Student speaker selected for Stanford Baccalaureate

The 2019 Senior Class Presidents and the Office for Religious Life selected poet and spoken word artist Edan Armas to address graduates at the Commencement Weekend multifaith gathering.

The Senior Class Presidents of the Class of 2019 and the Office for Religious Life have named senior Edan Armas, a poet and spoken word artist, as this year’s Baccalaureate student speaker.

Edan Armas on campus.

Senior Edan Armas will be the student speaker at this year’s Baccalaureate ceremony. (Image credit: Edan Armas)

“Baccalaureate reminds us that this is not a time for us to celebrate an achievement so much as it is a time for us to reflect upon a process,” Armas said, adding that the process can be difficult – even painful.

“As student speaker, I am moved by the importance of grounding ourselves in that pain, because to do so is to directly acknowledge all the ways we’ve become better people in the face of it,” he said.

The Baccalaureate ceremony will take place Saturday, June 15, at 10 a.m. in the Main Quad the day before Commencement. Armas’ speech will precede an address by this year’s Baccalaureate speaker, Ibtihaj Muhammad, an activist, entrepreneur and Olympic medalist.

Armas, a native of Roselle, Illinois, will graduate next month with a bachelor’s degree in human biology with a self-titled concentration in neurophenomenology of emotion. He spent much of his undergraduate career studying how emotion manifests in the body, mind and the collective consciousness.

Armas fell in love with the art of spoken word during his junior year of high school. Since joining Stanford, he’s competed on the university’s poetry slam team, which recently placed third at a collegiate national competition. He credits the art form with helping him express emotion, which he called the bedrock of the human experience.

“For three minutes, the whole world pauses for the blossoming of your story, and this has taught me so much about vulnerability, gratitude and meaning,” he said.

That passion for lyricism will be on full display at the Baccalaureate ceremony, where Armas will address graduating seniors, graduate and professional students, and their families. Since 2005, the Office for Religious Life has hosted a student speaker contest, where a graduating senior offers his or her reflections on their own spiritual journey during their time at Stanford, including hopes and dreams for the future for the entire class.

This year, 42 applicants submitted speeches, which were evaluated by the Senior Class Presidents and leaders from the Office for Religious Life. Finalists were then selected to present their speeches and were judged based on their delivery, the authenticity of their message and its relevance to students.

“We admired Edan’s charisma and the authenticity of his language,” said Senior Class President Tashrima Hossain. “His speech captured the tribulations and triumphs of the Stanford experience.”