Donny Osmond gives unplanned speech at BYUH commencement

Written by: 
Helam Lau & Jessica Gonzalez Leon

BYU-Hawaii graduates were met with a surprise speech from American singer Donny Osmond at the Fall 2017 Graduation Commencement after guest speaker Elder Ronald A. Rasband invited him onto the stage.

Rasband, an apostle of the LDS Church, presented himself and his wife at the pulpit and announced the unplanned event. “One of the great missionaries of the church, one of the great ambassadors to share the light of Christ in all the world happens to be in our audience here today. He is a friend of mine, so I feel the liberty to invite him to come up here to the stand with me for just a moment to share a thought or two with you, and I am happy to give some of my time to him. So Brother Donny Osmond, would you come up here and join with me?”

When Osmond got to the podium, he said, “You know when a member of the Twelve tells you to get to the stand, you don’t say no.” Osmond said he was there was because of his graduating daughter-in-law Alta Osmond.

Elder Rasband joked about how they both had met earlier that day and he mentioned inviting Osmond to the stage, to which Osmond replied, “I’ll even sing for you.” Osmond said at commencement, “I was kidding!” to which Rasband responded, “Well too bad.”

Osmond said most likely no one in the audience knew who he was, except for his voice work as Captain Shang in “Mulan.” He sang the words “Let’s get down to business” from the film’s song “I’ll Make a Man out of You.”

Osmond, out of impulse, offered to sing the song but then he said to Rasband, “Actually, you know what, why don’t you take a seat. I have a quick story.” Rasband smiled, and Osmond took over the stage.

Osmond’s Speech

He started by acknowledging how everyone wanted to hear Rasband, but there was one story that he wanted to share about being prepared. He said his mother had a saying: “Prepare yourself and the opportunity will come.”

He shared an experience he had with the NFL when he was asked to sing the National Anthem for a Steeler versus 49er game. There was a group of drunk people booing at him in the stand as he was walking out. “I’m nervous enough without that,” he said as he shared how he kept on cheering himself up mentally by trying to remember the voice of encouragement from his mother.

When the keyboard player started with one chord, he sang the first lines, which he demonstrated for the audience. Some of the crowd were saluting while others were talking. By the time he began belting “And the rocket’s red glare,” the crowd got more silent. He said once he sang the line “that our flag was still there,” the crowd started to realize he was serious.

But right after finishing the line, he stopped. “I didn’t continue. You could hear a pin drop in the stadium. Then I took a big swallow, took a big breath.” He continued the song, and when he went for the high note on “free,” he held it as the stadium started to rumble. As he sang the last line, the crowd began to cheer.

As he walked out of the stadium, he looked at the section that was booing him and booed back.

Osmond told the graduates, “You might feel kind of worthless. You think you are subservient of others. You are not.” He reminded them they are children of God and finished by saying “just remember who you are and what you represent. You have prepared yourself to go out into the world and be great, and whenever a situation arises where somebody is booing you, whether literally or figuratively, just remember this: you have prepared yourself... and you can be great.”

Advice for Graduates

Before leaving the pulpit, Rasband came on one more time with Osmond and expressed his love and appreciation for him on behalf of Laie, everyone at the ceremony, and the church’s leadership for all the good Osmond has done around the globe.

Following the remarks was a piano performance of “Jeux d’eau” played by Hikaru Imaizumi, a piano performance major from Japan. Afterwards, Rasband wrapped up his time with his testimony in tears, leaving the audience three things to remember: pay attention with whom you associate yourself with; pray for guidance in behalf of decision making; and act on the first prompting while keeping the commandments.

President Tanner also spoke, pleading with the audience to enjoy their time at BYUH regardless of how long they attend the school so that they can enrich each day.

Ping Liu, the graduate speaker from China majoring in TESOL, spoke afterwards on how she started her journey at BYUH. “I dropped out of school at the age of 15 under the influence of cultural tradition where it is believed education is not important for me as a girl.

“My auntie believed this is the place where I can find a young man and bring him back to China.” Laughter from the audience followed.

Liu said her conversion to the gospel changed her perspective, so she chose to receive higher education at BYUH.

Reflecting on the wisdom from her professor who she said impressed her the most, she shared, “Being an active member of the church will make you qualified to be an English teacher and even in any other positions.”

Elder Kim B. Clark of the Seventy, and commissioner of the Church Educational System, had extended three invitations to BYUH students: continually hold fast to the iron rod by reading, pondering, and studying the Book of Mormon everyday; humble themselves; and pray before God and stay away from the great and spacious building by keeping the world out of their lives.

The ceremony ended with applause. Graduates walked out of the CAC as cheers could be heard, and smiles and laughs were all around. An hour after the ceremony, it was still packed with graduates wearing a stack of Leis, made out of candies and money on their necks given by their families and friends, while taking pictures and celebrating their moment of graduating.

To watch the commencement, click here. NOTE: Clicking on this link will take you away from the Ke Alaka'i and BYUH website.

Date Published: 
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Last Edited: 
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

NOTE: This article was unable to be uploaded sooner because of technical difficulties with the Ke Alaka'i website. We apologize for its late publication.