Dwyane Wade was a surprise commencement speaker at graduation for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School class of 2019 on Sunday.
Wade, the Miami Heat legend who retired at the end of the NBA’s regular season in April, has been a supporter of the Parkland, Florida, community since the February 2018 shooting left 17 dead. Wade visited the school on the first full day of regular class schedules after the shooting, and he used much of his commencement speech to reminisce on that moment and what it meant to him.
“I immediately started getting butterflies in my stomach,” Wade said. “I remember being so nervous to see and meet everybody. What would I say? I mean, I grew up in the inner city of Chicago, and I’ve experienced a lot of awful things. But I’ve never experienced anything to the magnitude that you guys had just experienced. I remember walking in and meeting the staff and actually being surprised that everyone was excited to see me.
” … I realized that at that moment, we all had a responsibility. A responsibility to be seen, to be heard, to stand up and stand tall, for the ones that no longer had a voice.”
The shooting has taken on a special significance for Wade, who has four children. The 37-year-old learned after the shooting that one of the victims, a teenage fan named Joaquin Oliver, had been buried in Wade’s No. 3 replica jersey. Wade met privately with Oliver’s family and dedicated the remainder of the season to him.
“Thank you for reminding me of my purpose,” Wade said Sunday. “I’ll try to continue to be a leader and a fighter that Joaquin Oliver thought I was. And I’ll keep reminding you of how the strength that was shown, the leadership that was shown — from the students, from the staff, from the parents, from this community — was powerful. And it is powerful. What I love most, and appreciated most, was that you all became advocates. You became the faces and the voices for kids all around the world. I’m so proud to say the words ‘MSD strong.’ “