Commencement Speech – Davess Verdugo

May 13, 2024

To our esteemed Interim-President, board of trustees, faculty, family members, and guests, it is my privilege to welcome you here today. I would like to say a special welcome and thank you to my parents, my three amazing sisters, my grandparents, my great grandma, my many aunts and uncles, my cousins, and everyone who has helped me in this journey. In addition, I would like to thank our amazing cafeteria staff for their kindness and for treating us like family these past four years. I would also like to extend a sincere thanks to Professor Paul Santos, Professor Joseph Ciquera, Professor Scott Grifith, Dr. Mark Rossi, and so many more amazing professors. Without their leadership and the leadership of Briar Cliff University, our hearts and minds would not be where they are today. And of course, most importantly, I would like to welcome the class of 2024! It is my distinguished honor to represent the graduates behind me on this stage. We are here to celebrate the accomplishments of this class, a class that endured many challenges and hardships to get to this point. Whether it was graduating high school during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic or navigating the complexities of two global conflicts, we have persevered through a lot. Through it all, we had the support of the Briar Cliff community with us every step of the way. 

Hope is a word that has many connotations associated with it. When some people hear it they are excited and joyful, others may feel defeated and lost. Whatever your association is with hope, please allow me to illustrate its true meaning to you. Hope is defined as not just an expectation or desire for the future, but a feeling of trust. Think about this, how many times have you hoped for something in your life? I know I have hoped for much and at times seemingly got little. Class of 2024, we all hoped for a good scholarship, we hoped to find friends, we hoped for a passing grade on a test, we hoped to do good at our game, and we hoped to get our degrees. Sometimes when we look at hope as a desire, we forget about the work it took to have this hope in the first place. Hope is a feeling of trust. Let's change the word from hope to trust. You trusted that your high school achievements would get you a good scholarship, you trusted in your personality to find friends, you trusted that you studied well to get a good grade, you trusted that you practiced enough to do well in a game, and you trusted in this university to provide you with a quality degree. Just as we have trusted in Briar Cliff and the community around us, they now turn their trust to us. As graduates, we have the responsibility of hope thrust upon our shoulders. People now look to us as the hope of the future; in other words, they trust us. 

There is good news though, we don’t have to take up the mantle of hope alone. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Hope plays a significant part in our lives. Hope is a good thing, hope has helped shape our future and will continue to be a beacon in dark times. It was once said that men and women are limited not by place of their birth, not by color of their skin, but by the size of their hope. I believe hope and trust sustains us as students and families and creates an optimism that we as graduates need today. Hope is the one human experience we all share, breaking down barriers and uniting people all over the world. Briar Cliff University has prepared us to not only hope, but trust that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves. 

When I turned 22 earlier this year, I was on a mission trip in Tanzania, nearly 9,000 miles away from home. I was sitting down for dinner that night when Professor Berte-Hickie asked me what my favorite experience was from the past 22 years of my life. I started searching the corners of my mind to think of an answer to this pretty hefty question. At first, I couldn’t single out just one experience so Professor Berte-Hickie asked what the first thing that came to mind was when she initially asked the question. I responded: Briar Cliff. It was that night that I truly and sincerely realized just how important this university has been in my life. I honestly don’t know what kind of a man I would be without Briar Cliff. I am certain, ladies and gentlemen, that Briar Cliff has had the same effect on all of you. 

As I close, I wish to thank all of you for this amazing experience, for the hope this school has given me and the hope that the Lord has provided to me. I want to share one final message with you all, this is a blessing from the Book of Numbers and I hope, and trust, that you will take this blessing with you into the next chapter of your lives; “‘The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’  

Thank you. 

Davess Verdugo  

Accounting, Business Administration, and Finance 

La Habra Heights, California