Commencement 2016 Speech Excerpts

Undergraduate Student Speaker Mynor Rosa
Undergraduate Commencement Speaker Reverend Liz Walker
Graduate Student Speaker Michelle Parsons
Graduate Commencement Speaker Dr. Lisa Wong

Undergraduate Student Speaker Mynor Rosa

You see you wouldn't ask why the rose that grew from the concrete
Had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its
Tenacity. We would all love it's will to reach the sun
Well, we are the roses—this is the concrete—and these are
My damaged petals. Don't ask me why, ask me how!
-Tupac Shakur

Words of Tupac. To me he represents something that is deeper than what you see on the surface. Tupac represents the struggle and most importantly the greater good. Tupac touches upon something that is greater than the individual. He talks about something that lives throughout us all: resilience and empathy.

I can easily talk about my own journey to this point, but I would feel that would be an injustice to what should be said. I am here today not for me, but for my grandmother who taught me what empathy is. I am here today for everyone that is suffering from opioid addiction. For my friends that are stuck in the cycle of poverty, gun violence and prison. For my students in my Miami that will never know what it feels like to wear a cap and gown. For my brother,who is here today,  so he can learn from my mistakes so he can be the man that I could never be. And for my ancestors,  we will live forever.

These past couple of months have been full of trials and tribulations  at Wheelock  College. The pain, stress and tears that have been shed amongst members of the community could fill the muddy river. Many of us, including myself, have given up on fighting for social justice at this institution. But through the mist, Wheelock College has given us a gift. A gift that people go years without realizing. That gift is the uplifting of the veil and seeing the beauty in the struggle. We have the power to not only fight for those that have been marginalized the most but also challenge each other to strive towards social justice. Our struggle has taught us to self reflect and improve as a leader, student, role model and human being. For we all know, we need it now more than ever.

We all have the ability to improve the lives of children and families, but how can we achieve such a feat if we cannot show empathy towards those that need us the most? How can we build bridges, if we are using planks that have holes in them?  What can we do to answer the call of light from Dr. King? Now, more than ever, we must not be afraid to walk a mile in the shoes of others, for this saying was not made for the person you are comfortable with. Walk a mile with   someone that disagrees with your political views, walk a mile with someone that is of a different identity or culture to understand how beautiful each and every single one of us are. If we want to bring change, we must begin to understand we are part of the same journey. The journey that teaches us life's most beautiful lessons. And our time at Wheelock is no different.

My fellow classmates, I leave you with this: No matter where you are in the world or what job you hold, always remember the gifts and the memories that transpired here. Remember the times where you thought you weren't going to make it to this day, remember the times where you questioned if you were smart enough, if you were brave enough or if you were strong enough to finish. And remember how you gave yourself that answer by walking the stage on May 20th! Remember that We are the Roses, this is the concrete, these are our damaged petals! Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2016.

Undergraduate Commencement Speaker Reverend Liz Walker Excerpts

"Yes, there are many challenges. I sense your passion and your righteous indignation, but I want to tell you that you'd better pace yourselves. You are going to be fighting battles the rest of your life. But the world is getting better....This is a time of great peril, but it is also a time of great possibility and I believe you are prepared."

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On the importance of grace in the world: "I want you to know that this is not just a kumbaya moment where we should all hold hands. Grace has worked in world history." She noted the 1990 statement of apology issued by the East German Parliament that admitted responsibility for the expulsion, humiliation, and murder of Jews and asked for forgiveness. "The fact that Germany and Israel have any relationship at all is because of this stunning act of international grace....I have been all over the world and I can tell you that it is not us against them, there is only us."

READ REVEREND LIZ WALKER'S FULL SPEECH

Graduate Student Speaker Michelle Parsons '16MSW Speech

Welcome to family, friends and our esteemed faculty who are here in honor of this very special graduating class. I am very proud to be standing here today with my peers as we celebrate the completion of our Master of Social Work degrees. I have never felt as honored as I do at this very moment as I look out on my fellow graduates and see the most motivating and inspiring group of people that I have ever had the privilege to meet.

I would like to share with you some of the things that I have learned during this journey that we have been on together. The most important lesson is one in perseverance. I came to Wheelock's Masters in Social Work program by way of community college. I was 21 years old and newly sober from drugs and alcohol and ready to change my life. My journey took me from the halls of Alcoholics Anonymous to the University of Massachusetts in Boston, where I finished my bachelor's degree. It was during that time that I lost my father to cancer but found my love of helping people. It was that love that brought me to the MSW program at Wheelock College. I am here today almost ten years sober, with a master's degree and I have learned that there is NO trial that cannot be overcome when you are surrounded by people who love you and support you every step of the way. It was that exceptional community of people who are really invested in the learning of their students that led me to Wheelock College.

On our first day at Wheelock we were asked if we were "tough enough to change the world," and that school motto was emblazoned on every wall throughout the institute. I remember thinking am I tough enough to really make a difference in the lives of the children and families that I wanted to work with? Are we tough enough to change the world? To stand up against social injustices? What I know today ,through everything that I have learned, both in the study of social work and in life is that YES WE ARE TOUGH ENOUGH. Every time I sat with a client who was dying while I interned in hospice and bore witness to their suffering, I was changing the world. And every single time I heard the experiences of my classmates who worked in the field, hospitals, DCF, outpatient clinics, nonprofits and the work they do to promote positive change, I began to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be tough enough.

We are all united in experiencing adversity no matter your race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age or culture . We have all struggled with challenges: addiction, some with the loss of a loved one, some with trauma and it is through these hardships we learn challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming these challenges, is what makes life meaningful. Part of exploring who we are today is to go back and look at the people, events and experiences that have shaped us. Sometimes the process is painful, but we must remember if we are cut off from our pasts, were cut off from parts of ourselves. It is through hearing the adversities of others, specifically our clients, and bringing our past to our awareness, that we can respect and but most importantly celebrate both the commonalities and differences that lie among all of us. I am privileged and humbled to say that I am TOUGH ENOUGH because of the support and education Wheelock provided me. Wheelock provided an open-minded and cultivating environment to process the adversities I witnessed daily, but most importantly share my passion for social justice with others.

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2016. WE DID IT!

Graduate Commencement Speaker Dr. Lisa Wong Excerpts

"My violin, I found, was a change maker. My violin, the orchestra, and I traveled to other islands to play for schools where kids had never heard symphonic music."

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"I've come to understand and appreciate life's long view. In my practice, I care for children when they're born until they graduate from college. That is a privilege."

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"Students of every age simply learn better through the arts; the playfulness, structure, and freedom of the arts are essential for all of us. A traumatized child may open up through a shared song. A non-verbal child may find her voice through drawing. The arts can't end with preschool curriculum. Incorporate the arts in every level."

READ DR. LISA WONG'S FULL SPEECH

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