The 2020 Commencement Oration by Curran Seth

WHAT IS BERKELEY: Curran Seth ’20 calls the class of 2020 not a grade, but a community and a family. (Photo by Rachel Mintz)

First and foremost, I would like to say congratulations. Congratulations to my peers who have achieved so much to be sitting here today, congratulations to the wonderful and knowledgeable faculty and staff who prepared us for this day, and congratulations to the long-suffering parents accompanying the young adults of this graduating class. You finally got us out of your hair, and we are decisively heading out on our own. Feels good doesn’t it? Maybe a little bittersweet, but remember that on the underside of the coin that represents your anxiety, apprehension and heartache, on the underside there is courage, accomplishment and determination. I would also like to thank all of you in the audience of this commencement today. I wish to thank my peers for your friendship and the experiences you have given me, to thank my teachers for the guidance I undoubtedly needed and to thank my family for the support that shaped me into the person I am today. It is because of all of you that I have been excitedly and impatiently preparing this speech to express my gratitude, and share what I have learned.


I will admit that the process of developing this speech was a little different than expected. I could not have possibly considered that I would have been writing this from the confines of my bedroom having not seen many of you in months due to a nationwide pandemic. But hey, I guess it happens. Life is truly unpredictable, and that is something I have begun to learn. And in a strangely poetic way, this lesson on unpredictability is amazingly intertwined with the sentiment I have been waiting to share with you all these past years: unpredictability does not equate to hopelessness. You all are about to face a hailstorm of unpredictability: college, “adulting”, making your own dinner, doing laundry? I don’t even know what detergent to use. I actually don’t know exactly what detergent is, just some colorful syrup I pour in the machine, how is that different from soap? Is it just soap? I don’t know anything, but I do know the life ahead of us is unpredictable. Does that frighten you? Maybe it should, unpredictable things are scary, but here’s the thing: overcoming fear is not about being unafraid, overcoming fear is about feeling fearful but deciding that what you want to accomplish is far more important and so you start to accomplish that goal.  Looking out at each and every one of you, I am reminded of the intelligence and talent each of you possess. Enough intelligence and talent for any of you to take over the world. And the only thing seemingly standing in your way? The unpredictability of life. I want you to discover that life’s unpredictability will never slow you down. Barrel forward into that unpredictability, overcome your fear, your apprehension, and I truly believe nothing else will ever stop you. 


“It is not about whether or not I can, I am doing this because I want to, and if I die trying, I die.” This is a quote by my favorite author, Eiichiro Oda. The will to succeed, the will to overcome, can always surpass any unpredictability or adversity you face in your life. That may sound naive, but I believe it’s true. In the face of any issue, no matter how big or small, your will can carry you forward. Nothing will truly defeat you unless you yourself decide to surrender. Naive, cliched, yes, I am aware of how I sound, but who cares? I will never give up. Not anymore. Even in my relatively short life, there have been countless occasions when things felt like they were too much, like nothing was going the way I wanted, like the unpredictability of life had finally overwhelmed me. And in those times, I gave up. I gave up and simply felt angry at everything else, pitying myself for the misfortune I was experiencing. It took me forever before I realized that giving up was my decision. That everything that was happening was simply unbiased reality, and it was me who let my experiences defeat me. Within me, I still had the will to continue, to fight, to succeed, but it was me who was the one who decided to throw it all away. Now, I will cling to that will until my last days, because no one can take it away from me. The same is true for all of you. You are only gathered here today because you clung to that will. And now I ask you to never loosen your grip. As you continue into this next chapter of your life, and the chapter that follows, even if the writing on the next page terrifies you, keep reading that book of life.


Class of 2020, we did it. In the face of it all we did it. And just knowing that all of you were able to receive this honor today, fills me with the confidence that no matter the circumstances your will to succeed will never escape you. Again, thank you all for being here. And one final time, Class of 2020, congratulations and Go Bucs!