The graduation speech that never was

Even with a virtual ceremony, I didn’t want this to go to waste


Editor’s note: This was the speech I planned to submit to the College of Arts and Sciences’ student speaker contest before UB moved commencement to a virtual ceremony. While it wasn’t guaranteed that I would’ve read this aloud in Alumni Arena, I still hoped that my submission would’ve made the cut. So did the others who submitted speeches. So here’s something I put my heart into and, unfortunately, may not have the opportunity to read unless we have an in-person celebration later in the year. Fingers crossed. 

This isn’t a valedictorian speech. This isn’t a 4.0 flex. Instead, I want to talk about the balancing act we’ve done over the last four years –– and specifically, the last several months –– to arrive at this day. 

Some of you may remember me as Brent, the bleach-blonde freshman who, at my first chance of financial freedom, dropped $700 to meet Ariana Grande at her Buffalo show in 2016.  Others may remember me as the sophomore who ruined your group project by skipping class to prepare for a phone interview with Billie Eilish. Others may know me as the junior who made Vice President Joe Biden late for his 2018 speech, after our interview lasted 20 minutes too long. He wouldn’t stop talking. 

But today, I stand here as a graduating senior, as the outgoing editor-in-chief of The Spectrum, your independent student publication, which we had to move entirely online as our classes did the same in March.

I’ve changed tremendously in these four years. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made many mistakes. I’m sure you have, too. 

But I’m most proud of the vision I came here with. For me, the vision was to become a music journalist. I imagined myself writing for Billboard, grabbing coffee with my favorite pop stars and sharing my words with the world.  

It was a big dream, I know. 

And to achieve it, I promised myself in 2016 that I’d stay with The Spectrum –– the thing I loved most on this campus –– even when we had to leave prematurely. I kept inspiring my staff. I kept trying to answer your questions, especially those about the status of this very ceremony.  

I still loved my job remotely. And I hope you found something you loved at UB, too.

Maybe for you it was the Student Association, Greek Life, Athletics. Maybe you found a best friend or a life partner or a career.

For most of us, these connections got abruptly cut off in March, way before we were ready to say “goodbye.” 

And, while UB may no longer have been our home, we still brought it home. We joked with our professors over Zoom. We submitted assignments, mostly right on deadline, on UBLearns. Thankfully, we never had to worry about parking again. 

My journey may be different than yours, but there’s no such thing as a traditional UB experience. 

Especially for the class of 2020.

We all leave here today –– officially, this time –– with a sense of closure, of knowing we overcame the most challenging year in our school’s history. 

Whether it was in the classroom, in the newsroom, or at home, we followed our visions even after having to leave it all, just to call ourselves UB graduates.

And no other class can say the same.

To my peers, congratulations. 

To our families, we thank you endlessly.

And to UB –– as my old friend once said –– “Thank U, Next.”

Brenton J. Blanchet is the current editor-in-chief and can be reached at brenton.blanchet@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @BrentonBlanchet. 

BRENTON J. BLANCHET



Brenton J. Blanchet is the 2019-20 editor-in-chief of The Spectrum. His work has appeared in Billboard, Clash Magazine, DJBooth, PopCrush, The Face and more. Ask him about Mariah Carey.