Delivered May 25, 2022
Congratulations to the University of King’s College Class of 2022.
I have tried to think of every way to state the enormity and weight of what has occurred in the last two years and how it impacts the ability to exist, let alone succeed and thrive. I tried poetic language, making a joke, being matter of fact. The truth is, there are no words and no way I can encompass what the states and crises of the world have looked like in your time as students. I will simply say, you did it. You did it and I am so proud of you.
A big part of my role is to hear about people’s bad days, and it is so amazing to be here with you all on a really great day.
I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of the people here who made getting through a harrowing set of years not just possible but, at times, a joy. In my role as SHSO I don’t just support people, I support people who are supporting others. I have seen how family, friends, faculty, and staff have collaborated to make arriving here at this celebration possible. Thank you.
I am thrilled to be honourary grad class president.
I’ve had an affiliation with King’s since I started my degree at Dal (sorry) in 2004.
It started with the epic Halloween parties in the Wardroom, then working with societies like CKDU 88.1fm and the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group. In 2008 I hosted the King’s Pride Drag Show. In a previous life when I performed as DJ Denim Vest, I DJ’d sex toy, debt drop and Motown parties in the Wardy and even the 2015 Orientation Week party from the library steps. My four year old, Rupert, had also gotten into the King’s spirit. He went to a King’s Pride screening of But I’m a Cheerleader at 10 months old, because you have to start them on the classics early.
Fifteen years on the periphery of King’s before joining as Sexual Health and Safety Officer in 2019. In those 15 years, and the three since, I have always been in awe and intrigued by this unique and wonderful community. Community you have shaped for the last four years. I wondered many times what it would have been like if I had taken the plunge for FYP. To be here as an honorary member of the King’s graduating Class of 2022 is truly a dream come true.
Becoming SHSO and finally landing a home in this community has been a huge shift in not only the work I do, but how and with whom I do it. Before King’s I worked in the non-profit sector, supporting survivors and helping people navigate systems. It was a lot of repetition, helping people around the same barriers over and over, and a lot of crises. Coming to King’s was like a breath of fresh air, walking away from the often-unchanging nature of harsh social systems and into the vibrancy of a living campus community, with a very active student body. Where change was not only possible but happening all the time.
I was no longer a service provider, but a part of a community coming together to learn, teach, support, live, work, and play. King’s is undergoing a culture shift. I can’t say when that shift started, because those moments are often imperceivable and it happened before I arrived. You were here before I arrived. Building upon and laying foundations for a campus where harm can be prevented, and well-supported when it occurs.
The SHSO role is dependent on others. No one person, position, or policy can shift a culture. This is the shared responsibility of a community. Community is flawed, community is messy. Community means believing that a place and a group can be better, can be different, than what you are seeing and sticking around to see it through. It’s a kind of hope, which is a difficult thing to find sometimes these days. Thank you for the gift of that hope. Thanks for sticking around.
When helping me prepare for this speech Bill shared that Neil Robertson once spoke at a President’s dinner and meditated on the Odyssey and its theme of a journey. When I was writing for tonight and thinking about inspirations for speaking to graduates about the trials they endure on the road to cap and gown I kept thinking about a great work in the canon that often speaks to me. I am of course talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
As the Sunnydale High Class of ‘99 celebrates, graduating students take a rare notice of Buffy Summers and write in a new award for her to receive: Class Protector. They award her a golden umbrella saying, “Whenever there was a problem or something creepy happened, you seemed to show up and stop it. Most of the people here have been saved by you or helped by you at one time or another.”
I would like to extend a golden umbrella to the King’s Class of 2022. You are the last class to not have an SHSO for your first year. In a couple of years, the grad class will say the same for an equity officer. How many of you have occupied that role for your friends? When there was a problem, you showed up. You helped and saved each other countless times. Your care, advocacy, influence, and work has been part of creating a legacy, of holding an umbrella. As you step away from King’s and onto the next adventure, I want to assure you that King’s will work to keep that umbrella open and expanding for students to come.
You are going to do amazing things and the most amazing thing of all is to care for others. Thank you to our class protectors. Congratulations.