Brigadier Speech 2024

Joseph Kanjiramkuzhey | Brigadier
(This speech was given by Joseph Kanjiramkuzhey at the Commencement Exercises for the Class of 2024 on May 24. Joseph was chosen as the Brigadier because he best embodies the values of a Belen education.) 

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Life brings tears, smiles, and memories. The tears dry, the smiles fade, but the memories last forever.”

His Eminence Christophe Cardinal Pierre, Fr. Guillermo M. García-Tuñón, S.J., President of Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, Mr. José Roca, my 10th-grade math teacher and principal, Jesuit Fathers, board of advisors, administration, alumni association, faculty, staff, families, friends, all of those who could not be here today, and most importantly, the class of 2024. 

I am honored and humbled to address you on behalf of the graduating class. When I was told I was to give the commencement speech, I knew it had to embody the Belen spirit. Therefore, there was only one way I could make this happen. I sat in my chair, created a Google Doc, and began typing at 11:59 p.m. last night.

I would like to take a moment to express our gratitude to our teachers. Teachers are hard to find, difficult to part with, and impossible to forget. You didn’t just teach us, you guided and inspired us. You encouraged us to think differently, to question, and to dream. It wasn’t just about the lessons taught though, but rather the memories that were made.

As I began to trace back my journey through Belen, I remembered what my grandmother told me last summer. At 96 years of age, she still remembers her teacher’s lesson about Columbus sailing the ocean blue. It made me ponder why she remembered this of all things. It came to me once I started reminiscing on the memories made at Belen and how precious and valuable each one is. Belen wasn’t just about the textbooks and the exams, it was a journey of self-discovery, pushing the limits, exploring the frontiers, and taking on challenges not because they were easy, but because they are hard. That was exactly how our four years began.

Our high school journey began like none seen before. Navigating the twists and turns of the pandemic was a challenge, however, COVID couldn’t stop us from creating memories. Seeing half of our classmates on a screen at 8 in the morning, knowing full well, they had just woken up, to having a split lunch between the dining hall and the less desired tent. Or even Ms. Kenna who told us to trust in the process while we were running on Cuban coffee and 4 hours of sleep doing Kenna notes. To Mr. Lansingh with the 60 picture project that we all did the day before. Even through all the ups and downs, we got through our first year and learned the value of perseverance, but we also hoped the end of high school would come faster. Little before we knew it, the year came and went.

Sophomore year arrived and with it came Dr. D’s door-breaking and the enlightening seminars, guided readings in bio that were too long, going on our first overnight retreat in Cardoner, and learning Spanish with boom cards. With the COVID-19 pandemic passed us, we came together and once again enjoyed the livelihood of Tombola. The band of brothers grew stronger but just like freshman year, the year came and went.

Junior year: the most dreaded of them all. Yet the most transformative. From Mr. Collins always saying in class, “it is not like something it either is or isn’t,” To being called Pookie in physics, and seeing our math grades posted within 30 minutes as Mrs. Aguilla worked her magic. To going on a boys road trip to Washington, DC, for Close Up. Waking up at 4:30 in the morning with my friends during election week and seeing all the memes made. These memories taught me what brotherhood is all about. 

Senior Year came and the excitement of reaching the end was upon us. This was also the year in which we came together as a band of brothers to achieve greatness. The football team making the playoffs for the first time since our time at Belen, bringing the Polar Palooza trophy back home, introducing new activities for homecoming week, and submitting our last college application, in the blink of an eye, the first semester was behind us. With one semester left, we were committed to ending the year with a bang. So, we brought back the live performance of the senior skit for the first time in 6 years. We finally went to Grad Bash, after our Gradventure was canceled and many of us could say Velocicoaster was THAT ride. Coming together at senior gratitude to show our appreciation to one another, brought connection to each other. Our class with everything we did, not only made history, but created a legacy. 

These 4 years would not have been possible without our parents. You are probably wondering where these years have gone. As you marvel at your son’s accomplishments, it doesn’t seem that long ago when we were toddling off to start 6th grade. Thousands of pictures were taken and shared in the group chat, bringing our iPads to school when we forgot, and rushing to Walmart to buy supplies for our project due the next day. Thank you for your endless support and belief in us, even when we doubted ourselves. 
Now as we stand on the brink of our future, let us carry with us the curiosity to learn, the courage to dream big, and the determination to make those dreams a reality. As Robert De Niro said, “you aren’t just following dreams, you're reaching for your destiny.”

As we reach for our destiny, we will fall. As Mr. Maza said in class, “This is what being an adult is all about.” But it is not about how many times you have fallen, but rather how many times you get back on your feet and stand taller than ever before. Your brothers will not be by your side everyday, but they have left you with years of memories that have taught you valuable lessons in life. Lessons we can use to get back on our feet and be the true Belen men we are meant to be. This is what made me realize why my grandmother, 85 years later, remembers what she had learned in school. These memories are precious, never forget them, because you’ll never know what life will throw at you. You can only be prepared. 

As Dr. Jordan would tell us in class, “everything comes full circle.” My final message is an embodiment of what Fr. Willie has told us and how these last seven years have come full circle: Do not be afraid to run to the fire, be worth your salt and surrender yourself to being a man for others. Remember to see all things new in Christ because He is the sign you will use to conquer, In Hoc Signo Vinces.  

So, here’s to us, we are not just high school graduates; we are adventures, setting off on the most exciting journey- life. Change is constant and adaptation is a superpower. To the class of 2024, I would like to say thank you for all the wonderful memories, congratulations, and to all that are here, good night. This is the class of 2024 officially signing off. 

Now, I ask the class of 2024 to please stand with me as we sing the Salve Regina one last time as a class. 

Our Lady of Belen
Pray for us.

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Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was founded in 1854 in Havana, Cuba by Queen Isabel II of Spain.  The task of educating students was assigned to the priests and brothers of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), whose teaching tradition is synonymous with academic excellence and spiritual discipline.  In 1961, the new political regime of Cuba confiscated the School property and expelled the Jesuit faculty.  The School was re-established in Miami the same year, and over the next decade, continued to grow.  Today, Belen Jesuit sits on a 30-acre site in western Dade County, only minutes away from downtown Miami.