Valedictorian With Non-Verbal Autism Gives Powerful Graduation Speech: ‘God Gave You a Voice. Use It’ by Andrea Morris for CBN News
Valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker, who has a non-speaking form of autism, delivered an inspiring message recently to the class of 2022 during the commencement speech at Rollins College in Florida.
Bonker used a text-to-speech computer program to share her address at the May 8 graduation ceremony, for which she urged her fellow classmates to “live a life of service.”
“We are all called to serve, as an everyday act of humility, as a habit of mind,” she said. “To see the worth in every person we serve. To strive to follow the example of those who chose to share their last crust of bread. For to whom much is given, much is expected. God gave you a voice. Use it,” Bonker said.
The 24-year-old made an important reference to former Rollins graduate Fred Rogersof the famed Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood who is known as “the king of kindness” at the university.
“During my freshman year, I remember hearing a story about our favorite alumnus, Mister Rogers. When he died, a handwritten note was found in his wallet. It said, ‘Life is for service.’ You have probably seen it on the plaque by Strong Hall. Life is for service. So simple, yet so profound,” Bonkers pointed out.
In her speech, Bonkers emphasized that her dream is to help those who cannot speak, gain a voice.
“Yes, just like Martin Luther King, Jr., I have a dream: communication for all. There are 31 million non-speakers with autism in the world who are locked in a silent cage,” she stated. “My life will be dedicated to relieving them from suffering in silence and to giving them voices to choose their own way.”