Jackson Cannon (’21), Undergraduate Diploma Ceremony speech

Good morning everyone. The last time we were all on this floor, we had just stormed the court after your Demon Deacons beat No.7 Duke in double overtime. It is a privilege to share the floor again with you today. Thank you for being here to celebrate this wonderful milestone together. I will now attempt to squeeze four years and to five short minutes.

I want to first acknowledge all family, friends, mentors, faculty members, parents, grandparents, and other loved ones who have joined in the celebration, both here and virtually. Know that your support, love, guidance and encouragement has made it possible for the class of 2021 to stand here today. We are celebrating because of you, and on behalf of everyone wearing a cap and gown sitting out here in the audience today, I say, thank you.

We are shaped by our experiences, our mistakes and how we handle adversity together. We have battled a pandemic, found inspiration through our professors and our classes and passed Accounting 111. Whether it was losing my voice at a football game, rolling the Quad after our soccer team consistently won the ACC, falling into the flower arrangements on one of my tours because we have to walk backwards, learning about and creating a better way for undergrad students to connect and network with each other while serving on the Undergraduate Business School Council, eating Cookout trays and drinking huge teas during late night studying and enjoying Wait Chapel sunsets, Wake Forest will forever be special. Amongst the many wonderful professors I have had the privilege to be in class with, there are some that have made an indelible difference on my life

To professor Cynthia Tessien, you have taught me how to manage costs, the step-down method, the value of budgeting and the importance of reputation. You care for your students in a way that transcends the classroom. You check in. You care about each student’s individual success. I am forever grateful.

To professor John Butler, if you’re watching this, you’re extremely dedicated to your students. So dedicated that you answered your phone at 9 p.m. because my group’s Peloton valuation model was completely broken. You listened, you pushed our group past our limits, and you ultimately allowed us to learn from our mistakes. Your wisdom and experience is unmatched. Thank you for believing in your students.

To professor Deon Strickland, I will argue about the market with you any day of the week, as long as we end it talking about pasta. Also, why did you make your final 90 percent of our grade?

To Sharon Payne, every time I ran into you in Farrell — and I know everyone else sitting here can say the same — your happiness and encouragement always brought a smile to my face and joy to my soul. Wake Forest will dearly miss you.

While Farrell will no longer have our presence in its halls, our impact as a class and the friendships that we made together will undoubtedly last a lifetime. This semester, I had the privilege of attending the United States Naval Academy leadership conference, community leader Mike Smith said the culture of leadership is not wishing something will happen, it’s doing something about it. Wake Forest culture is built upon Pro Humanitate or for humanity together. We have fought hunger in the streets of Winston-Salem through Campus Kitchen, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research through participating in the likes of Wake ‘N Shake and Hit The Bricks and served the next generation of young leaders through Project Pumpkin. Your entire four years here at Wake have been built upon a culture of doing something. Don’t wait on becoming. Don’t wish for something to happen. Don’t talk about what you want to happen. Connect intentionally, reflect on mistakes, refine the foundation that you have created and be the difference you are trying to make. Go Deacs!