This marks my last week of classes at USC. In two weeks I will officially be graduating from my favorite place. It is hard to believe I am about to be an alumnus without going through the incredible last two months of senior year, including an in-person ceremony surrounded by friends and family. We, the Class of 2020, have suddenly been forced from our housing, forced to leave our friends and separate ourselves from everybody, forced to take virtual classes, forced to adjust to a drastic reality that seems to throw something new at us each day. It has been an incredible last two months, but in a different way entirely.
This past Wednesday coincided my final course with our new president Carol Folt’s first “State of USC.” I was moved by her words about the optimism, brilliance, drive to push through hardships and create new things from scratch, care and ingenuity of our community. We will push through the awful disruption and distressing effects of the coronavirus, too. I’ve seen persistence and cleverness and wit beyond measure up close every day for the last four years. USC, like so many places of higher education, will return next fall and continue providing thousands with a transformative experience. Whether that is physically on campus, online, or through a hybrid educational experience is yet to be decided, but what will no doubt remain is the mission of so many dedicated faculty and staff whose primary goal is to educate the next generation.
At USC, I learned something new inside and outside of the classroom every day. I was fortunate enough to take classes in cinematic arts at the world’s best film school, in journalism and media at the world’s top communications school, in international relations from the world’s top diplomats and leaders, learn leadership and the art of politics from a former UK prime minister, in power and philosophy from the leading thinkers of our time, in economics from renowned scholars, in business and strategy and negotiation from executives across different fields, on Ancient Greece and Rome and antiquity from prominent historians, and in the Netherlands. Since I first stepped on campus, I’ve conversed and laughed and commiserated and learned from and held my own with activists, actors, artists, athletes, authors, celebrities, community and nonprofit leaders, directors, executives, filmmakers, founders, generals, inventors, musicians, philanthropists, politicians, professors, scientists, thinkers, world shapers, and writers.
My time at USC and in Los Angeles has been transformative. Over my four years in LA I discovered how to play the piano, worked my way up to be coxswain of the top USC Men’s Crew boat, started an entirely new space club with total strangers at the time who became some of my closest friends, joined a fraternity and other communities of the most engaging and brilliant people, took on several leadership roles in a variety of student clubs, helped transform religious organizations like Hillel and Chabad, lived in a brand-new building as one of its first residents, saw a solar eclipse, spoke on live television, raised tens of thousands of dollars for organizations and causes near to my heart, assisted with the victory of a presidential ticket through a hard-fought campaign and that will no doubt shape my university for years to come, walked the red carpet of a huge movie premiere next to the director, led talks with some of the world’s most intriguing people, found new art and movies and music and restaurants and expanded my creative and food palate, wrote essays and papers on deadline, partied and talked and enjoyed life with friends and strangers alike late into the night, walked and ran and swam and hiked and drove across all of Los Angeles and its magical scenery, experienced the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises and views, discussed the future of the world and game-changing breakthroughs with the people at the vanguards of science and space exploration and media and entertainment and technology, watched thrilling and unforgettable sporting events, attended some of the coolest entertainment events, have seen up-and-coming and world-famous musicians perform live, planned large-scale and intimate programming for clubs and societies, recruited and worked with people to develop new initiatives across the USC community, took trips to explore the world thanks to and with my incredible USC family — and had magnificent fun throughout my four years.
In coming to USC, I expected to take courses, enjoy Los Angeles, join a fraternity, study abroad, live on my own, meet and care for new people, struggle through challenges and difficult relationships, and expand my worldview. I’ve done that in spades.
I never imagined I’d be at USC during some of its most somber or heavy or challenging times. My experience at USC has been far from perfect. LA is known for pristine weather and sunshine, but there are rainy days too, which tend to wreak havoc on the community. In the span of my four years, we have had three presidents. Several deans exited after shocking sins and under clouds of immorality. Friends were among several dozen women sexually assaulted by George Tyndall; when that scandal broke it horrified me and all those concerned with the physical and mental well-being of students on campus, in particular of young women. The Varsity Blues college admissions scandal involved numerous students, administrators, and so-called leaders at USC, bringing shame and chagrin and disgust to all of us used to shouting from the mountaintops that we are proud Trojans.
Not only was the university affected by nerve-wracking times, I was personally as well. From huddling behind the stacks in the USC bookstore during a day where we heard a shooter was on campus, to getting robbed and losing a most valuable possession, I never expected to experience such chilling nerves and fear. I never imagined I would leave USC so suddenly because of decisions made in the wake of COVID-19, care for people in times of unimaginable pain, or grieve for friends and loved ones gone far too soon. Those moments transformed me; they sobered me. In times of tragedy, when we feel alone or angry or confused or hurt or upset, it’s essential to band together and to have people who care for you.
These have been the most formative years of my life so far. As a freshman, I came to USC relatively insulated, with a small group of close friends. I’m proud to have those close friends from home still beside me, along with innumerable friends I met at USC and shared absolutely incredible experiences with.
My friends at USC have shaped me in immeasurable ways. They have consistently helped me through hardship, opened my eyes to new things and experiences, showed me their cultures, confidently shared their new ideas and creations from music to film to businesses with me, leaned on me for advice and support and feedback and humor and love, welcomed me into their homes, traveled with me around the world, dropped everything for me when I needed to vent or a shoulder to cry on. We studied together for exams during late nights at the library or in our rooms, practiced presentations at all hours, explored all parts of Los Angeles and Southern California, watched shows and concerts and games together, brought new ideas to fruition and molded them into full-fledged clubs, programs and business ideas. They’ve made me cry with laughter, whether on stage at improv or comedy shows or just us goofing off on a random day. My friends have been right there to celebrate with me when we have achieved groundbreaking things. They have inspired me with their unreal passion, creativity, dedication and accomplishments. They have been and will continue to be a tremendous source of joy for which I am eternally grateful.
To USC, my friends and nearly everyone I have met at this incredible school: I love you and I thank you. From joining in 2016 to leaving in 2020, my college journey has been far from ordinary — I’m overjoyed in saying it has been extraordinary. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now let’s go create solutions to the challenges that plague our world and threaten individuals. Let’s go create communities and families that bring us personal meaning and fulfillment. Let’s go create art, music, and athletic excellence that reaches people in their core. Let’s go create businesses, products, organizations, research and scientific breakthroughs that boost our world. Let’s go achieve our dreams.
Fight On, forever!