Class Speaker: We must challenge ourselves before we challenge the world.

June 1, 2019


Nana Oteng-Korankye II, Nananom, President of Ashesi, Dr. Patrick Awuah, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen.

Welcome to the making of history.

For over a decade, Ashesi has used the raw material of world-class education, to produce leaders who embody the core principles of scholarship, leadership, and citizenship. Each year, a batch of these leaders are celebrated on commencement day, in recognition of their efforts on the pursuit of academic excellence.

But today, the two-zero-one-nine family and I, are not here just to receive academic accolades, but to be acknowledged for our boldness in being the first-ever graduating class of Ashesi engineering students, the first class of graduands to experience commencement day at Ashesi’s state-of-the-art sports center, the first and best Foundations of Design and Entrepreneurship students, and the first to ever throw ourselves a class party and not show up.

It is our pleasure to welcome you to the presence of pioneers. My name is Jean Nii Odarteye Quarcoopome, and I am humbled to be the voice of my family, the Class of 2019.

When we first started out on this ethical and entrepreneurial leadership journey, we were naive, confused, and the guys were mostly beardless. Along the way we failed, we fell, we feared, that maybe this day wouldn’t come. But each time, in the moments when there was nothing left to hold onto, we held onto each other, and together, we made it. That is our story.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” These words, borrowed from Johann Wolfgang van Goethe, are usually quoted to throw a challenge to graduands and continuing students alike. Today, however, on behalf of the pioneering Class of 2019, I take an unconventional approach, by highlighting four words from the quote: genius, power, magic, and boldness. These four words do justice to telling the story of the Class of 2019, while properly appreciating key stakeholders that contributed to the making of our story.

And so our story begins. As Papa T would ask before a deadly quiz: “Are you in the mood?”

Let’s begin with genius. On every step of this journey, we have sat under the tutelage of professors, who have shown us what genius is made of. It is a matter of fact, that our faculty have intellectual talents, that reach beyond the scope of any syllabus or course content. But the most interesting aspect of their genius is their commitment to putting us in groups for everything, except quizzes and final exams. Working with each other was one of the hardest things we had to do, especially when some of us, would only contribute by compiling the work of others or taking the last slide of the presentation only to say “yeah, so, they’ve said it all, need I say more?”

In hindsight, we appreciate how our faculty designed these group projects, to teach us the power of collaboration. Given the sad truth, that our generation places no value on the sharing of ideas or opportunities with each other, our faculty did more than teach us a valuable life lesson. They made us better people. That is genius.

So to our faculty, we say thank you, for shaping and sharing our story of togetherness. You stretched us! But the beauty of this moment proves it was all worth it.

Our story continues with power. And here, I’d like to talk about family. One of the most beautiful things about our class story is how we turned friends into family. In the time we have spent together at Ashesi, we have grown attached to each other. Roommates cherished each other like brothers, and best friends found beauty in being sisters. Some attachments even flourished into relationships, proving that our togetherness, was strong enough to lead us into love. That’s powerful.

The real power, however, belongs to the families, who helped us to create our own. Today, we celebrate our parents, guardians, and siblings, who embarked on this journey with us. The powers of their support, guidance and their prayers, were the blessings that sustained us and made it possible for us to stay part of the Ashesi community. To our families, we hope you are proud of who we have become today, and we promise to spend the rest of our lives, using all we’ve learned to honor you.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it”. Our story of togetherness has thus far has spanned two chapters: first, the genius of our faculty who trained us, and second, the power of support from our families. This third chapter is about magic.

In many ways, Ashesi is a different world. A place where anything is possible, as long as you are prepared to work hard for it. There is a magic here, that turns the wildest dreams into realities. A magic that first began when Patrick’s dream to transform our continent one student at a time, became a reality called Ashesi. Since then, that magic has attracted donors, strategic partners, members of staff, and students, who have written their own story of togetherness, by joining the Ashesi family. Today, these stakeholders continue to pass on the magic of turning dreams into realities.

My two-zero-one-nine family and I, know all about the magic of crazy dreams becoming realities. Our story of togetherness has made it possible for us to support each other entrepreneurially, no matter how wild the dream. Today, we shine a spotlight on classmates like Ezekiel Hormeku, a member of the pioneering engineering class, who now owns one of Ghana’s most exclusive menswear brands, and David Boanuh, an Information Systems major, who is telling beautiful stories of Africa, through filmmaking. We also recognize Victor Hazel’s Hilltop Radio, Eugene Jamu’s Netro Electronics, Isatou Jallow’s She’s The First Initiative, Gladys Ainoo’s and Maame Efua Haizel’s Milky Mountain (and your class speaker’s advertising agency, Hashtag Africa). Each of these dreams now exist as realities, thanks to the magic of Ashesi; a world where hard work meets opportunity, to make the impossible possible. To the donors, partners, and staff of Ashesi, and to Dr. Awuah, we are grateful to you, for creating the perfect setting where our story could come to life.

Nana Oteng-Korankye II, Nananom, President of Ashesi, Dr. Patrick Awuah, Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen.

We are in the endgame now, and our story has reached its final chapter. It’s time to talk about boldness. Truly, we have made history. Our pioneering spirit has made us the first batch of engineering students to ever graduate from Ashesi, and the first class to break ground at Ashesi’s ultramodern sports center, in celebration of commencement day. But the history we are making today is reminiscent of the history that was made 14 years ago. In December 2005, Ashesi celebrated the graduation of its first batch of students. These were the original pioneers, the risk-takers, the crazy ones, who were bold enough to set a remarkable precedent and pave the way, in hopes that a class like ours would become the pioneers of our time. And we did.

For some of us, when our story of togetherness first began, the only boldness we had, was in being the first group to present in Nepeti’s FDE class or coming to class 5 minutes after the class starts. For others, boldness became choosing the Operations Management exam question, which required you to draw a whole house of quality. Today, as we celebrate the end of a rewarding journey, we must see boldness differently. From now on, boldness should no longer be about doing what no one else could ever do, but about doing what you thought you never could. It is no longer enough to be different, we must be inwardly transformational, and challenge ourselves before we challenge the world. If this continent is going to feel the shake of our step, then we must step out of our comfort zones and become agents of a new kind of boldness. And we must do so the same way we have done everything: together.

Class of 2019, it has been an honor to have been chosen to tell our story of togetherness to the world today. Without a doubt, our boldness carries all the genius, power and magic that is needed to transform our continent. So whatever we can do, or dream we can, let us begin it together. Thank you.

Share this story