Pohnpei SDA graduate returns to address current Pohnpei SDA graduates


(Editor’s note: Yolanda Joab graduated from Pohnpei’s Seventh Day Adventist School eight years ago. She currently works with the International Organization for Migrations Cadre program in Chuuk, teaching children about climate change and disaster risk reduction. She is also studying at Harvard University. Below is the manuscript for the inspirational speech she gave to graduating seniors of Pohnpei SDA. She varied from her manuscript during delivering but the speech was powerful enough to warrant printing in its entirety.)
Good evening, allow me to pay my respects to everyone here tonight. To all dignitaries and representatives present, Principal Edward, the proud mothers, fathers and family, teachers and friends gathered here tonight. And most importantly to these good-looking graduates up here, thank you for having me. I am very honored and feel very privileged to be here and share in this milestone with you all. A wise man once said “There are 2 kinds of people in this world. Those of us that graduated from Pohnpei SDA and those who wish they did.”

Eight years ago I sat right there on that same stage where you all are sitting right now. Now, I know there are some people who are looking up here at me right now and wondering why in the in the world is she there? Why is she delivering this keynote speech? And to tell you the truth I don’t know either. (In her delivered speech she added that she isn’t a politician, “or at least not yet”) What I do know is that eight years has been long enough for me find my path and be set in it and well on my way in it, but it is also short enough of a time for me to still remember exactly how it feels to be where these graduates are at right now. With all of the butterflies and excitement and sense of saddened nostalgia of missing your friends and high school that I know you all are feeling right now. But then there’s the bigger thing gnawing at your mind—the burning curiosity of what’s to come next.
“You don’t have to have it all figured out right now...that’s how life works”
Graduates—show of hands, who knows EXACTLY what they’re going to do after graduation (and I don’t mean the after parties or celebratory dinners you’re going to have tonight—which I hope I’m invited to) but in terms of your lives, who knows exactly what they’re gonna be and exactly what they’re gonna do? Raise your hand if you have it all figured out.
I didn’t think so. And neither did I. But that’s okay. You don’t have to have it all figured out right now, because that’s not how life works. Now, while that can seem terrifying—the thought of your future being one big gigantic uncertainty, it is ALSO the beauty of it. Because it’s about the journey, not the destination. You’re going to leave here and you will make mistakes—but those mistakes and challenges are life giving you the opportunity to learn and become better. Being at this turning point of your lives- entering adulthood and trying to find yourself and learn who you are and what it is exactly you’re supposed to do with this life that God has given you is what this time is all about.
Chase your own path - “Own it!”
So follow your own path. Never abandon who you are. Your morals. Your values. And your faith. These must always remain at your core because they are what separate you from the rest. Whatever your passion is—pursue that relentlessly. Whatever field of work you find meaningful and believe in—chase it. Chase it with all you’ve got, because if you are on your own path, I promise you, you will not get lost. And all of this goes back to your class Aim: “To do all the good we can, in all the way we can, to all the souls we can, in every place we can, at all the times we can, with all the zeal we can, as long as we ever can”. I couldn’t be a bigger fan of this aim. As it is rooted in the ideal of Service above Self. It’s about choosing a path to help others and being a blessing to other people.
“Success is not defined in how much money you make, or what your title is...”
Because success is not defined in how much money you make, or what your title is, or how old you are—but it is defined in the immeasurable positive impact you can make that your heart most enjoys with the skills and talents that God has blessed you with. Let me repeat that again-- Because success is not defined in how much money you make, or what your title is, or how old you are—but it is defined in the immeasurable positive impact you can make that your heart most enjoys with the skills and talents that God has blessed you with.
So be confident in that while still holding the humility that is required of you to recognize opportunities for learning and growth. Let me say that again—be confident in that—in who you are, in what your interests and dreams are in—if it’s in climate change and environment OWN IT. If it’s in educational development OWN IT. If it’s in gender equality OWN IT. Whatever it is OWN IT and take pride in your work and who you are.
Do not abandon yourself...but still be open-minded and humble enough to recognize when you should take a step back listen and learn. This is by far one of the most challenging ways we are forced to grow. Because there will be times; there will be moments, defining moments, that put it all to the test. And a reality for us as Micronesians especially those of you who decide to take your journey abroad, whether it be in Guam or Hawaii or the states or elsewhere like a crazy volunteership in the Philippines or a “study abroad program” south of Russia like I did—it is no secret that too often our people face unjust discrimination particularly in Guam and Hawaii, and I know this personally.
“If our islands are too small to be seen on a map then make them see you!”
Therefore always keep in mind—whenever you leave this island remember that you are an ambassador of our islands. Represent us. Make a name for us. If our islands are too small to be seen on a map then MAKE them see YOU. Through college, through your jobs, through whatever you end up doing wherever that is—make sure it counts and make sure you are using your opportunities to give people and haters something good to talk about when referencing our great Micronesia. Do that by proving naysayers wrong. Surround yourself with positive influences; friends who are also striving for the best who support you and help you to become the best version of yourself. Continuously strive for the best and set for yourself the standard of nothing but excellence in all aspects of your life.
In the islands even throughout the Pacific a lot of us tend to have a very relaxed outlook on how we approach things. You know what I’m talking about-- That very chill, island fever, “No worries. Eh, it’s good enough. Being 30 mins late is on time,” kind of mindset. That is one of our biggest downfalls. I need you all to eliminate that mindset as you pursue your endeavors. Leave this stage with no expectations of free handouts and easy shortcuts, because the world owes you nothing. If there’s a scholarship you need, guess what? Thousands of other students need it too. There’s a great job that you want? Guess what? There’ll be dozens of others that’ll want it too. You have to be ready to fight for what you want out of life. You are graduating from an excellent school that has equipped you with the tools to do so. So fight. Dare to dream big. Go big or go home. If being ambitious is here, then I want you all to be here.
And along the way remember your motto of togetherness in Christ. “Together you have been friends, together you have special memories, but your togetherness in Christ will keep you going.” There is value in true friendship. In family. In growing through the support of your loved ones. Never take that for granted. Love fiercely. Be different. In the society we live in today where kindness and manners and owning up to your feelings are downplayed as weakness we could use a little more courage of love. Enter the world with a hunger that cannot be satisfied. With fearless drive and conviction. Pursue your path relentlessly with a strong mind and humble heart- keep running, don’t look back, and go out and set the world on fire.
Congratulations graduates.
Thank you.