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Excited to Share | I Delivered the City Tech Commencement Address at the Barclays Center

Updated: Jun 20, 2023


Excited to share that on June 3, 2023, I had the incredible opportunity to deliver the City Tech 83rd Commencement address at Barclays Center. It was a momentous occasion as I addressed the graduating classes of 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, with an impressive audience size of 10,000 people. Not only that, but the ceremony was also live streamed, captivating a virtual audience of 6.8K individuals.

Photography Credit: City Tech


My approach with the power of the podium was to shift the focus onto the graduates and their families, making it less about me and more about empowering them. I understood the significance of this long-awaited moment for many families, and I was determined to make it truly worth the wait.


Photos from the day


Video Credit: City Tech | video of my portion of the program


Here are the words of my speech:


Good afternoon, amazing and vibrant graduates of New York City College of Technology which we affectionately call (City Tech)! I am beyond grateful for this extraordinary opportunity to address you and I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to the faculty and staff who have made this moment possible. Today, we come together to celebrate our shared journey of transformation and empowerment.


Transformation ignites when a vision collides with unwavering determination and ignites a fire within us. As the great Audre Lorde boldly proclaimed, "When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." Fear not We stand at the precipice of our future, ready to unleash the power within us and create the transformations we desire in ourselves, our communities and the world.


Now, let me give a thunderous congratulations to the resilient, unstoppable Class of City Tech! Your achievements have left me in absolute awe. Throughout your journey at this remarkable institution, you have exhibited unparalleled tenacity, dedication, and an unbreakable spirit that has propelled you forward despite the countless challenges you have faced.


Late nights of relentless studying, demanding assignments that pushed you to your limits, and the immense pressure to excel—nothing could deter you. You conquered doubts, setbacks, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles with unwavering determination. Your commitment to your education and transformation has brought you to this triumphant moment.


Graduates of City Tech, as you embark on the next chapter of your life, it is important to acknowledge the challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead. The world is ever-evolving, and change is inevitable. Embrace change, for it is through change that we discover new possibilities and grow as individuals.


Be adaptable, for the path may not always be clear, and unexpected obstacles may arise. Remember that you have the knowledge and skills acquired through your education. Trust in your ability to overcome challenges and believe in your capacity to thrive in any situation.


Leverage the power of your classmates as your professional network. The bonds you have formed throughout your journey can be invaluable sources of support, inspiration, and collaboration. Remember that opportunities are better shared, and by lifting each other up, you can collectively reach greater heights. Leave behind the scarcity mindset and embrace a mindset of abundance, knowing that there is room for everyone to succeed.


Commit yourselves to lifelong learning and continuous personal growth. Education does not end with a diploma. Stay curious, seek new knowledge, and remain open to new perspectives.


As you navigate the unknown, remember that success is not measured solely by achievements, but also by the positive impact you make in the world. Use your skills, talents, and passion to contribute to the betterment of society. Be agents of change, advocates for justice, and ambassadors of inclusivity. Your unique experiences and perspectives have the power to transform the world around you.


As I reflect on my journey, I am reminded of a pivotal moment that forever changed the course of my life.It was during my time as a student, that I encountered a professor who began the lesson by asking two of us out of a class of 60 students to stand. As we stood, he announced that neither of us would become architects because we were black and women. I was shocked that a person, who didn’t know me, my name nor my capacity could make such a definitive proclamation, I was surprised that out of that full classroom only two of us were black women and I was stunned by the silence of my peers. It was the moment I realized I’m not just representing myself, when I step into a space, I’m representing my gender and my race, and I was immediately shackled with the burden/responsibility to show up and show out at every instance. My actions could not be the reason the next person is denied an opportunity. The goal, my purpose was to be the reason those opportunities were multiplied. That was also the moment of realization that I could not simply become an architect, I had to change the profession; you have to change our professions.


Today, I invite you to stand with me if you have ever been told that you were inadequate because of your race, gender, or how you identify. Let us stand together in solidarity, for our shared experiences and aspirations unite us in this moment of celebration.


It is only fitting that I introduce who I am, after I explained this pivotal event that formed so much of that journey and understand the power of how I identify. I am Pascale Sablan, Associate Principal at Adjaye Associates, the 315th living African-American, woman registered architect in the U.S., activist architect who works to advance architecture for the betterment of society and bring visibility and voice to the issues concerning women and BIPOC designers. I founded the Beyond the Built Environment NY State non-profit organization positioned to uniquely address the inequitable disparities in architecture. I achieved one of the highest honors of the profession when I was awarded the AIA Whitney M. Young. Jr Award for my advocacy efforts and ascended to the AIA College of Fellows, the youngest African American to reach that honor in the organization's 167-year legacy. I am now the 5th woman to hold this position of President The National Organization of Minority Architects a global platform. Most recently my work was recognized by prominent figure, Oprah Winfrey, who featured me on her Future Rising platform for Black trailblazers moving our world forward in the Audacious category. I even received a fist bump from President Barack Obama who said he was proud of me.


City Tech being the largest public college of technology in the Northeastern US, a beacon of innovation and access, has a rich legacy of providing quality education and fostering inclusivity since its establishment in 1946. My journey as an activist architect aligns with the values City Tech instills in its graduates.


To the families, faculty, and friends who have supported you throughout your academic journeys, thank you for your unwavering love, encouragement, and belief in their abilities. Your support continues to propel these graduates to unimaginable heights.


Graduates, as you embark on this new chapter of your life, remember the power of transformation, resilience, and unwavering determination. Your journey at City Tech has prepared you not only to succeed but to lead and inspire others. Please utilize your knowledge and experiences to break barriers, shatter glass ceilings, and build a world that is more just, equitable, and inclusive for all.


Now Stand up! As our future leaders, so we can applaud you, and shower you with love! Take a moment to reflect on how far you have come, and let the pride and joy wash over you. You have earned every accolade, every cheer, and every congratulations. You are the embodiment of perseverance and the shining example of the transformation that dedication and hard work can yield.


Remember, the fire that burns within you is unstoppable. Embrace your power, trust in your abilities, and dare to dream big. Together, we will create a future that surpasses our wildest imaginations.


Class of 2020, 2021, 2022 & 2023, you have the power to shape the world for the better. Seize every opportunity to make a meaningful difference. Be courageous, be relentless, and let your legacy be one of transformative impact.


To watch the livestream recording of the full ceremony please click this link:


Hopefully you all are aware that City Tech recently received accreditation by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) to offer a 5 year Bachelor of Architecture degree (B.Arch). Offering an affordable option, removes a financial barrier that has kept underrepresented population out of the industry.


If you are wondering why I chose to send you this email, please know your support means everything to me. You are a part of my community and someone I aspire to make proud.

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