Student with nonspeaking autism gives touching commencement speech

Student with nonspeaking autism gives touching commencement speech
Valedictorian uses her speech to rail against Texas abortion laws

A college valedictorian who is affected by non-speaking autism gave an incredibly moving commencement address that has gone viral.

Elizabeth Bonker, 24, is one of the five valedictorians graduating from Rollins College's class of '22. Since she was 15 months old, Bonker has been non-speaking but with the assistance of people and a keyboard, Bonker is able to communicate using text-to-speech technology.

Bonker was voted by her fellow valedictorians to give the commencement address, which she did by typing out the address using one finger while a communication partner held the keyboard for her.

In her approximately four-minute commencement speech, Bonker addressed her ability to communicate and gave advice to her fellow classmates- life is for service.

The moving speech touched the hearts of graduates and caught the attention of people online.

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Be the Light: Elizabeth Bonker’s 2022 Valedictorian Speech at Rollins College

"God gave you a voice. Use it," Bonker wrote in her speech. "And no, the irony of a non-speaking autistic encouraging you to use your voice is not lost on me. Because if you can see the worth in me, then you can see the worth in everyone you meet."

The 24-year-old graduated Rollins College with a degree in social innovation and a minor in English. Bonker founded the non-profit organization Communication 4 All which is dedicated to ensuring people with non-speaking autism have communication available to them.

"Everything I aspire to do relates back to Rollins’ ethos: Life is for service," Bonker wrote in an article for Rollins.

Echoing her beliefs, Bonker offered the same advice to her fellow graduates and encouraged everyone to act with service at the forefront of their mind.

"We are all called to serve, as an everyday act of humility, as a habit of mind. 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."

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