Steve Hind: What does it feel like to have been chosen to represent your class as the Class Day speaker?
Addie Ogunwole: It’s surreal. Definitely an honor to be chosen. But mostly an out of body feeling that some person who vaguely resembles me will be standing on a stage soon in front of lots of people. In daylight. Speaking. For a while.
SH: You must have studied a few examples of the form – what’s your favorite commencement speech in recent history?
AO: There really isn’t any competition – we all are just living in Shondaland, after all. Shonda Rhimes’ honesty and clarity is a gift that we all get the privilege to witness. Anyone who can mention poop that many times, as well as meeting Toni Morrison, and who insisted on talking only about Grey’s Anatomy is unparalleled in my book.
SH: Without giving away any spoilers, what would you say is going to be the theme of your speech?
AO: Well, there really is only one theme that I can talk about with any sort of gravitas – myself.
SH: Tell us something fun about your preparation routine – have you been practicing in the mirror? With friends? In your sleep?
AO: I somehow fell under the spell of a dictator who helped summon the speech into its existence. Despite what you learn in BGIE, sometimes dictators are good. Really good.
SH: What is the single biggest thing you have learned at HBS? Why?
AO: Blimey. That’s a bit too reductionist even for me. One thing I had forgotten a while back was that my curiosity is the greatest weapon against stagnancy and the tyranny of mediocrity. I think that is what HBS, or at least these two years, are about: you will never know everything, but you sure can keep asking a lot of questions. Do that. A lot. Like all the time. It makes for a worthy and interesting life.
SH: What’s next for you – immediately, and in the longer term?
AO: Oh dear. Wouldn’t you, my mother, father, and brother like to know?! In short, I’m moving to London to become Vice President of Marketing at Hult Business School. In long, I hope to keep making lots of mistakes, changing my plans every so often, keep being a provocateur, learn to be more caring and loving than I could ever imagine, and maybe become the role model I never had.