Unique times call for unique ways of conducting traditional ceremonies.
And maybe there were no two people better to fill the duties of giving a commencement speech in 2020 than members of a family who have overcome sizable obstacles to reach significant heights in their profession — Seahawks Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin.
The twins delivered a roughly eight-minute virtual commencement address Saturday to the graduating class at Central Florida in Orlando, Florida, their alma mater. They graduated from UCF in 2016 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Human Communication.
Dressed in “half suits” bearing UCF colors, the two took turns speaking, each saying they didn’t want to read off a piece of paper, but that they wanted to speak from the heart.
Shaquill — the oldest of the two by roughly two minutes — spoke first, telling of how he “hit a little wall” during his junior year at UCF, “(forgot) the worth that I thought I had” and “thought I wasn’t going to make it.”
He said at that time he was inspired greatly by seeing how Shaquem — who lost his left hand at the age of 4 due to amniotic band syndrome — was beginning to make a real impact on the field for Central Florida.
“He doesn’t know that he’s one of my biggest motivators,” Shaquill said.
Shaquill said he hoped that would be a lesson to graduates to always “know your worth.”
“Now it’s time to just find your purpose,” Shaquill said. “What’s the reason why you did all this? What’s the reason why you sacrificed so much time, so much time away from family, to be able to get this next exam done, to make sure you have the best grades so you can achieve whatever you want to achieve? So find your purpose. Find what makes you happy. Find what you love and take full advantage of it.”
Following Shaquill, Shaquem talked about what can be gained in accepting the challenge when adversity hits.
“Don’t let adversity dictate who you are going to be,” Shaquem said.
Shaquem talked of his first year with the Seahawks when he said being drafted to join Shaquill made him feel like everything was going his way “until it wasn’t” — which was likely a reference to the challenge of being a starter for the first game of his NFL career and barely playing the rest of the season.
Shaquem said to get through that time he drew on many of the lessons he learned in college.
“That was something that I needed,’’ he said. “Something that taught me, something that built me to be a better person.’’
Earlier in the week, the two told reporters that in preparation for the event they scoured the internet looking for “inspiring commencement speeches,” and coming across one from former President Barack Obama.
“I don’t think I’m going to top that one,” Shaquill said, according to TampaBay.com.
Shaquill Griffin is entering his fourth season with the Seahawks as a cornerback and Shaquem Griffin his third season as a linebacker.
A press release from the school reported that “approximately 8,500 UCF degrees were conferred” on Saturday during 12 separate and successive ceremonies. All graduate’s names were read aloud. Overall, UCF has awarded more than 354,000 total degrees since classes began in 1968.
The school also noted in its release that “nearly half of this semester’s degrees were earned by students from underrepresented communities. Hispanic students comprised more than one quarter of all UCF degree recipients. Annually, the University graduates one of the highest numbers of minorities in the nation.”