Graduation Speech

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Good evening everyone. My name is Toyota Moko, and I am an international student from Japan. As the first-ever international student speaker on commencement, I am very honored to be here tonight to be given this opportunity to speak on behalf of the graduating class of the 2003.

Born and grew up in Tokyo where speaking English was absolutely absent in my eighteen years of life, one day the life-changing experience came to me. When I was fifteen-years-old, the summer of 1998, I came to America for the very first time for the home stay program through my high school. The three weeks I spent in Snohomish have brought me a wonderful encounter with my American family. John, Margo and Jennifer Turner have truly become my second family away from home. Despite the fact that I was a stranger from Japan, the Turner family treated me as if I was a part of their family, even though I had spoken broken English. During these three weeks, I was exposed to many cultural differences between America and Japan, and I was especially moved by the American people and its society where one is able to not only accept, but mutually respect and honor multicultural background and heritage. Coming from homogeneous country of Japan, this to me was a very fresh insight, and I still remember how it struck me.

After I came back to Japan, I kept in touch with my American family via e-mail. And they invited me to stay with them if I were to study at the college. I spent years preparing for my study abroad, and with the great help of the Turner family, Ms. Joy Fitzpatrick who is the international student program coordinator, and my parents, I entered America as an international student on March 11, 2001, only one week after my high school graduation in Japa...

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...y just few weeks ago on May 17. My grandfather was full of ambition and care for his family, and he especially loved me as his granddaughter. I was able to make this speech because I do believe that my grandfather will be sitting in the first row and listening to my speech at this very moment. He kept his promise to be alive until I have become twenty years old, so it is now my turn to promise him to carry on his spirit and all the knowledge and wisdom he had taught me. And more than anybody else, this honor goes to my dearest Turner family and my parents and family in Japan for making it possible for me to experience this incredibly astounding journey in America.

Congratulations class of 2012! From the bottom of my heart, I wish all of you a shining future! Thank you for having me this special moment.

Arigatougozaimasita! (Japanese: "Thank you very much.")
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