“I Have A Dream: Communication For All.” Non-Speaking Graduate Gives Powerful Speech.

a two-photo collage. the first is of elizabeth bonkers at a podium giving her commencement speech. the second is a view of elizabeth’s graduating class as the give her a standing ovation after her speech.

Growing up, Elizabeth Bonker never imagined she’d give a commencement speech as valedictorian at Rollins College.

For much of her life, she never even thought she’d be able to speak — that’s because Elizabeth is autistic and nonverbal. The challenges she faced being unable to communicate like the people around her left her mind in a “silent cage.”

But that cage began to open up when she started learning how to type. Using a keyboard and an AI voice, she found herself better able to communicate and be educated like her hero, Helen Keller.

During her speech, Elizabeth highlights the struggles she has faced, including having a high school principal refer to her as a slur who “can’t be valedictorian.” She also discusses how, despite everything and everyone that challenged her, she continues to choose to celebrate every victory both big and small.

“God gave you a voice,” Elizabeth said. “Use it. 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.”

Watch Elizabeth’s powerful commencement speech in the video below, and don’t forget to share.

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