Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

Victoria B. Richardson ’20: 'We Can Do Anything'

May 26, 2022


I originally had a different introduction, but first I want to say, if you're still here, you're a real one and I love you.

It feels super surreal standing in front of you all today. Because it was two years ago that I graduated from Brandeis University. A time where the present held so much uncertainty, it felt impossible to dream of a future. I didn't know where I was going and I definitely didn't know what I was doing. But here we are standing in what was then the future. In that time I managed to get a Masters of Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

I guess now I kind of know where I'm going and what I'm doing, but there are still so many moments of uncertainty. If this experience has taught me anything, it has taught me to focus on the experience that I know without a doubt, the things that I can be certain about. I know without a doubt that there's no other college experience that could have ever come close to a Brandeis experience.

Brandeis, with all of its flaws, has played a crucial role in our development. Here we have some of the most passionate students; students who have put their all into standing in their truth, students who won't hesitate to remind this University how and why it was built. Students who have managed to fit three degrees into four years and are walking out wanting more. That is no coincidence. Brandeis has offered us some of the most dedicated Professors and I cannot thank you all enough, if you're watching this, for being there every step of the way.

I remember my freshman year, Professor Chad Williams assigned us a 15-page paper. I pulled my hair out getting it done and I'm pretty sure I submitted it with tears on the page, but still I got it back with my very first B minus. After that, I swore I would never take another class with Chad Williams again. But my senior year, he mentored me, guided me, and stood by my defense as I successfully defended my senior thesis titled, “For Black Girls Too Fast Too Furious: Black Girlhood & The Carceral Continuum.” That thesis has become the framework for the work that I do every single day. 

For those of you who don't know, I'm a first-year teacher. There have been many times this year where the voices in my head were telling me that I am incapable. You know, imposter syndrome? But the voices that have always been louder are the lingering words of my Brandeis professors and mentors. In those moments, I swear I can hear Professor Derron Wallace telling me I was made for this. I can hear Jamele Adams, the former dean of students telling me, "shine on scholar." Those words have been my anchor through the cloudiest moments. I also know without a doubt that we would not be the people we are today had we not matriculated through this particular university at this particular time. When we chanted, "This is our house" on the first night on campus back in 2016, we had no idea that in a couple of months, for some of us, America would no longer feel like home. But we had to sit with that.

Before our last semester when we sorted through hundreds of course descriptions to pick our very last classes at Brandeis, we had no idea that those classes would totally be transformed in the middle of the semester. But we found a way to adjust to that. Through it all we pushed on so that we can be here today, so that we can go on to become the amazing teachers, grad students, doodlers, artists, entrepreneurs, and doctors that we are and that we are becoming.

Finally, if there's anything that I can be certain about, it is that the Class of 2020, no shade 2021, has some of the most resilient students that this University has ever seen. These last four or five years have taught us the beginning of everything we need to know about weathering storms. Here, we learn to hold lightning as if it were a flashlight. We learn to sit in those moments of discomfort hopefully. That we all leave Brandeis with very different degrees, having walked very different paths, we learn the most important lessons together. Where only some of us can name the formula for elasticity, all of us can show you what resilience looks like and that I am certain. 

I cannot end this speech without giving a special shout-out to first-generation students. To Black and Brown students. To Platinum Step Team. To queer students, to women and to Black women especially, we did all we had to do academically, despite the challenges we face socially, economically, and politically, and we did it all unapologetically. 

To the most resilient class Brandeis University has ever seen, I know this journey has not been easy. But looking back, we know it was so worth it. Please be proud of yourself, keep being passionate, keep standing in your truth, hold it through the lessons this experience has taught you, no matter what twists and turns this life throws at you, remember enjoy the thrill. We graduated during the global pandemic. I think that means we can do anything.  Thank you."

Visit Commencement 2022 for full coverage of Brandeis commencement day for the classes of 2022, 2021 and 2020.