Meet Class of 2020 Valedictorian Jacopo Olmo Antinori

John Cabot University’s Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs Mary Merva is pleased to announce the Valedictorian for the Class of 2020, Jacopo Olmo Antinori. Jacopo received his B.A. in English Literature with minors in Communications and Creative Writing.

An anglicized derivation of the Latin vale dicere (“to say farewell”), the word “valedictorian” refers to the student who delivers the farewell statement at the graduation ceremony. This honor is usually granted to the student with the highest grade point average of the graduating class.

Jacopo Olmo Antinori

JCU Class of 2020 Valedictorian Jacopo Olmo Antinori

Born in Rome, Jacopo grew up right next to the Vatican, and he attended high school at Liceo Scientifico Virgilio – right across the Tiber from the Guarini campus. Since he was very good at math and physics, Jacopo originally thought he would study physics at an Italian university. But during high school, he discovered his true vocation, cinema. At age fourteen he was chosen for a leading role in an important Italian film and from that point on he began working regularly as a professional actor. After high school, Jacopo decided to take a gap year and spent a few months in Los Angeles.

Says Jacopo, “In the months between my high school graduation and my trip to the States, I had developed the desire to work in film more ‘extensively’ — that is, I wanted to also become a screenwriter, a director, and perhaps even a producer. I realized that to pursue my dreams, I needed to develop better reading and writing skills in English, and also that I needed some kind of ‘theoretical’ education. In other words, I realized it would have been great to study English Literature. But I also needed to stay close to home, because I still had an acting career in Italy. And so, suddenly, John Cabot came to my mind. It was the perfect solution: an American university that offered a program in English Literature.”

“These three years have been intense, and at times almost unbearably hard. But I do not regret my decision to attend JCU in the least. JCU gave me what I wanted and needed, and now I feel ready to jump into the next chapter of my life, strengthened by the experience accumulated in my years in the university,” added Jacopo.

Here’s what some of Jacopo’s professors had to say about him:

Shannon Russell, Associate Professor of English

“From the moment Jacopo appeared in my classes, I realized that he was a student driven by curiosity and an eager desire to know. Watching Jacopo develop through the years has been like watching someone building, step by step,  a wonderful cathedral of understanding.  I have not a shadow of a doubt that Jacopo will bring his rich intelligence to whatever he pursues in the future and I look forward to seeing what that might be.”

Alessandra Grego, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English

“It was always a great pleasure to have Jacopo Olmo Antinori in class. He is a remarkable student, who is intuitive, hardworking, enterprising, and capable of thinking in profoundly interdisciplinary ways.  Despite his demanding career as a professional actor who has worked with directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci and on international shows such as The Medici, Jacopo’s academic success has been consistent. Showing an interest for every aspect of literature – its history, its theory, and its practice –  Jacopo has also written a play, Loose Ends, which was staged in Rome in 2019. What I most appreciate in Jacopo is the pleasure he takes in the process of inquiry,  which he undertakes with an interdisciplinary and always personal approach, challenging received notions, questioning traditional critical positions, and looking for new ways to understand old problems. The qualities of an original thinker.”

Donatella Della Ratta, Assistant Professor of Communications and Media Studies

Jacopo Olmo is the kind of student you’d wish to have in your class. He challenges the professor in a way that is intellectually charming and provocative yet never for provocation’s sake. His presence makes class discussions lively, engaging, and well informed, pushing others to join and engage in in-depth, intellectually enriching conversations. His writings in my Digital Media Culture class show knowledge and mastery of the subject, and a style that is sophisticated and sassy at the same time, revealing a promising young talent in the making.”
Congratulations to Jacopo from the entire JCU community!

Valedictory Speech 

Congratulations, Class of 2020!

My fellow graduates, it is with great pride and profound joy that I salute you on this occasion. I could not be happier to share this crucial moment with you as your Valedictorian.

On behalf of all the graduating class of 2020, I would like to extend my thanks to everyone at John Cabot. I want to thank every individual who works for this university: our President Pavoncello, our Academic Dean, our Faculty, the librarians, the people working at the registrar’s office, at the front office, in the cafeteria, student services, career services, housing, admissions, IT, finance, logistics, marketing, security, counseling, the cleaning staff, and everyone else working hard to make JCU the splendid place it is, especially those working ‘behind the scenes.’ And, of course, special thanks to our Board of Trustees. Each of you has allowed us to complete our studies and enjoy this important day of celebration: because of this, the class of 2020 expresses its gratitude. Thank you!

Graduation is always a great achievement. But perhaps this year a little more.

Completing this last Spring semester in the midst of the confusion and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult. To rethink radically classes and university life was a tremendous and unexpected challenge for all of us. I believe I tell truth when I say that in the past three months we have all experienced fear, discouragement, and at times exhaustion. And yet, here we are. We did it, and we did it brilliantly. Therefore, I would like each of us to congratulate herself or himself for such an outstanding achievement. Let us use the difficulties we have faced as fuel for our future accomplishments.

Graduation is not only an end point, but also a new beginning. Many of us will continue to study, perhaps in places far away from Rome. Others will move on to pursue immediately a career.

But if there is one thing that the pandemic has shown with incontestable certainty is that we are all interconnected. Each thing that we do, say, or even think generates an effect that, no matter how slightly, reverberates in the lives of others.

If on the one hand, this means that a virus can spread throughout the world in a matter of weeks, it also means that what each of us does with his or her life is of tremendous importance to society as a whole. For some, this may look like a terrible responsibility. But I want to encourage you to see the interconnection we have with everyone else on this planet as the proof that even one single determined individual can change the course of history. When we realize how much we can impact reality with our choices, we can begin to see how important it is to study and work for others as well as for ourselves.

We have all enjoyed the beautiful privilege of education. Let us put this gift in service of the global community that surrounds us, especially for all those who did not enjoy the same privileges we do. Let us use the things we have learned to build a truly equal, truly sustainable, and truly human world. Let us study and work not only for our own selves but also for every other human being on this planet.

Of course, this is an easy determination to make on a happy day such as this. But the truth is that we have ahead of us a period that, while it promises continued and tremendous personal growth, it also poses a great number of challenges. How can we make sure that the enthusiasm, the hope, and the resolve we feel in this moment will remain with us through the rest of our lives?

Searching for an answer, I came up with three words that express three concepts I would like to offer to you as the basis of a promise we might make to each other: the promise to keep working on ourselves in order to become better citizens and better human beings. Please take these three words as a way to express my respect for you and my desire to see each one of us flourish and excel in his or her own field.

My first word is ‘Gratitude:’ gratitude is the pillar of every noble personality. I want to encourage each of us to think about all the important things that make us feel grateful, no matter how little they are: from the love we receive from family and friends to the sheer, simple beauty of a sunny day. I believe that if we can feel grateful even for a tiny, inconsequential thing, then we can be sure not to steer away from the right path.

The second word is ‘Perseverance.’ It is certain that along our journeys, we will have to face challenges and obstacles. Sometimes these obstacles may make us reconsider the choices we have made, and they may make us wish to stop and abandon our dreams. In such moments, if we can manage to find again the strength necessary to keep fighting until the end, anything will be possible.

The third and last word is ‘Authenticity.’ If we remain true to ourselves and to the people we care about, I am sure we will realize our destinies and fill our lives with joy and meaning. In one of his novels, the French writer Victor Hugo has one of his characters declare: “After all, what do I care about the storm, if I possess a compass? And what can events do to me if I have my own conscience?” Today more than ever, I feel like we should take care of our consciences and endeavor to stay as true as possible to ourselves.

Class of 2020, I could not be more impatient to see all the great things we will do from tomorrow on. I am so excited at the thought of the encouragement and the inspiration you will provide me and all your loved ones with your successes. I promise I will give my best to do the same for you.

Before concluding, I would like to share a quote from a man called Daisaku Ikeda. Speaking to the youth of the 21st century, this educator and Buddhist philosopher said: “Of what use is intelligence if you refuse to fight against injustices? Of what use is knowledge if you do not protect ordinary people? Of what use is youth if you do not utilize it to become stronger and forge yourself as a human being?”

Thank you so much,

Jacopo Olmo Antinori