Image credit: Arend Kuester on Flickr
Black British, multi-award-winning rapper Stormzy gave an inspiring speech to graduates of Exeter University on Tuesday. He gave the address as he received an honorary degree from the university in recognition of his “remarkable contribution to society and extraordinary talent”. His contributions include the Stormzy Scholarship, a fund that has so far supported six Black British students studying at the University of Cambridge.
Stormzy gave a funny, profound address reflecting on his own life and faith while encouraging the graduates in the audience. You can watch it here or read it below. It’s wise advice for young people whether university leavers or not, indeed it’s encouraging wisdom for pretty much anyone who’s wondered what they should be doing or doubted if they can do it.
“You are worthy and you are brilliant”
"I feel extremely blessed and grateful to be up here receiving this honorary degree’", he said.
"The journey I took to get to this moment has been considerably different to you guys. You guys had the guts and the grit and the dedication that it takes to study for years and to finish a degree. Whereas I got my AS results in my first year of college and said ‘see you later’…I didn't have the same minerals that you guys have.
"A year later, I took another swing at my A levels at a different college until I sat down for my first English exam in January and walked out after 10 minutes. So, yeah…
"It took a hell of a lot for you to get here today. Your journeys to get to this moment were hard fought. The road you took was not easy. And this is coming from someone who tried to walk that exact same road and failed.
"So from the bottom of my heart, I say congratulations, well done and you should all be so proud of yourselves, what you have achieved is incredible. Don’t let anybody downplay it and don’t let anybody undermine it. If you are sat in this room today you are worthy and you are brilliant.”
“There is something God has instilled in all of us”
The artist (real name Michael Owuo Jr) made light of his accolade from the University of Exeter.
“When I asked what exactly am I receiving this honour for I was told, and I quote, ‘It is in recognition of your outstanding achievements in the field of higher education, philanthropy and widening participation’, and I was like, ‘yeah I’m going up in the world…I was like yeah I’m a philanthropist now you know.'"
“I’ve been so richly blessed by God… I’ve beared fruit, and I share fruit. And without sounding too fantastical that’s just what we’re meant to do, in whatever way we can.”
The Christian performer wasn’t shy about the role his faith played in his life and purpose.
"But I’m not here to do a big speech about myself and the things that I’ve done or the things that I haven’t done. I strongly believe there is something God has instilled in all of us, and I just thank him for giving me the courage to act on it.
“I used to really reject the honours and applause that come with something that I genuinely believe is just a part of my purpose and my covenant with God. The famous analogy I’ve always used is likening it to one of your mates popping to the shop and grabbing a couple of bags of crisps and a few bottles of Lucozade for all the boys…of course it’s a kind gesture but it doesn’t deserve a song and a dance, ‘cause that’s just what you do for your loved ones right?
“Being a helping hand”
“I’ve been so richly blessed by God, and I don’t just mean financially, I mean with love and life and family and joy, and peace and with purpose. So, to put it simply, I’ve beared fruit, and I share fruit. And without sounding too fantastical that’s just what we’re meant to do, in whatever way we can.
“Some of our destinies is to save one life, some of us are destined to build nations and build schools, some of us will focus on raising our families and those closest to us. Some of us will help our local community, some of us will help the neighbour next door, some of us will help the world, some of us will help a friend. My point being that we should always share and support and uplift and help in whatever capacity we are able to. All of these different sizes and levels of being a helping hand are all beautiful and all of them are just as powerful as each other. Just as long long as you’re doing what you can."
“God has a funny way of bringing you exactly where you were meant to end up.”
“You guys are already world beaters. You have already proved you have what it takes to follow your dreams, I pray that these words give you a bit of encouragement to go and be who you’re destined to be, and to share some fruit once you bear some.”
In closing Stormzy thanked his Mum who was watching in person. “It’s always been her biggest dream for me to go to university and graduate and then become somebody, so this moment’s a real full circle one. And I always say that God has a funny way of bringing you exactly where you were meant to end up.
“So, to God be the glory and God bless you all, thank you very much.”
Know a young person worth sharing this with? You can watch a video of the speech below (or here).