Design Management’s Yeon Jee Powerful Commencement Speech Unveiled an Invisible Truth and Received Roars of Praise at the Graduation Ceremony
Read/listen to Yeon’s a sensitive and symbolic story!
Welcome graduating class of 2019 and to family, friends, faculty, and staff who are here today!
This will be my second time walking across this stage. I studied and completed both my undergraduate and graduate degree at Pratt Institute. Ten years ago in May, I received my bachelor’s degree on this stage and went on to have a successful career. However, along my journey, I had a temporary setback, which could have easily stifled my progress and my hope. Today I am in a secure position to share the story. And I am glad I can share it with you.
Just like today, we wore caps and gowns for my undergrad graduation. The colorful outfits, and the uniqueness of each student was, for a period of time, eclipsed by oversized black cloaks. We were all camouflaged, standing together in our accomplishment. But for me, once the ceremony was over, the black gown would lose its opacity, and I would simply…disappear. Like, Harry Potter in his invisibility cloak, no one would see me. Because outside Pratt, I was considered an undocumented alien at the time.
I was seventeen when I found out that I may not go to college. Not because I did poorly in school. Not because I didn’t finish my chores. But because I was Undocumented. I was too young to take responsibility. Who was to blame anyway? All I knew was that I had a challenge to work with, and around. It kept me scared. It made me feel alone.
But this college gave me an opportunity. Pratt looked beyond my invisibility and handed me a valid student ID. They would go on to teach me how to see, so that I could be seen.
Today, I no longer have this problem and I look forward to the future. Starting this summer, I will be teaching at Pratt in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. Once again, Pratt has made me feel seen.
It seems that the obstacles we face in life are just oversized enough to swallow the good things such as talent, passion, and all the beauty in the world underneath a thick cloak—making them invisible.
As designers and artists, we are able to look beyond the veiled. It’s something we are good at. I am here to tell you—fellow designers and artists, within you lies the power to recognize, and the power to reveal to others what they are missing.
I stand before you today, having been recognized for my strengths and abilities, RATHER than my status.
To the graduating class of 2019,
LET’S CONTINUE TO REVEAL AND UNCOVER, AND IN TURN, INSPIRE.