Valedictorian with nonspeaking autism gives powerful graduation speech

Elizabeth Bonker
  • Rollins College valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker gave a powerful speech at commencement last week.
  • Bonker is affected by nonspeaking autism, so she used a text-to-speech computer program to deliver her address.
  • Bonker says she dreams of “communication for all” and has been “overwhelmed with gratitude” from the support she’s received.

In a class of 2022 commencement ceremony last week, Rollins College valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker delivered a powerful speech calling for “communication for all.”

Bonker is affected by nonspeaking autism, so she communicates by typing. At the Rollins’ graduation ceremony in Florida on May 8, she used a text-to-speech computer program to deliver her address – where she also urged her fellow graduates to remember that, like the late famous Rollins alum Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers ‘Neighborhood’ fame did, “Life is for service.”

“God gave you a voice. Use it,” Bonker, who received a degree in social Innovation, told her graduating class of 529 students. “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.”