Commencement 2010 Speech Excerpts
President Jackie Jenkins-Scott's Opening Remarks
Undergraduate Student Speaker's Remarks
Graduate Student Speaker's Remarks
Commencement Speaker's Remarks
President Jackie Jenkins-Scott's Closing Remarks
Good morning and welcome to the 122nd Wheelock College Commencement exercises! I extend a warm welcome to the husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, other caregivers, and family and friends of our graduates. We are so pleased to have you with us as we "bear witness" to this milestone accomplishment of our graduates. We are most privileged and grateful to have been a part of your family member's life for the past few years. The entire Wheelock community shares in your pride and happiness on this very special day.
We know that Wheelock is a unique institution not only because of our special calling—to educate practitioners and leaders who are committed to our mission of improving the lives of children and families, but also because of you, our talented and exceptional faculty. Our students tell us how your close and personal relationship with each of them, your devotion to excellence in teaching and scholarship, and your untiring efforts to help them thrive is truly what makes Wheelock the very special College it is. On behalf of our students, thank you.
To the Class of 2010, congratulations! You are graduating at a most historic time in our nation. It is a troubling and uncertain time—full of challenges and yes, full of opportunity. In these most troubling, uncertain, and challenging times you have persisted, you have prevailed, you have overcome adversities and you are here today—graduating. Congratulations! We honor you and are so proud of each and every one of you.
And it is during these times of challenge and uncertainty that we appreciate with much gratitude and love the support of family and friends. You are here today having achieved a very significant accomplishment. You set a goal, worked hard, and you achieved your goal. Many, many students cannot make the same claim. I'm sure you can think of several people who started out here at Wheelock with you and are not celebrating with you today. On behalf of the entire Wheelock family, I salute you with warm and affectionate congratulations!
Now the fact of the matter is that you didn't do it alone, you had help and much support: A family member cheering you on, showing up at Wheelock when you forgot or needed something or to see you participate in a college activity; a phone call at just the right moment when you needed to hear a reassuring voice; a faculty member who gave you advice and help with a problem; a classmate who helped you with a difficult assignment or completed more than his or her share of the project.
And for those of you who are lucky enough to have someone here today, I ask that you give a symbolic gesture of your gratitude here today, at this your graduation. Please stand and throw a kiss, give a wave, a smile or quietly whisper "thank you" to that person. Now, please give a wave to all our family and friends who are watching this ceremony down the street on campus and those who are watching this ceremony live on their home or office computer. Thank you and now please be seated.
Our founder, Lucy Wheelock, often said that "the one thing that makes life worth living is to serve a cause." In founding Wheelock College, nearly 123 years ago, she dedicated herself to serving children and families through education, a critically important cause then and perhaps, the most important cause we can embrace today.
Our 2010 Commencement theme builds on the inspiration of Lucy Wheelock's words. Today we honor the call to service. "Service is the price we pay for occupying space on this earth," says Marion Wright Edelman, founder of the children's Defense Fund,. We honor three exceptional servants—Bob Lincoln, longtime Wheelock advocate, trustee, and past chair of the Board of Trustees; Susan Bruml Simon, class of 1973, educational consultant and devoted Wheelock alumna and trustee. And Paul Reville, Massachusetts Secretary of Education, Wheelock corporator and former trustee, and long-time advocate for quality public education for all children. Through their professional and volunteer activities, these outstanding leaders have had a profound impact on the lives of children, families, and society and on the well-being and advancement of Wheelock College.
You, our class of 2010, are exceptional! You came to Wheelock to make the world a better place for children and families and you leave here firmly committed and prepared to deliver on this promise.
During your time at Wheelock, you have demonstrated your commitment to service. You are amazing! You started and sustained new service projects, and you have devoted more hours to service than any other class during my tenure at Wheelock. Multiple student organizations have engaged in fundraisers for many important causes and you, our students, responded to the crisis in Haiti this year, raising money for food, clothing, and education. You have volunteered to assist with campus and community clean up projects, organized AIDS education programs and your Make a Wish Talent Show raised more money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation than ever!
You have demonstrated your commitment to making this a better society for all, locally, nationally, and globally. Many of you have participated in our New Orleans service learning trips two, three, four, even five times. You have traveled to West Africa, Northern Ireland, Puerto Rico, and other parts of the world to serve.
And when you leave Wheelock you will continue to honor the call to service. Some will use your talents and skills in classrooms near and as far away as the Marshall Islands and West Africa. Others of you will work in hospitals and in your church nursery school, in homeless shelters, child care settings, and other important social service organizations. Others will continue your education here at Wheelock College, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, NYU, and Salem State College. We have observed your amazing commitment to community service and to doing what you can, when you can, where you can to make this world a little better. And we thank you and honor you for this.
Last night, our Commencement speaker Paul Reville spoke eloquently about our responsibility to provide a world where all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential in part so they can give back to society, so they can "do good." We believe you, our Wheelock graduates, are on a path to live a life of good works. We believe that you will be exceptional "do-gooders"
And we are so proud that you are do-gooders—we need more do-gooders in this city, in this state, in this country, and in this world. Our hope is that you leave here empowered with the knowledge and confidence that you can make a difference—you can do good! In fact, you are destined to make this a better world by doing good works. With the excellent education and outstanding opportunities you have received, we also hope you leave here with the courage, the compassion and the commitment to speak truth for what is right and just—it is the way you will do good and truly live up to our mission to improve the lives of children and families. It is what we expect of you and it should be no less than you expect of yourselves.
Good Morning! I am so honored and delighted to be able to stand before you today as one of the members of the graduating Class of 2010!
It doesn't quite feel like fours years ago that many of us first came to Wheelock. Some of you might remember when were deciding on colleges, this brochure was mailed to us as prospective students. It reads:
"You have a gift and Wheelock College is the place for people who have the special ability and desire to help other people, improve society, and change the world...Just like there are schools for the arts or engineering, there is also a college for people with a unique kind of intelligence that is caring, understanding, empathetic, and connecting, a college for people who believe in making a difference in the world and in the lives of other people."
Today I want to emphasize that making a difference is not just something that will happen upon graduation, because it is a reality that has already begun in us through our years at Wheelock.
Many of us have already improved the lives of children and families. Many of us are already using these gifts. To show a small sampling of this would you please stand and remain standing if you have created or attended a campus event that has helped the people in our city or our world. If you have attended a service learning trip during your years here. If you have worked with children or families that are considered "at risk," would you please stand. If you have comforted a child in a hospital, a school, or in a DCF program, please stand. If you have brightened a child's day simply by playing with him or her, would you please stand.
Look around you. Not only are these the people who many of us consider our closest friends, not only are these the people with whom we share sweet memories; these are the people who are changing the world. We are the people who are not starting to improve the lives of children and families; we are the people who are already making that dream a reality. Thank you. You may be seated.
I don't think there are many other college students in America that can stand up and say that they and their peers are rapidly making a difference in the world from the ground up. We can. How many other institutions can say of a class, that they have continuously held clothing and food drives for local shelters, sent hundreds of dollars of school supplies to Haiti, held annual yard sales to donate money to local charities, had full days dedicated to park and river cleanups, held events with the sole purpose of making cards for children in hospitals and military men and women overseas, gave up their spring breaks, summers, and vacations to not only serve families in this country but countries around the world. Are you starting to see it? The use of this gift of compassion and caring is not going to start now upon graduation, it has already started.
Even so, I want to encourage us with this: it is clear that we as individuals and as a whole have been accomplishing this mission of improving lives and children and families since we came to Wheelock. Yet, we have to know that as we walk forward from here, we have become more qualified to go and make a difference. The training that we have acquired, knowledge that we have learned, the practical field work we have experienced, the resources we have obtained, and the relationships that have been established with peers and professors are only going to further empower us to change the world. Let's not forget that.
How many of you have seen the movie Cars? Actually, I know you've seen it, we all go to Wheelock after all. There is an important line in the movie when Mater says, "I don't need to know where I'm going, just need to know where I've been." I stand before you today telling you to recall where we have been and the lives that have already been touched. If this is any indication of what is to come, then look out world, because we have the gifts and the skills; here come the world changers.
President Jenkins-Scott, distinguished faculty, family, friends, guests and fellow graduates, today is a day to celebrate great accomplishment. When thinking about graduation, some words came to mind that I first heard at my mother's graduation ceremony when she received her master's degree: "Congratulations! Today is your day. You're off to Great Places! You're off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go." These are the words of Dr. Seuss from the highly renowned book Oh the Places You'll Go. When I first heard the words from this book, I imagined what graduating from college would feel like. Eleven years later, that day came. When I graduated from Wheelock with my bachelor's degree two years ago, I was immediately offered a position teaching middle school math. I was finally living those words. I was on my own and making decisions for myself-and that absolutely terrified me. I had begun my first year of teaching and the pursuit of my master's degree. While doing this, I began to appreciate the education that I had received at Wheelock. It had prepared me to be an effective teacher. As you go out into the world, you will be able to see that the lessons learned and well-practiced at Wheelock are reflected in those words by Dr. Seuss, as well as his many other works.
"It's a Truffula seed. Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back." Seuss' book The Lorax magnifies the importance of compassion and caring in society. At Wheelock we have magnified and shared our abilities of caring and compassion. From day one, we have been planting our own Truffula Seeds-we have been making a difference and opening up to help others by taking time to work with one student in the classroom, by cheering up one child in a hospital, by working to make even just a little progress in the life of a child or family. When many people graduate college, they hope to go off to make a difference-we already do and have been throughout our entire Wheelock experience.
"Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try." When we were young, the book Oh the Thinks You Can Think helped developed our imagination and creativity. Wheelock has taught us to apply that creativity and expand our point of view. We can creatively solve problems, lead others into imaginative ways, and make innovative activities. By continuing to think new thinks, we will continue to better the lives of others in ways that haven't been done before.
"I do not like green eggs and ham! / I do not like them, Sam-I-am. / You do not like them. So you say. / Try them! Try them! And you may. / Try them and you may, I say. / Sam! If you will let me be, / I will try them. You will see. / Say! I like green eggs and ham! / I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!" Green Eggs and Ham shows that good can come from being open minded. We were taught through practice to open our minds to new ideas—to try green eggs and ham—and sometimes were surprised to see the practicality and usefulness of something we were skeptical to try. Those new ideas have inspired us to continuously work to improve our techniques and have made us more adaptable to the ever-changing environment.
"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." Happy Birthday to You showed the hardest lesson. We were taught to be true to ourselves and to bring our own individual strengths to the world. Be a leader, a teacher, a social worker, a child life specialist. Be a friend, a parent, a confider. Be a planner, a writer, a reader, a mathematician, a scientist. Be an athlete, a comedian, a trivia guru, a scrabble whiz, a computer genius, a performer, a baker. Our individual strengths have made us stand out. They are the reason we have impacted others and the reason that we will continue to do so for years to come.
Whether you came to Wheelock to study education, child life, social work, or juvenile justice, Wheelock has prepared you with the knowledge, skills and tools you will need to succeed. We have been using these tools for years here, and we will continue to carry these tools with us through every lesson we teach, with every sick child we comfort, with every family we counsel, and with every child and family whose lives we will enhance. If you become terrified, overwhelmed, or fear you aren't cut out for the job, remember the many skills Wheelock has taught you, and remember the words of Dr. Seuss. Continue to plant those Truffula seeds, think new thinks, and remember to try green eggs and ham. "And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.) Kid, you'll move mountains! So...be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O'Shea, you're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!" To my fellow graduates of the Class of 2010, congratulations!
Madame President, honored guests, members of the faculty, staff, families and friends and most of all, graduates, thank you so much for the privilege of being your commencement speaker. It is indeed a great honor not only to speak to you today, but to be recognized as part of the Wheelock College family on this momentous occasion. I thank you for honoring me.
I bring Governor Deval Patrick's greetings, appreciation and hearty congratulations to today's graduates. The Governor and I are so proud of you and your accomplishments. We are grateful to your parents and families for their support of your work. We are indebted to the leadership, board, faculty, and staff of this distinguished institution for all that they have done to make today's personal triumphs possible. What we celebrate today is the result of decades of effort by your, your families and this institution. All of you should take great pride in the major achievements that today's celebration represents.
As you know, your president, Jackie Jenkins-Scott, is an outstanding educational leader and, more importantly, a wonderful person. Governor Patrick and I are deeply grateful to her for the many ways in which she has served the Commonwealth, most notably as co-chair of the Governor's Readiness Project. Over the course of a year, President Jenkins-Scott led a statewide conversation involving educators, advocates, business leaders, scholars and others to chart the course for the next generation of education reform in Massachusetts, which culminated in the release of the Governor's Education Action Agenda in June 2008.
This work has formed the backbone of everything we've done since, from the passage of a major new education reform law that increases opportunities for school districts to innovate and provides new rules, tools and supports to help students in low-performing schools, to the establishment of regional Readiness Centers to help teachers and school districts across the state improve their professional practice, to many other policy initiatives, large and small. The Governor and I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Jackie for her unyielding devotion to the welfare of our Commonwealth's students, to our children. I invite you to join me in a round of applause for your great president, Jackie Jenkins-Scott.
As I've come to learn from my own service on this college's Board, Corporation, and various committees, unyielding devotion to the welfare of children truly defines the spirit of this college. During my many years' association with Wheelock, I have been so deeply impressed by the dedication of this community's volunteer leaders, its Board and Corporators.
This College is a truly a special place with a strong mission in the field of education, a set of values, norms, and caring relationships that define what it means to be part of the Wheelock community. Over the years I have witnessed how this strong mission and spirit has inspired the immense loyalty of people like Susan Simon and Bob Lincoln, who are being honored today and who have given so much of their lives and energy to this college. My own contributions pale in comparison. They have given deeply of their lives to support the progress and prosperity of this college. Their dedication and that of countless other leaders speaks volumes about the ethos of this very special institution, and the way in which Wheelock means so much in the lives of those who are associated with it. Those of you who graduate today are fortunate indeed to be permanently joining this inspiring community.
Today I want to talk for a bit about leadership and public service, and why I hope that you take what you have learned from Wheelock and devote it to the service of others. In a culture that so often emphasizes our differences, disputes, and the reasons that stand in the way of helping our fellow men and women, it may sometimes seem to you that effective leadership is impossible in this day and age, and that service to others is no longer widely valued. But the truth is, leadership and service are more vital now than ever. Consequently, I'd like to talk with you today about two great leaders in the world of education who, despite the challenges of their day, made great things possible. They are people who, in a world of doubters and naysayers, were able to see the world through the lens of solutions.
The first is Horace Mann, our state's first Secretary of Education, who is widely regarded as the "father of public education" in America. Mann was born in 1796 and grew up in Franklin, Massachusetts. Unlike most leaders of his time, he grew up in poverty and was largely self-educated. But by virtue of long hours of study on his own, he was admitted to Brown University, became a lawyer, and was elected to the State Legislature, eventually becoming President of the Massachusetts State Senate.
Despite having attained that august perch, Mann decided to accept an offer to become the Commonwealth's first Secretary of Education, at considerable sacrifice to his political prospects and financial interests. But as the leader of the Massachusetts Board of Education for 11 years, he revolutionized the nation's concept of the purpose and value of public schools. He conceived of the "common school," a place where children of all classes and religions could be educated. He created the "normal schools"—what we now refer to as teacher education colleges—and established teacher training as a legitimate professional field. He dramatically increased state funding for teacher salaries, books and school construction. He was a reformer who ardently believed that the nation's nascent school system could be much better. And he was determined to make it so.
At a time when many leaders of his day were content with the idea that education should be reserved for the privileged classes, Mann believed differently. And two key qualities, I believe, enabled his beliefs to carry the day. The first was his skill as a leader-his vision, values and ideals. The second was his dedication to public service. Let me give you a small taste of each.
First, his leadership skills began with a powerful vision. At a time when poverty and crime were increasing in American cities due to the migration of farmers to new factories and the mass influx of immigrants into our nation, Mann had the vision to create a new social structure-the common school-to combat those problems. He saw public education as "the great equalizer of the conditions of men—the balance wheel of the social machinery." With faith and idealism, he was able to take a social challenge that stoked fear and anti-immigrant sentiment in others and instead created the greatest social movement of the 19th century. In his vision, the common schools would lead to the elimination of poverty and a peaceful, equitable, society devoid of ethnic or religious strife. He saw the public school as a "wellspring" of freedom and a "ladder of opportunity" for millions.
Mann was also a great leader because he was true to his values. He was a moralist whose humanitarian values were unassailable. In his Seventh Annual Report to the Massachusetts Board of Education, for example, he railed against discrimination in education for all by the powerful and privileged few. He wrote: "A few men, always a small minority, who appreciate the value of knowledge, will establish schools suited to their own wants. The majority will be left without any adequate means of instruction, and hence the mass will grow up in ignorance. Here the foundation of the greatest social inequalities is laid. Wherever this social inequality is once established, its tendency is to go on increasing and redoubling from generation to generation. And this is but a part of the evil."
As an egalitarian, Mann wanted all Massachusetts citizens to have "an equal chance of earning and equal security in the enjoyment of what they earn." Mann's values were ahead of their time, but he never wavered from them. As a result, he shepherded great reforms to public education that transformed American society.
Finally, Mann was intensely dedicated to public service. He easily could have pursued a lucrative career as an attorney or businessman. Instead, he chose to give up his prosperous law practice when his public service responsibilities became too great. He made a choice to serve as an elected official, as an education leader, and as a Member of Congress and President of Antioch College. None of these were easy choices, but he embraced them nonetheless, clearly driven by his civic commitment to serve his fellow man. He saw his duties as Secretary of Education as promoting "the supremest welfare of mankind on earth." If he had chosen another course, it's unlikely that public education would have evolved in America as it did, with so much benefit for millions of children and citizens. But Mann's decision to always place the interests of the public above his own self-interest is why we remember him today.
Sixty years after the birth of Horace Mann, another great figure in the history of education was born, one who you know well: Lucy Wheelock. Like Mann, she too is distinguished by her leadership, vision, and devotion to public service. At a time when even few educators paid attention to the developmental and schooling needs of young children, Lucy Wheelock saw great potential in early childhood education, and helped organize it as a formal discipline. She had the vision to understand that when children are exposed to high-quality education from an early age, they are put on a path that can affect them positively for the rest of their lives. Just as Mann noted the absence of an effective structure to train teachers of older students, Wheelock saw the same need with respect to younger students, spurring her to establish Miss Wheelock's Kindergarten Training School—which eventually would become Wheelock College.
She was an innovator-one of the first to apply the then-new field of psychology to discover how children learn by observing them at play and in the classroom. She also was one of the first educators to think deeply about how parent education and home-school cooperation could be used to advance the education of children. She was a humanitarian guided by deep moral values, motivating her to ensure that her training school students learned about and interacted with immigrant families in Boston's Portuguese, Filipino and Italian neighborhoods. And like Horace Mann, she was deeply devoted to public service, remarking when she began her first kindergarten teacher training class that she was "not equal to such a high calling."
As the current Secretary of Education, I have been inspired by Horace Mann's example as a model of leadership and public service, just as I suspect the example of your college's founder, Lucy Wheelock, has inspired you. But beyond being great leaders and great public servants, what else do Mann and Wheelock have in common?
First, they were both what we would call today "social entrepreneurs." They saw public service as more than just maintaining the status quo. Instead, they saw it as a means to promote innovation and move society forward. They looked for innovative ways, strategies and structures, with which to tackle persistent problems in education and society. They were also creative. They used their firm grounding in their beliefs and values as a launching pad for new concepts, new approaches and ideas that reflected those values. When they looked at the world around them and saw that society's existing organizations and institutions were lacking or failing altogether, they invented new institutions. The courage of their convictions gave them the bravery to propose new ways to meet old challenges, to undertake the considerable risks of innovation and change.
Most importantly, while others of their time observed the poor, immigrants, ethnic minorities, even children, and sought to define them for what they lacked, Mann and Wheelock had the ability to see their fellow citizens for who they really were—and what more they could become with an education.
So with those inspiring examples in mind, I ask you: how do you see your fellow men and women? What will you do with the knowledge you've learned through the privilege of a higher education? Who among you will be the Horace Manns and Lucy Wheelocks of your time?
As I look out on this graduating class now, I know you already exemplify the qualities of leadership, vision, humanitarianism, persistence and compassion that Mann and Wheelock embodied. The spirit of persistence is embodied here by students like Melissa Kalendarian, who was among a group of Wheelock students that traveled to Belfast to study reconciliation efforts between Catholics and Protestants in early childhood settings. Melissa's trip was extended—not by choice—due to a serious illness just before her return to the U.S., but she kept at her studies of how a society can move forward after decades of unrest.
The spirit of humanitarianism is embodied today by students like Lauren Wilson, who will leave for her fifth trip to New Orleans, Louisiana following this commencement program. While there, she and other Wheelock volunteers will assist with the continuing post-Katrina reconstruction, working with Habitat for Humanity and AmeriCorps, to gut homes, remove mold, and rebuild walls. Lauren had the rare thrill to be present when a home was completed and witnessed a family taking up residence after months of rebuilding. She said the experience "gets into her blood" and that she can't imagine a future where this activity is not an integral part of her future work.
The spirit of compassion is embodied today by students like Peter Bartmon, who is also returning to New Orleans for the fifth time. Peter subscribes to a philosophy of "get out there and do something," and says his most satisfying experiences involve rebuilding a home and hanging sheetrock side by side with Wheelock faculty. Peter notes that the devastation in New Orleans compels him to return each year and that he "feels very grateful for what he has." His interest in service learning began with his affiliation with the Jumpstart Program and ever since he has joined volunteer groups and recruited many others to join him in his community efforts.
These are just three of the many examples I could give of the many Wheelock students—and faculty—who already know what leadership and public service are all about. And so to all of you, I say: keep it going. We need you. Your fellow citizens need you. Our children need you. And for those of you who will continue to make Massachusetts your home I say, your Commonwealth needs you. For despite all our achievements as the leading education state in the Union, there is much more that needs to be done.
We have major challenges ahead of us. Seventeen years after our historic 1993 education reforms, we've made great progress in public education in Massachusetts. But it's also the case that in 2010, the following facts reflect our reality:
While Massachusetts consistently ranks first in the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the nation's report card, in reading and math, our achievement gap between White and higher-income students on the one hand, and Black and Latino students, low-income students and students with disabilities is among the worst in the nation.
While our high school dropout rate has dipped below 3 percent for the first time in a decade, each year, almost 8,600 students across our Commonwealth fail to complete high school.
While Massachusetts is among the highest-ranking states in terms of the number of high school graduates who go on to college, only 50 percent of our state college students graduate with a degree after six years.
Despite the overall quality of our 1,800 public schools, we've just identified 35 schools that are both extremely low-performing and non-improving. These schools enroll more than 17,000 students, 87 percent of whom come from backgrounds of poverty.
Despite all the progress we've made we won't have made public education a "ladder of opportunity," as Horace Mann put it, until these sad statistics are erased. Until these damaging trends are reversed. Until these pernicious achievement gaps are closed, once and for all. Until we deliver on the as yet undelivered promise of education reform in America: excellence for all, and all means all.
To get there, we need to build a system of education that is responsive to each and every child. A system that meets each child where they are and gives them what they need to prosper. We need to do a better job harnessing the immense power of technology to invigorate what goes on in the classroom. In an educational landscape that still operates according to the outmoded dictates of the agrarian calendar, we need to re-imagine schooling and use time in radically different ways to deliver teaching and learning. These are only hints of the changes we need to make in order to build a 21st century learning system that prepares all of our students for success. It's a huge job and we need help.
And that's where you come in. Because members of the Wheelock College Class of 2010, you truly can be the Horace Manns and Lucy Wheelocks of your day. With your own vision and entrepreneurial spirit, you can make these educational gaps a thing of the past. With your humanitarianism and compassion, your sense of creativity and innovation, you can push back the negative forces who say it can't be done. You can triumph over those that say the status quo is good enough. And as you do, you can truly enact and thus come to understand what it means to be a leader and a public servant, in the mold of those who have come before you.
This is my challenge to you. And to guide you on your way, I hope you'll consider these words of advice:
First, understand the challenge you seek to address. Be thoughtful. Know that others likely have attempted to tackle the issues you want to work on. Learn the history of the issue, and study what others have done. Know who's been involved in those past attempts, and heed both their examples and their mistakes. Be strategic in framing and targeting your initiatives.
Once you've learned from the past, clearly envision what you'd like to see in the future and how to make it happen. Articulate your vision clearly and persuasively. Find your voice and use it thoughtfully.
Keep your eyes on the prize, the end result, improving the lives, learning and prospects of our children, however, know that the particulars of realizing your vision are likely to change along the way. Be flexible, adaptive and open to the ideas others can contribute to chart the course forward.
In working with others, always try to empathize. Understand the needs of your collaborators, and don't ignore or dismiss the needs of your opponents. Believe that most of the people you interact with are people of good faith, even when they have an opposing view.
When you do disagree with others, insist on civil discourse. Our society is currently riddled with nasty invective, ad hominem attacks, and knee jerk, adversarial posturing. Don't cheapen your vision or your values by being drawn into unnecessary conflicts. Seek to understand a problem, not to win an argument. Always remember that your goal should be to make a difference, not a point. Be respectful.
If you do run into difficulties, as you will, don't give up, because perseverance is the key to success. Know that if your first try fails, it's only the beginning, not the end, of your journey. Keep showing up.
And when you do succeed, be generous with the credit for your ideas. Receiving praise for your accomplishments is always nice, but you'll find that you can accomplish much more if you can give the credit away.
Finally, chart a path with heart. Remember that while the destination is important, how we get there, and the struggle along the way, is an equally valuable experience. Let compassion be your compass in all that you do, so all may know that your convictions stem from a place that is bigger than yourself. This is good work. In the end, know that is a great privilege in life to have good work to do, and there's no more important work in our society right now than educating all our children to their full potential.
I hope that like Horace Mann and Lucy Wheelock, each of you will be preoccupied with shaping a vision of a better, more equitable society. In this anti-intellectual age that constantly exhorts us to abandon our values in favor of self-gratification, may you know the gratification of loving others, serving others and living up to the promise of your highest ideals.
May each of you find the blessing of the kind of work that animated the entirety of Mann's and Wheelock's lives. It is indeed a blessing to find work about which you care so passionately that it doesn't really seem like work. Through such work, we not only fulfill our ideals but we so fully engage ourselves that the passage of life's time is swift and happy. Good, demanding work is the key to a full and satisfying life.
Finally, let me join Horace Mann in encouraging you, as he encouraged the Antioch College Class of 1859, to live your lives according to this maxim: "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."
Once again, congratulations on all that you have accomplished. And thank you for all that you will do in the future. Keep at it!
I thank you for your attention, thank you Wheelock and Godspeed to you graduates!
At this time, I would like each graduate who has received a BS, BA, or BSW degree to move his or her tassel to the left side of your mortarboard. The turning of the tassel symbolizes the awarding of a bachelor's degree. Congratulations to each of you!
This has been a wonderful ceremony. The outstanding commencement address by Secretary Paul Reville and his message to you, our most remarkable class of 2010, the awarding of honorary degrees to these three exceptional individuals who are dedicated and passionate about Wheelock College. The applause and cheers of your family, friends, and the Wheelock community acknowledge how proud we all are of your accomplishments during your years at Wheelock. We extend to each of you our very best wishes as you commence into the next phase of your life journey.
At the beginning of this ceremony, I encouraged you to honor the call to service by deepening your passion and commitment to service. In 1947, our Wheelock graduates gave tribute to Lucy Wheelock as it was the very first year that she did not address the graduating class. The students wrote this message in the 1947 yearbook: "on the special occasions when she spoke to us from the platform, her message was always timely and expedient. In simple words she brought to the perplexities of the present day the clear perspective of her long, full life. In days of depression and of war, her quiet wisdom helped us to see and understand." Her last message to a graduating class spoke of a task still to do, the task of remaking a war-torn world. This, she charged, was their challenge. It was for them to make their chosen profession the means of creating a cleaner and safer world, a world of greater promise than the world of today. She reminded them that the future depends upon the training of coming generations in the ideals of brotherhood and unity.
It's remarkable that Lucy Wheelock said these words 64 years ago! Her message is as relevant and important today as it was then. And so to you, the Class of 2010, I repeat Lucy's charge: Create a cleaner and safer world, a world of greater promise than the world of today. It is our hope that you leave here with the confidence, courage, compassion and passion to fulfill Lucy Wheelock's charge in your own 21st century way. It is what we expect of you, and it should be no less than you expect of yourselves
On behalf of the entire Wheelock community, once again I congratulate each of you, our graduates, your families and friends.