Every year on the 6th of July, nearly 200,000 students turn their attention to the IB to consider how their IB diploma results will influence their futures. This year is unlike any other year in the 52-year history of the IB. We called upon Victor Scotti, Jr. a 2009 graduate of Morgan Park High School in Chicago, IL, to reflect on the IB experience and encourage students to hone their skills to build a better and more peaceful world.
“I would offer that you consider the following intentions, those of faith, hope, joy and love. Faith, because no matter how challenging or unprecedented things may seem, change is always on the horizon”
Hi everyone. I’m Victor Anthony Scotti Jr., a 2009 IB alum from Morgan Park High School on the South Side of Chicago. I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where I studied sociology, urban education and Africana studies. I now work at Google in my hometown of Chicago as a human resources and diversity equity and inclusion leader within Google’s fastest growing business, Google Cloud. I want to begin by sharing my heartfelt congratulations on all of your success to date. IB is a tough programme and you made it through the journey, one that I remember well, and I think that that is something to be extremely proud of.
I think IB was the best preparation that I could have gotten before heading to the University of Pennsylvania and into, “the real world”, as they say. I remember my IB results day very well. It seemed like right when I settled down from course finals, IB tests, graduation festivities and really nestled into the summer, those IB test results were looming. When I checked my results, I found that I did not receive the IB diploma. To be honest, my first reaction was embarrassment. I was the valedictorian of my class. I actually have the right number of points, but they weren’t in the proper standard-level and higher-level split.
I felt that everyone expected me to get the diploma, but I didn’t. And like some things in life, there was nothing else to do but to simply sit in that discomfort. So, for those who earned the IB diploma today, I wish you my sincerest congratulations. You’ve worked hard, and you earned it. And for those, like me, who do not receive the diploma and might be disappointed, know that your accomplishments are no way diminished. It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling today and perhaps for days to come. Know that this too shall pass.
“You are equipped with the skills, the agency and the power to be as successful as you desire.”
I want to offer a few intentions for you as you move towards your next steps post IB. This won’t be your typical graduation season message, and that’s because the things that I would normally share, the truths that thought I would know about the world you’re entering into, are simply no longer true. We aren’t in typical times. In fact, you are graduating during one of the most unpredictable times the world has ever seen. And there’s a lot of loss: loss of lives, loss of experiences and loss of our typical ways of living. But what this also means is that there is lots and lots of opportunity.
Opportunity to create what our new world will look like, opportunity for you to make an indelible impact on this new world and opportunity for you to blaze trails that literally aren’t even created yet. And in order to do this, I would offer that you consider the following intentions, those of faith, hope, joy and love. Faith, because no matter how challenging or unprecedented things may seem, change is always on the horizon. Audrey Lord says, “change means growth and growth can be painful”.
Our world is in literal and figurative pain right now, but never stop trusting, never stopped believing in humanity. And that inherent voice of the genuine that exists in all of us, as Howard Thurman says, “that voice that longs for justice and for equity”. For some, faith may come from God and for others, it may not. But whatever fuels your belief in yourself, your faith in yourself and in our world, hold it close.
Hope, because you must never stop envisioning the possibilities of your future, and it must not be confused with optimism.
Hope recognizes where you are, where we are, right now and has the power and the ability to envision something different. Hope is what got Black folks all over the globe through the horrors of chattel slavery. It was hope that sustained the Jews through a genocide that we call the Holocaust. And it is hope that will propel you forward in your life no matter what obstacles come your way.
“[There is] opportunity to create what our new world will look like, opportunity for you to make an indelible impact on this new world and opportunity for you to blaze trails that literally aren’t even created yet.”
Love, because your relationship with yourself is the most important one that you will ever have. Love the totality of yourself, the experiences that made you who you are, the people you have met along the way, the privilege that you have and those things beyond your control that seem to work against you. Love those things too. Love, because the more you put love out into the world, the more it comes back to you. Love, because to love, is to heal. As bell hooks says, “it is both an intention and an action”. It is the investment in your own and others’ spiritual growth. Love yourselves and love one another.
Joy, because life is meant to be lived. Have fun and laugh. And by the way, no one needs to tell me twice to laugh! Dig deep to discover those things that make you smile, those things that you find satisfaction in going after. Remember that the world didn’t give you your joy, so nothing, nothing in the world can take it away. Your joy comes from intrinsically understanding who you are and what you have to offer to the world.
So, no matter what your vocation or where life takes you, I implore you to let faith, to let love, to let hope and to let joy be your intentions as you venture into the world. Know and own that your IB education is a privilege and an unshakable foundation upon which your responsibility to do your part in this world stands. With great privilege comes great responsibility, so I want you to use your privilege for good.
You are the leaders. You are the dreamers. You are the doers that will push our world and our society forward. It is not enough. It is not enough simply to be in this world and only worry about your small sphere. For me, I’ll share with you, that starts with seeing people. I wholly believe in what Oprah says about the most powerful thing you can do for a person is to see them. And I know all too well how challenging it remains for Black folks across the world and across the diaspora to be seen, and for us to be valued as our full unapologetic selves, and the spaces that we navigate and add value and magic to on a daily basis.
This is why I’ve dedicated my career to giving voice to the experience of both being highly visible and hauntingly invisible, to always be in negotiation, to navigate the DuBoisian idea of twoness at each and every turn. It’s hard work, personally and professionally, but there’s no work that is more fulfilling to me. This is what I am on this earth at this time to do. So, how will you contribute to creating a more diverse, a more equitable and a more inclusive society? That is my question to you.
Again, my sincerest congratulations on completing your journey through this rigorous, challenging IB programme.
You are now among the ranks of folks, worldwide, who know how to critically think and how to understand from a global perspective. You are equipped with the skills, the agency and the power to be as successful as you desire. My hope for you is that within that power and within that agency, you include faith, you include hope, you include love and you include joy. I sincerely applaud you, and I’m wishing you the best in your future endeavors. Thank you. And best of luck.
Victor Scotti, Jr. is a graduate of Morgan Park High School in Chicago, IL. He continued his studies at The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. He has been working on education equity and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at Google since 2013. He is the Founder & President of the Scotti Scholarship Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit scholarship fund for deserving Black undergraduate students in the United States. Victor is also a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
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