Text of student Convocation speech by Will Paisley, ’20

Ya’at’eeh. Shį éí diné hastiin nish’į́. Adóone’e níshłínígíí doo bee shił hóóne’da. Naałaní Amskapi Pikaani náhook’osdí kéédahat’oí nígíí éí bashíshchíín. Will Paisley yinishyé.

Hello, my name is Will Paisley. I am a Two-Spirit Navajo and Blackfeet, I use he/him and they/them pronouns.

Good afternoon, President Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Drell, Vice Provost Elam, Dean Shaw, faculty, trustees, and our most important guests, all of you, our new students and families.

First and foremost, I would like to congratulate you, the Class of 2023 and incoming transfers, for being the next cohort to enter this unique and amazing institution I’ve come to call home.

I stand before you today with great pride, joy, and gratitude.

Stanford has given me much more than I ever hoped for, dreamed about, and expected. Here, amidst a rigorous academic environment, I have found communities that I have come to love, and that love me back. I have found friends who now will always be family. I have cultivated my dearest passions and found my callings.

The value I hold dearest at Stanford is community. The power in collective strength, belonging, and inclusivity is enveloping, empowering, motivating, and inspiring.

Coming from Seattle, I began my Stanford career with the Stanford Native Immersion Program, lovingly called SNIP, a pre-NSO [New Student Orientation] retreat that helped me integrate seamlessly into the Stanford community by first becoming part of the Native community.

During SNIP, we were introduced not only to the multitude of resources available to us as undergraduates, but we made meaningful connections with each other. Older students, staff, and faculty served as our mentors on this retreat.

SNIP showed me from the beginning what it means to be part of the community – how it felt to be cared for and how important it is to take care of others. I have so many heartfelt memories from SNIP, including how my arresting performance of the Mean Girls Christmas talent show moved my gracious peers to award me the superlative of Sass Master.

Since then I have found many other orbits and communities that I now belong to, and I can’t begin to describe how enriching it’s been. My greatest joy at Stanford has been building relationships with peers and mentors who inspire and fuel my passions and objectives. Around me, I have people who support me wherever needed and who continuously encourage me to be the best version of myself.

Growing up, I did not feel like I belonged, as my interests and identities were just developing. Many of you may also feel like this, so I want you to know how vitally important this supportive community at Stanford will be to you. I am blessed to have found belonging and opportunities that cultivate my personal character, academic scholarship, and leadership potential.

This community has been the key to how my Stanford journey has evolved over the years and for the roles I have taken that allowed me to care for this community in so many different ways:

From having the great privilege of serving as the co-chair of the Stanford American Indian Organization, the indigenous community I call my family on campus, to staffing in an arts themed co-operative residence on the Row, to being Rush chair for my fraternity, to working as a coordinator for your Admit Weekend.

From embracing my desire to support and promote the recognition and success of indigenous peoples, especially within my own tribes, to academic exploration and faculty mentorship toward a double major in Native American studies and sociology, to studying abroad in Santiago through the Overseas Study Program.

And now to writing an honors thesis on entrepreneurial Native American fashion, which I hope will serve as a powerful storytelling tool to help others better understand the burgeoning contributions our rich, diverse, and ancient cultures continue to make to today’s society.

The community here has supported me so that I now am here to support you. And with hard work, you can accomplish more than you can imagine.

Here, I have been able to expand my personal and professional inquisitiveness to create a fully integrative and experiential undergraduate education. I have grown fully confident in my identity and now exert all aspects of my character with excitement, happiness, and most of all pride.

At Stanford you can find mentors, friends, and family and most importantly, yourself. I feel incredibly blessed to attend this institution, and today I am excited and happy for you, because it’s now your turn to find your own blessings and create your own community.

Thank you.