Ursuline News

Graduation 2020: Valedictorian and Salutatorian Speeches

Read excerpts of the speeches given by Valedictorian Silvia Lourdes Vazquez and Salutatorian Sarah Anne Visokay at the Graduation Ceremony for the Class of 2020 on June 28, 2020.

These excerpts will also appear in The Texas Catholic.

Excerpts from Silvia Lourdes Vazquez's Valedictory Address

This morning is a blessing to share together. As we remember our class, we embrace our abilities and possibilities. Each of the 209 young women we celebrate today has her own story in a plaid skirt and pair of saddle shoes filled with trials and triumphs. The beauty of this distinction between us lies in the element of unity we each added to this community. And ultimately, those unique souls we met and grew with along the way guided us toward our values, vision, and voice. 

During our time at Ursuline, we discovered and cultivated our interests. We exceled in art, athletics, music, theater, and academics. From the eager freshmen who signed up for a dozen clubs to the clubs we started, led, or vowed never to miss by senior year, we all took risks, exploring to find our niche. 

Our teachers, administration, and staff prudently advanced and encouraged our endeavors. In addition to their assignments and advice, they introduced us to opportunities while challenging us to cherish curiosity. Not only did we learn to question assumptions but to listen to perspectives and to reflect on ideas as we developed our own understanding. They were with us through our strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, they never stopped believing in us. 

As we found power in the female voice, our classmates—our sisters—supported us. We laughed with each other even when we were stressed about balancing our workload and extracurriculars after a late night and, perhaps, too much caffeine. In our class GroupMe, we sent thoughtful messages at all hours. We labored over preparations for Intramurals, every year with somehow more drive and creativity. On class retreats, we intertwined meaningful discussions with prayer. 

Amid this pandemic of recent months, it’s tempting to focus on all we missed: those precious senior traditions and moments walking the halls with each other. Of course, it’s natural to recognize this loss and wonder why this worldwide disruption happened upon us at this time. What takes fortitude is the way we persevered with diligence and grace. This year ended in a way none of us desired, yet looking back on our high school experience, we genuinely have innumerable reasons to find gratitude. As we depart Ursuline for different colleges, we bring with us the assurance that this current social distancing has taught us ways to be present with one another even while far apart. Enriched by the diverse personalities on this stage, after all, we made lasting friendships and memories. 

Class of 2020, we form part of a legacy rooted in solidarity. The Ursuline sister schools we welcomed and some of us visited around the world, and the generations of graduates who curtseyed in this circle before us remain a testament to this connection. Because of the commitment to empowerment of the six Ursuline sisters who founded this school in 1874, we gather here now, humbled by selflessness, gifted with talent, and propelled by passion. Without a doubt, every one of us will continue to accomplish remarkable feats through our dedication and imagination.

In striving for our individual goals, let us hold on to the words of St. Angela urging us to “build community wherever [we] go.” Dear fellow graduates, let us catalyze justice and carry empathy beyond this campus in the spirit of Serviam. Let us build on our leadership, creating change and promoting inclusivity. Let us be proactive in an often reactive world. Let us find inspiration in our faith in God. 

I want to leave you with the insightful words of Pope Francis: “The future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us.’ We all need each other.”

Class of 2020, all the contributions and sacrifices that we make out of a higher calling or virtue leave an enduring mark. With love, we thank today all those whose lives touched our own: our parents, our families, our friends, the Ursuline faculty and staff, and our sisterhood. Our journey is on a continuum among a collective effort, and the value of our confidence and conviction is the opportunity to give back to the community. Congratulations! 

Excerpts from Sarah Anne Visokay's Salutatory Address

Needless to say, 2020 has been an unbelievable, crazy year, one that has sadly cut our senior year short. As a result, some people around the world have begun to refer to the class of 2020 as “the Coronavirus class,” “the Covid class,” and “the cursed class.” While I applaud the creativity in the alliteration, I hope that these titles do not catch on, as I am certain that our Ursuline class of 2020 should be remembered for so much more than just the Coronavirus. Therefore, I believe that I owe it to these 209 women sitting next to me to use the next couple of minutes to share five things, other than the Coronavirus, that make the Ursuline class of 2020 unique.  

Number one: We are the proud winners of Ursuline’s first ever fire drill competition. Although seemingly silly, this victory was an important chapter in our class’s story, as it was the first of many demonstrations of unity that characterize our grade. When we were freshmen, we might not have known the names of everyone in our class, but as we celebrated our first fire drill victory in class meeting, we all experienced the same joy and pride in our class, and thus felt immediately more unified with each other. 

Number two: We are that class that passionately believes that grass is a legitimate Intramurals theme. Although some might have grown tired of our “grass is a theme” chants, I hope that they will remember the unity and passion of our class each time that they hear this phrase. 

Number three: We are the class that bought a pet for our senior closet. Although purchased on a whim, Thor the fish was loved and cared for by many. Like responsible adults, we made a feeding chart for Thor and scheduled proper tank cleanings, thus proving that we are ready for the responsibility of adulthood. 

Number four: Instead of sitting back and relaxing during our days off after the tornado came through Dallas last fall, we stepped up to help our community, just as the founding Ursuline sisters stepped up to provide necessary female education in the Dallas community 150 years ago. Numerous Ursuline girls sent out locations and times to help, and, without hesitation, my classmates showed up, saws, shovels, and water bottles in hand. Then, once we were back on campus, one of our fellow classmates suggested that we give a portion of our Snowball dance money to aid in tornado relief. Instead of politely saying “that’s a good idea, but let’s keep brainstorming,” our grade wholeheartedly agreed, and gave $2500 to the Thomas Jefferson High School prom fund. Actions speak louder than words, so I am stating the obvious when I tell you that these girls sitting next to me have the biggest hearts, the most compassionate spirits, and are true models of Serviam. 

Number five: We are the class that found ways to give, even though the pandemic took so much from us. Our class quickly found that we did not need a physical building to remain connected and supportive of each other. During the past few months, we prayed for our friends’ loved ones impacted by the virus; we emailed in pictures of our cut up skirts from home; we sent our favorite videos and photos with our teachers to Catherine Taylor, who put together a heartfelt thank you video for the Ursuline faculty; Claire Weber even ordered a map and signed the college board each week for those who never got the chance to do so on campus. The fact that my classmates took strides to remain connected during this difficult time, perfectly demonstrates how tightknit we have all become over the past four years. Ladies, as we depart from Ursuline, take comfort in knowing that you will always have a loving group of sisters here to support you.   

Now, I know that the names “fire drill winners,” “’grass is a theme’ chanters,” “pet caretakers,” “tornado relief helpers,” and “ever-connected friends” do not roll off the tongue quite as easily as “Covid class,” but I believe that these titles encapsulate our class’s essence of unity, passion, and heart far better. I hope that the Ursuline class of 2020 will be remembered for these funny, spirited, and compassionate things that we did do, not for the things that we did not get to do. Thank you.