This past Sunday, retired NBA superstar Dwyane Wade served as the surprise graduation speaker for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Wade, who retired with the Miami Heat at the end of the regular NBA season, became close to the Marjory Stoneman community after its February 2018 school shooting that left 17 dead. Following the tragic event, Wade learned that one of the victims, a teenager named Joaquin Oliver, was a huge fan of his and was even buried in his jersey. Wade, who met with Oliver’s family and invited them to a Heat game, dedicated the remainder of his final NBA season to the late teen.
In his commencement speech, the 37-year-old athlete reflected on the time when he visited the school during its first full day of regular class after the shooting. “I remember being so nervous to see and meet everybody,” USA Today reports him saying to the graduating class. “What would I say? I mean, I grew up in the inner city of Chicago, and I’ve experienced a lot of awful things. But I’ve never experienced anything to the magnitude that you guys had just experienced. I remember walking in and meeting the staff and actually being surprised that everyone was excited to see me.”
Wade continued by saying in that moment, during his first visit to the school, he realized that “we all had a responsibility. A responsibility to be seen, to be heard, to stand up and stand tall, for the ones that no longer had a voice.”
After thanking the student for reminding him of his purpose Wade told the graduating class, “I’ll try to continue to be a leader and a fighter that Joaquin Oliver thought I was. And I’ll keep reminding you of how the strength that was shown, the leadership that was shown – from the students, from the staff, from the parents, from this community – was powerful.”