates, we made it! Congratulations! (cheering) You all know it hasn’t been easy. In our time at Berkeley,
we’ve pushed ourselves to the breaking point,
trying to measure up to these lofty expectations
the academic world has of us. And this need to be successful
is kind of ingrained in Berkeley’s culture, you know, we have all these myths,
and legends, about it. For the non-Berkeley students, everyone at Berkeley hears from day one about these cursed seals,
these University emblems, that are around Memorial Glade, and the legend goes,
you should never, ever step on those gold seals. Why? Because stepping on the
seal means you get cursed with bad grades! Stepping on the seal
means you lower your GPA. Stepping on the seal means you give up on Berkeley’s high academic standards. So, every day we see
these groups of students walking up Memorial Glade, and they all split to go around the seals. This curse is that powerful. So, just the other day, I was sitting there on the Glade, surrounded
by the cursed Berkeley seals, and I had a rare moment
where I could stop and think. So, I’d like to take you there, and out of the rain. The sun’s beating down on Memorial Glade in the heart of campus, which, graduates, you all know is a special kind of place. Because at Berkeley, they’ve
taught us to do big things. But as I sit there on the Glade, it’s the little things
that catch my attention. There’s a guy using
his laptop as a pillow. There’s a llama. (laughing) I hear snippets of conversation, something about memes and edgy teens. I look to my right, I look to my left, and I see beside me
some of the best friends I have ever had. Perhaps, graduates, if you look at who’s sitting next to you right now, you can say the same thing. As I sit there, I know
I’m gonna miss this place, But I pick up my bag and
walk past Doe Library, up that asphalt path towards real life. I’m sure you can picture
it, library’s on the right, Glade’s on the left, and
there’s this big hill up ahead. So, I’m walking, and I hear
this noise in front of me, and it gets louder, and it gets louder, and, this is a true story, I glance up, and there’s this huge dude on a tiny bike, and he’s barreling down
the hill right at me. First of all, raise your
hand if that was you. (laughing) Okay, anyway. This guy’s coming right at me, and he doesn’t see me, I’m just terrified! I’m just standing there. And he’s definitely gonna hit me, so I know I have to dodge,
so I go to side-step, and I look down at where
my foot’s about to land, and I see it. It’s the cursed Berkeley seal! And now I’m twice as scared! Because the only way to avoid
getting hit is to get cursed! And I definitely don’t want to get hit, so I just dodge and
stand there, on the seal. And I can feel the curse hitting me. But, as the guy goes past me, I notice this guy’s actually singing, “Hey! What a wonderful kind of day, what a wonderful kind of day.” And now I’m confused. I just almost got run over,
and then I got cursed, this day is not wonderful! But, in that moment, listening
to that huge dude sing, I thought to myself, maybe
this curse isn’t so bad. Maybe now is the time Maybe graduating from the academic ruler is the only way to find
something that matters more. And that’s the true secret
of the Berkeley curse. Realizing that there comes a time when it’s okay to step on the seal. To graduate and move on. To stop living our lives by
other people’s standards, and let go of the rulers others use to measure our worth. Because only then can we choose to live by our own measure of success. It’s an exciting and
scary world out there. And there are a lot of unsolved problems. You all know, at Berkeley
they’ve taught us that the equations to solve
climate change are not online, that the solutions to
inequality, war, and poverty are not handed out in discussion section. And, most importantly, we’ve learned that the answers other people used
to solve last year’s problems may not be the right
ones in today’s world. But that’s okay. Because Berkeley also taught us that life will throw problems at us. And one day after graduating, we may wake up to find a
huge dude on a tiny bike headed straight for us. As the curse-bearing graduates
of this fine university, we’ll know what to do. We’ll step on the seal. We’ll chart our own path. And we’ll lend an ear to listen carefully for what the guy on the bike
is singing quietly to himself: “Hey, what a wonderful kind of day.” Having spent the past
few years with you all, I know our future will be just that. Wonderful. Thank you, and congratulations. (cheering)