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Commencement Student Speaker: “Always Keep Your Mind Open”

With classmates from all over the globe, Adolfo Gatti felt at home at BU


Soon-to-be-graduate Adolfo Gatti is the embodiment of BU’s mission as a global university. The dual international relations and economics major grew up in Rome, interned in Geneva, and speaks three languages.

This Sunday, Gatti (CAS’13) will deliver the student speech at Boston University’s 140th Commencement. He plans to draw on his experiences as an international student as he addresses fellow graduates and an estimated crowd of 20,000. He will talk about how BU taught him to embrace different cultures and ideas—something he’s written about as a blogger for the Italian edition of The Huffington Post.

“The message that I will share is to always keep your mind open to all the different obstacles and different cultures and ideas that are around you,” he says. “You have to be able to make them yours, transform them, and then use them.”

The beauty of BU, Gatti says, is that it’s impossible to describe a typical student. “You will always have someone in your group of friends who is not like you,” he says. “Even though it’s a campus and one university, it’s a city, a hub.” His theory may be borne out by recent BU admissions statistics: applicants to the incoming Class of 2017 came from 149 foreign countries, and the University saw a 39 percent increase in applications from international students.

As he prepared the speech he’ll deliver Sunday, Gatti says, he was mindful of the importance of keeping the audience’s attention.

“The speech will be sort of emotional,” he says. “I want to make the audience familiar with me, tell some jokes, and then have the speech turn into a more serious note. I was a bit inspired by Obama’s speeches in that sense, because he shoots off funny jokes in the beginning, and then suddenly you hear a change of tone, and he starts pacing slower and almost whispering his message. Finally, he turns right back on with a passion and emotion that he wants to throw into the crowd.”

This blending of emotion, humor, and passion may just be what landed Gatti the gig. Each spring, graduating seniors are invited to submit a potential Commencement address to a faculty committee. This year, the committee weeded through the applications and settled on six finalists, who were then asked to deliver their speeches in a mock Commencement setting. After careful deliberation, the committee chose Gatti.

“Dean Elmore actually called me the morning after my audition and woke me up,” Gatti says. “When he told me I would be the Commencement speaker, it took me a few minutes to understand what I was being told. I mean, I thought I had completely screwed up my audition. A friend told me it was too honest.”

Gatti attended an international school in Rome, with classmates who came from all over the globe—places like India, Japan, and Australia. “I grew up with people who didn’t share my culture and weren’t like me, mentally and physically,” he says. “Arriving at BU was just like being at home.”

Over the past four years, he’s managed to keep many of his Italian traditions alive: he’s famous among his friends for his freshly brewed espresso and homemade lunches. He tends to gesture wildly when he speaks. And like most Europeans, he loves soccer, so much so that he was a member of the BU Football Club and the BU Soccer Club.

Last year, Gatti studied abroad in Geneva, where he interned for the Centre for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development, an environmental think tank. Since February he has interned for the Consulate General of Italy in Boston as assistant education officer, traveling to local schools to talk about Italian culture. As part of his internship, he also tries to answer questions about scholarships for Italian students who want to study in the United States and US students who want to study in Italy, helps to find schools for families moving between the two countries, and assists Italian educators to find jobs in the United States.

When his internship ends in June, Gatti plans to return to Rome, where he has several interviews lined up. He wants to go to graduate school to study international relations within the next few years, and says he imagines himself returning to Italy one day to become a statesman, which, he is quick to point out, is different from being a politician, “because Italian politicians tend to be corrupt.”

With Senior Week drawing to a close, Gatti turns reflective about his last year on Comm Ave. “I definitely learned a lot,” he says. “I think I settled myself emotionally. I stopped worrying a lot about many things. I enjoyed this year the most because I was more accepting of myself by the end of it.”

And if any of his classmates travel to Italy after graduation, he wants them to track him down. “Everyone comes back saying they liked Paris more than Rome, but that’s because they only saw the Colosseum and went to bed too early,” he says. “I get mistaken for a tour guide all the time. Call me, and if I’m there, I’ll give you a tour.”

Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

5 Comments on Commencement Student Speaker: “Always Keep Your Mind Open”

  • Miles on 05.17.2013 at 7:33 am

    Congrats Adolfo! “He tends to gesture wildly when he speaks” is m favorite line in any BU Today article. Sunday is going to be great thanks to you, good luck bud!

  • Earle on 05.17.2013 at 9:19 am

    It’s been a pleasure playing soccer with Adolfo on occasion over the past few years. On the field, he promoted cooperation and honesty, and showed a genuine interest in doing the right thing. Also, I really enjoyed my visit to Rome. There is a lot of beautiful architecture and fascinating history to be seen there. The city certainly has a lot to offer, IMHO.

  • Alexa on 05.17.2013 at 10:51 am

    Cicerone Adolfo!!!! The best tour guide in Rome! Good luck on Sunday. We are all so proud!

  • Alumnus on 05.17.2013 at 12:47 pm

    Auguri Adolfo!! Hope you have a lot of fun delivering the speech!!

  • Ben Marcus on 05.21.2013 at 12:30 am

    Congratulazioni, Adolfo. Era un discorso accorato. Salute!

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