Excerpts from 2015 Commencement Speeches
President Jenkins-Scott, Dean Morgan, distinguished faculty, families, and fellow graduates, Good Morning. My name is Alexandra Goyette and I represent one of the many voices of this graduating class of 2015.
I am standing here today because I, like the rest of my classmates, believe in a better tomorrow. I will freely admit however, there was a time where I did not feel this way. Towards the end of the summer of 2011, when I was preparing to begin freshman year at Wheelock College, many people assured me, "these will be the best years of your life". At the time, I thought the claim seemed incredibly presumptuous. Later that fall, I entered into our campus center filled with anticipation, and my fair share of skepticism.
In the past four years, I have learned that this mix of feelings is common, very common. I have had my ideals and beliefs challenged by faculty, other students, and most notably by myself. Professors at Wheelock have helped us confront what we consider to be our identities, our places in society, and our duties as human beings. Faculty presents us with facts, case studies, and personal experience; we observe, we listen, and then and only then, we are asked to make our own determinations. By challenging our perspectives, our arguments and our minds have become far stronger. I know I speak for many of us here when I say that Wheelock turned my skepticism into unapologetic idealism.
For me, it took just one semester to find my niche here in the science department. I was able to work with Wheelock, a large team of very patient professors, and the Colleges of the Fenway to create a reality that aligned with my inner vision. I had the honor to collaborate within a faculty group in the creation of the Environmental Studies major and I am incredibly proud to be the first to graduate with this degree. Standing here with you all now, I can say with great honesty that yes, these have indeed been the best years of my life.
We do not live in the best possible world, it's true, but we live in the better of all behind us, and we as a class are well-positioned to improve upon it. To meet the unique challenges forced upon us this century, we will need a greater sense of universal responsibility. We have a duty to care for humanity and the obligations that gives rise to. Here, today, we are on the brink of fulfilling that promise. As Graduates of Wheelock College, we will be providing support for families in unimaginable situations, preparing children for bright futures, and fighting for equal rights and opportunities for all.
Now the question is, how do we move forward? What does it mean to be good stewards of the education we have been privy to and the environment we all share together? First, we must acknowledge those who helped make our college experience possible. Parents, families, friends, and mentors, I take this moment to thank you! We ask that you continue to support us as we forge new paths.
Now, I ask you, as my professors have asked me, to dedicate some time every once and a while, to consider your place in the universe, the impact you leave on society and on our Earth. Consider the sheer impossibility of our existence on such a hospitable planet, and treat it and its inhabitants kindly, for this is our only chance. Spend time outdoors, and as Albert Einstein, great scientist and humanist once said, "look deep into nature and you will understand everything better".
Today is our final day as undergraduates, and as we prepare to take the next steps of our lives, I wish to offer a blessing to you all. May the next few months be a period of magnificent transformation. Keep your eyes wide open, and let the world change what you see.
Thank you to the President. Parents, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to start by congratulating today's graduates. And congratulations to my fellow recipients: Mr. Lawrence O'Donnell and Tiziana Filippine. I'm honored to be one of the degree recipients of your prestigious college. And now today, proudly, as a fellow Wheelock Wildcat.
I am also privileged today to share my story today. I am an African woman, a mother and a leader. I have taken many roles— businesswoman, an activist, a politician, and a head of state. I have led in many capacities—as a Member of Parliament, a Cabinet Minister, Vice President and ultimately as President of Malawi. Through these roles, I have had the opportunity to be an agent for change—in my community, my country, in Africa and the world.
I want you to know it has been an extraordinary journey of over 40 years—filled with joys, successes and impact. But it has also had an equal share of losses, failures and disappointments. As you graduate today, it is a shining day for you—it is a celebration of years of hard work and recognition of your resolve, dedication, and sacrifices to complete your education from this prestigious institution. But there is a reason we call this day a "commencement"—the goal today not to celebrate the end of things, but to celebrate the beginning of the rest of your life and career. Speaking to you at this critical juncture in your life is an honor—and I want to share my experiences and my perspectives with you.
I am sure you are wondering what you have in common with me—and how my experience and my advice would be relevant to you at this stage in your life. But we share a common sense of purpose—a desire to serve and to lead. To have impact and make a difference. To be the most we can be for ourselves and the greatest good for others.
How do I know this? It is because of the fact that you all chose to attend a deeply mission driven institution for your education and that is committed to creating a safe caring and just world for children and families. I too have based my life on a personal mission statement: "to assist women and youth to gain socio economic empowerment through business and education." In our passion and our compassion, our dedication and our service, we are tied together.
So it is apt that the theme for today is advancing social justice and education around the world. We could not be talking about anything more important today. I could talk about global issues and political challenges—but I want to make the case to you for spending your life advancing social justice and education with my own personal story...and that of my best friend Chrissie.
I was born in a little village clinic in Malawi. In our tradition, the grandmother is a very important figure in the family and in fact, brings up the first grandchild. But my father who lived in the city insisted that I go to school in the city. So each week, I travelled to the city to go to school, and when I returned by bus on Friday to Domas where my grandmother lived, my best friend Chrissie would be waiting at the bus stop. She would tell me what I missed in the village during the week and I would tell her what I've seen in town. She went to the village school and I went to the urban school. She was brighter than me. We went to the end of primary school. She was selected to one of the best girls schools in Malawi and I went to another. We went the first year but the next term she wasn't by the roadside because, as my grandmother told me, she had dropped out because her family couldn't raise the $6 to send her to school. I remember asking my father to find $6 for Chrissie, but he informed me that to send me and my sisters to school cost all his salary ($18 for three girls).
Fast forward to when I entered the State House as president. My friend Chrissie was where I left her. She got married at 15 and even the child she had died at two months old. This was the first time I came face to face with injustice. It doesn't make sense. I was angry then and I've been angry all my life. This is what drives me.
97 million children not in primary school, 226 million children not in secondary school. Dismal statistics about education, about inequality, injustice, abuse, maternal mortality. But most importantly, I know that each of those numbers is a Chrissie—a story of a girl with potential and dreams, who could have lifted her self and her family out of poverty, who could helped her community—maybe as a teacher, maybe as a doctor, maybe as a scientist finding the next cure. But instead, she is where she started.
I should tell you that Chrissie has traveled with me many times—we tell our stories together. She even attended the Clinton Global Initiative with me and met President Bill Clinton. We want to share our story so people can see the power of education.
I want to especially give a message about women when we speak about justice and education—I am proud to see so many women in the audience. I want to speak about women but I am speaking to the men here as well. Despite all the progress in the world, it remains a challenging place out there for women to succeed as leaders. At the global level, two of the millennium development goals that we were the furthest behind on relate to women—promoting gender equality and empower women, and improving maternal health. At a personal level, all of us, including female Presidents, face obstacles and skepticism every day. But I believe that our future depends on empowering women—in the households, and out in the world and educating them. For women, economic empowerment means respect; it means they can contribute to household decisions. It means they begin to have a voice in decisions about giving birth, about health and the education of their girl children. When girls are educated, health outcomes improve for themselves and their families. In most developing countries, secondary education is not free, so girls are sent off to be married when they're very young. Sadly, childbirth is a leading cause of death for teenage girls around the world. Many more girls suffer fistula, and the social stigma that comes along with it. Ensuring those extra years of education can protect girls from early marriage and pregnancy, also giving them the skills and knowledge to earn income later in life.
These problems may seem far from your challenges—but we need women to be at the policy setting and leadership table to bring this agenda forward. For this, we need women and men to believe in the importance of a joint fight for justice. We need women and men to commit to be equal partners in service, in decision making and in leadership.
As you go forward today with aspirations of becoming leaders and making a difference, I want to share with you four messages. Call it advice for a career of serving and leading:
First, choose an extraordinary life—yes, it is a choice. You may not have a choice over the obstacles you face, the challenges you may come across, or when you will succeed or fail. If I take my own story, there are two ways to tell it—the first is to say "what a difficult life"—born in a poor village in one of the poorest countries as a woman, an abusive first marriage with three children, struggling at every step to succeed because of biases against women. I faced these biases and struggles even as a President—and actually, maybe even more as a President. But I choose to look at my situation differently. I say I have been extremely fortunate—being born in a continent with abject poverty, social injustice and heartbreaking challenges for women has given my life a sense of purpose. Each failure has taught me a lesson, made me stronger. Along the way, there are always easier paths to take—paths with less resistance, paths with less risk. At each step, I have made a choice—and I choose not to be ordinary, I choose extraordinary.
And today, you have a choice—join me. Pick an extraordinary life.
My next message to you is to commit to what you believe in. It sounds simple, but if you are on the road to being an extraordinary leader, this is far from easy. Sometimes your choices hurt your own chances of glory, power and success. When I became President, for instance, I took over a collapsed economy. There was no fuel in the country—people had been queuing for weeks to get fuel outside petrol stations. 2 million people were without food. There was no foreign exchange and no import cover—we had no money. There was no freedom of the press—we were at 145 in world rankings. Many of our democratic freedoms had been curtailed. 675 women were dying giving birth per 100,000.
When I took office, I was taking over the remaining term of the previous President. With less than two years, I had a choice—make incremental changes and focus on establishing my position and power. Maybe I could wait to get a full term. But it was clear to me—I had come into the office, and worked in public service for decades to serve. And at this stage of crisis in my country, I had only one course of action—however politically damaging and challenging it may be.
It meant I had to devalue our currency by nearly half when I took office. I had to make many unpopular decisions. In the two years I was in office, I repealed majority of the laws, economy grew by 6.3%, fuel lines had gone. A Presidential Initiative was established and reduced maternal death from 675 to 469 per 100,000. Food harvest for 2014 when I left was 3.9million metric tonnes with 1million of that being overproduction. We built a model village in each district and a water project in each district. The freedom of the press rankings rose to 79 in that year—of course, with their new found freedom, some of the press spent their time criticizing me! But I am proud of that.
The obstacles were many. To be honest, there were many times along the way where I could have focused on politics, on winning the next election. But my mission is clear to me. I see my life's work as 5 pillars: income generation, education, women's health, women in leadership, and women's rights. These ideas are key to empowering women, and ultimately children. When we empower women with education, small businesses, and allow them to actively participate in society, and provide them reproductive health services, we can lift an entire nation.
My mission is my north star. Becoming a Minister, the President or anything else is a means to fulfilling that mission. I may do different things in different roles—but the purpose is always the same. Today through the Joyce Banda Foundation, what I do—we have three schools, 30 orphan care centers with 30,000 children that we feed everyday. We run women's program of 500,000 market women, youth program of 850,000 youth (YOMODE). We sponsor 500 students in Universities, and 25students in technical schools.
So my advice to you is this—know your mission. Know your purpose. And commit to it. This is true leadership. Measure your leadership by what you are doing and not by titles people bestow on you. And as long as you serve and fulfill your mission, you are a leader.
In a very similar way to Robert Greenleaf's idea of Servant Leadership, I call my philosophy one of Mission Oriented Leadership. Mission oriented leadership means that your actions are driven by your mission, not by the expectations associated with the role or position you have been given. Your satisfaction comes from fulfilling your purpose, not from achieving titles or from praise from others. It means you don't wait to become President, or be given titles. You know what you are doing in the world everyday—to drive change, bring justice and be a leader.
Finally, I want to say: Know there are many paths to get to a goal. Actually, I am told Dolly Parton said it better: " If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one". Today, you will leave here with plans about how you will get to your goal—ideas about how you one day will find a cure, lead a city or a country, run a company, save a life, or change a community. Let me assure you that almost every one of those plans will fail. But it is not the failure that is important, but the choice you make after that.
Your journey starts today: to serve and to lead. To become a mission oriented leader. Waiting for you is an extraordinary life—if you are ready to choose it.
What a fantastic day for Commencement! We have all survived a historic winter here in Boston. Back in February when we were living through record snowfall—and it was record snowfall, over 110 inches, we longed for the beautiful New England spring. Well it's here and we deserve a gorgeous perfect 10 on this very special day. Let's give ourselves a hand of gratitude for this excellent Commencement day.
Our 2015 Commencement is here in this beautiful sanctuary of our neighbor Temple Israel. This is our eighth year, in the modern era of Wheelock, that Commencement is being held at Temple Israel. You, our beloved students, may not know that holding commencement at Temple Israel is very much a part of the Wheelock history. Wheelock Commencements were held here many times during recent decades including the 1960s and again in the 1980s.
We are pleased and most grateful to continue our longstanding tradition of friendship with Temple Israel and for that we are most thankful to Rabbi Ronnie Friedman and the entire congregation of Temple Israel for their generous hospitality and warm friendship. We couldn't ask for a better alternative to our own campus than here in the historic and beautiful Temple Israel. Please give Rabbi Friedman and the entire Temple Israel Community a rousing Wheelock applause of thanks for their friendship and generosity.
I extend a warm welcome to the family of our graduates. I know that the room is filled with mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, other caregivers and family friends. We are so pleased to have you with us as we "bear witness" to this milestone accomplishment of our graduates. We are most privileged to have been a part of your family member's life for the past few years. I know that the entire Wheelock community shares in your pride and happiness on this very special day.
To our remarkable faculty and staff, we thank you and applaud you for the many ways in which you have helped prepare our class of 2015 to enter the professional world of work, to continue their education, or to pursue travel or other learning opportunities. We know that Wheelock is a unique institution not only because of our special calling—to education 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.
In 1918, Lucy Wheelock talked about education and the spirit of teaching. She said, "We do not disregard technique, or conformity to the best established theories of practice; but we believe that the personality and spirit of the teacher are the greatest assets of the school." Miss Wheelock was indeed correct in 1918 and that statement is correct today in 2015; you our faculty are, indeed, the best assets of the College. Thank you!!
To the Class of 2015 Congratulations! You are amazing, and we are thrilled that you made it! We have watched you mature with grace, elegance, and superb leadership skills. You are wise beyond your years and we couldn't ask for a stronger more competent, compassionate, and passionate graduating class. In these most troubling, uncertain, and challenging times, you have persisted, you have prevailed, you have overcome adversities, you have stood up for what is right, and you have been proactive advocates for social justice. You are here today—graduating. Congratulations! We honor you and we are so proud of each and every one of you.
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 that 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 have someone with you 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 across the hall in the Levi conference center or down the street at the Wheelock Family Theatre. Thank you and now please be seated.
Today, we continue a tradition started in your freshman year when we moved to holding two commencement ceremonies. This morning, we celebrate you the amazing undergraduate Class of 2015 and this afternoon, we will hold a separate Commencement Ceremony in honor of our students earning the graduate degree. I know it seems like a long time ago, but some of you actually participated in the decision to start this new tradition that we have come to love. Thank you!
In 2002, our current UN Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, wrote a powerful book, "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide." In this book, Ambassador Power wrote about people she referred to as "Upstanders" and "by-standers." Upstanders are people who think critically, live by a moral code and stand up in the face of injustice even when it is not personally safe to do so. By-standers stand aside and ignore or watch from the sidelines. Ambassador Power wrote about the terrible genocides in Cambodia, Iraq, Bosnia and Rwanda—and those who had the courage to stand up and those who stood by.
During your time at Wheelock, and especially last year during the Black Lives Matter movement, you our graduates where ‘Upstanders'—you stood up, you participated and your voices were heard. You have challenged us—our beloved Wheelock College—to live up to our values and our rhetoric. You challenged us to "walk the talk" to be all we can be. We have had and are having difficult but critical conversations, and I want you to know how grateful we are to you for holding a mirror and forcing us to look into it. You are truly ‘Upstanders.'
We live in a time where there is an urgent need for Upstanders—every day, here at home and all over the world. You will be faced with opportunities in your professional careers and in your personal lives to stand up or stand by. You will surely be confronted with situations, in the classroom, in your professional work, which calls for someone to blow the whistle, who will say time-out, who will say not on my watch. The choice will be entirely yours. Our hope and aspiration is that as you leave Wheelock, you will always be ‘Upstanders' for there is so much work to be done in making our world a more just and humane planet.
Today we honor three exceptional and talented individuals—Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, Award winning television host, and Founder of the K.I.N.D Campaign, Lawrence O'Donnell, and international early education teacher and leader, Tiziana Filippini. Each of our honorees has used their talents and passion to be Upstanders on behalf of children and families. They live our mission to improve the lives of children and families every single day. We are privileged to welcome them today to the Wheelock family.
We believe you; our Wheelock graduates are on a path to advocate on behalf of children and to inspire a world of good. You are upstanders for children and families. You will live this mission in many ways: You will go off to the Peace Corp, some of you will make a difference in the classroom or other educational settings. Some of you are headed to graduate school in a variety of educational pursuits. you are writers producers, and actors and others will bring your talents and skills to community settings, hospitals, and courtrooms. Some of you aspire to elective office while others will help to make public policy. You will be extraordinary homemakers and volunteers, exceptional entrepreneurs and business leaders. Others will serve in many ways that we can't even imagine today.
What we hope is that, whatever you pursue, you will always be advocates on behalf of children and families living out Wheelock's mission to improve the lives of children and families. Our society needs more Upstanders. We need more leaders who are committed to service, committed to these important values and ideals whether here in Boston, in this state, in this country and indeed in the world. Our hope is that you leave here empowered with the knowledge and confidence that you can make a difference—you can inspire a world of good. In fact, you are destined to make this a better world. With the excellent education and the outstanding opportunities you have received, we also hope you leave here with the courage, with passion and the compassion and the commitment to speak truth for what is right and just—it is the way you will inspire a world of good and truly live up to our mission to improve the lives of children and families.
Welcome friends, family, and faculty of Wheelock College supporting the graduating class of 2015. My name is Meghan Sullivan and I am pleased to say today I will be graduating with my Master's in Social Work. It is an honor to be here today celebrating such an accomplishment of so many amazing, inspirational, and dedicated students. Congratulations to everyone on such a great honor and achievement. I feel so blessed and loved in this moment. I have felt so blessed, loved, and valued in every moment leading up to today since entering the world of Wheelock College nearly two years ago.
Maya Angelou once shared, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." In our experiences at Wheelock, how have we been changed? How have we been influenced to make a difference in this world?
When I came to this school I was first challenged with the question that Wheelock asks us am I tough enough? "Sure, I could be," I thought. I had just finished my bachelor's in psychology, I had been working full time at a mental health agency with children and families, and most importantly I had encountered hardships in my life that inspired me to rise above and challenge myself more as a person. So yes. Everyday walking to class seeing the signs asking if I was tough enough, I reminded myself of what brought me to Wheelock every single day and that I was tough enough to brave the darkness of society and live my life for others, to learn from experiences of others in the classroom, and allow them to inspire me and grow as a person and a professional.
Every person in this room has lived through various experiences that brought them to wanting to be tough enough to inspire a world of good at Wheelock College in Boston Massachusetts. Reflect in your experiences at Wheelock College. In our time at Wheelock College we have met people in the classroom, teachers and students, from all walks of life. We have been inspired by their stories, their values, and the work they do in the world everyday. We come from Canada, Trinidad, Cape Verde, Bermuda, the Netherlands, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Cape Cod, and Boston. We have survived sexual assault, cancer, and the loss of family members over the course of our journey. We have continued to show up in class and generously share our experiences to further intensify the learning.
Every class we learned something new about ourselves. Every class we were inspired, and every class we pushed ourselves be tough enough. I am proud to say I am and will be tough enough to leave this school today and face a world that needs us, graduates of Wheelock College to be tough enough to face society's challenge and support the lives of children and families surrounding us.
During my time at Wheelock College I have been given amazing experiences through placements at a mental health agency doing in home therapy, and most recently at a domestic violence agency working as an advocate. I have been changed for the better because of my time at Wheelock College. I forever will be grateful for this experience, and all of the experiences that have brought me to cross the stage today and receive such an honor. I am blessed to have been able to learn and live my passion at the same time. I am nervous and excited to continue to live my passion with my Master's Degree. I have learned from Wheelock to be open to others, to understand, empathize, love, express honor, and support.
So class of 2015, I ask you to continue to see those signs as you walk to work, walk through your homes. Are you tough enough? Yes. You are tough enough, you will be tough enough, and the families and children that you serve will be changed because of you and the difference you make in their lives and will continue to make throughout the rest of your journeys wherever they may be. Reflect on your experience here, take it with you and remind yourself of what an accomplishment this is today. I am inspired by each one of you and your dedication and love to be tough enough to support children and families.
Reflecting back on what Maya Angelou stated and integrating it into our Wheelock experience, today we are forever changed for the better. How we feel in this moment: strong, proud, intelligent and hopeful is a feeling to be embraced and marked in our memories and hearts. Because of this experience, we will continue being tough enough serving the lives of the children and families we will continue to work with throughout our journeys.
Wheelock College, and the class of 2015, families, faculty, teachers, thank you for this amazing experience that has taught us so much about ourselves personally and professionally. Congratulations to all of you, and good luck in all your future endeavors.
"Lucy Wheelock knew that you can't really do something important, something lasting, something to change the world in less than 30 years."
"Frances Perkins accomplished everything she set out to do as Secretary of Labor, everything that she mentioned to FDR when he offered her the job, everything except National Health Insurance...Social Security was her idea. It would never have become law without her. Frances Perkins was not a lawyer but she solved the puzzle of the constitutionality of Social Security, something none of the lawyers in the Roosevelt Administration figured out.
"When Medicare and Medicaid were eventually enacted, it was done simply as an amendment to the Social Security Act. And when Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act was legislated, President Obama based it on Frances Perkins's novel use of the taxing power. So in any real accounting of who gets credit for what, every federal health care program was built on a foundation laid by Frances Perkins.
"She built monuments that live after her, but none of them bear her name. So, when you're in a discussion about Medicare or ObamaCare, you should feel free once in a while to call them PerkinsCare."
"[The K.I.N.D campaign has] delivered about 150,000 desks so far, and each one seats two students....If we keep up the pace we've been going at, it will take us 70 years to get desks for every student in Malawi. And that's just Malawi, which is one of the smaller African countries. That work is going to be there longer than I will be able to do the work, which is why I like talking to young people. We need that project to keep going."
"Maybe, just maybe ... in the back of one of those classrooms right now struggling to see his teacher is Africa's next Nelson Mandela or a future Bill Gates or a future Nobel Prize winning scientist. And maybe by lifting that child off the floor, by giving her what will feel like a throne and the surge of empowerment that could come from that, maybe by giving children their own little stage from which to perform, maybe by giving students their dignity, maybe simply by giving a student eye contact with a teacher ... that classroom miracle can happen that transforms an unreachable student into a great student. And that great student could go on to do great things."
"I want to be the first to thank you for your service. Don't ever expect to be thanked enough."
On this very special Commencement day, I am reminded of the incredible legacy of our amazing founder, Miss Lucy Wheelock. You, our graduates, are the proud torchbearers of the vision and legacy of Lucy Wheelock and what a legacy we inherited. Miss Wheelock epitomized all that we aspire for you: A courageous, principled, hardworking professional. She was an idealistic, visionary, and passionate leader.
Miss Wheelock was a strong advocate for children and families, and most important a compassionate, caring and sensitive human being who lived a life of integrity and authenticity. Yes, Miss Wheelock's life work serves as a wonderful role model for all of us even this many, many decades later.
I extend a warm welcome to the families of our graduates. I know that you share in our pride and joy in the accomplishments of our graduates. We are most grateful and privileged to have been a part of your family members' life for the past few years. The entire Wheelock community shares in your pride and happiness on this very special day.
To our remarkable faculty and staff, we than you and applaud you for the many ways in which you have helped prepare our graduates for continued excellent in their professional careers. We know that you are the reason our students selected Wheelock College in pursuit of their professional goals.
In 1918, Lucy Wheelock talked about education and the spirit of teaching. She said: "We do not disregard technique, or conformity to the best established theories of practice; but we believe that the personality and spirit of the teacher are the greatest assets of this school". Miss Wheelock was indeed correct in 1918 and that statement is correct today in 2014, you our faculty are, indeed, the very best assets of the College and on behalf of our graduates, I Thank You! I know I speak on behalf of our students as I offer to each of you, a heartfelt Thank you!
To our students, Congratulations! You have achieved another important milestone in your quest for excellence in your profession. I know that you all have worked hard and overcome challenges to sit in this theater this afternoon. Many of you have worked full time jobs, cared for children and other family members, and overcome many obstacles and challenges. We commend you and applaud you for all of this and more.
Today we continue a new tradition which began in 2012 of holding two Commencement ceremonies. In addition to making room for our growing number of graduates, we hold two ceremonies to recognize your outstanding accomplishments and the special contributes that you our graduate students will make to the betterment of society, here at home and throughout the world. This morning we celebrated the undergraduate class of 2015 at a moving and inspirational ceremony at Temple Israel. This afternoon we honor you our Master Degree graduates here on campus in this beautiful theater which has served for over 35 years as the home of the Wheelock Family Theatre.
Our 2015 Commencement theme is "Advancing Social Justice and Education around the World." In 1918, our beloved Founder Miss Lucy Wheelock spoke about the purpose of education. She said "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the inalienable right of every American citizen, child and student, as well as the mature individual. But the liberty of the individual and the pursuit of happiness depend on liberty for all and happiness for all. Thousands are dying today to give liberty and happiness to the world. Education is struggling towards the same end. To each of us comes the vision of a free world and a happier world. To each of us comes the sober conviction that the only path to such a goal is the path of self-activity self-sacrifice and self-control and of universal cooperation. This is the vision of our education effort. The Wheelock School has shaped its courses and its methods towards the realization of this vision". Our goal remains the same. We hope that you leave Wheelock as a courageous, passionate and compassionate advocate for a just society.
Our 2015 Commencement theme pays tribute to three exceptional and talented leaders who have lived their lives in pursuit of Miss Wheelock's advice and her vision. We most privileged to bestow Honorary Degrees to Her Excellency Joyce Banda former President of Malawi, Ms. Tiziania Fillippi, early education advocate from Reggio Emilio, Italy, and this afternoon's Commencement speaker, the incredible Lawrence O'Donnell. Each of our honorees has used their remarkable careers to live Lucy Wheelock's vision. We are so pleased that Mr. O'Donnell will deliver the Commencement address this afternoon, and boy are we in for a treat!
You our graduates have demonstrated you commitment to Wheelock's mission and values and to Lucy Wheelock's encouragement to each of us to pursue a path of self-sacrifice, self-control and universal cooperation. I believe by your own personal and professional actions and choices, you have taken a bold and courageous path to advocate on behalf of children and families and in doing so you too have and will continue to inspire a world of good. You live this mission in so many ways and we are thrilled that you will continue this noble work. We wish you the very best in all your endeavors and look forward with great anticipation and appreciation to the contribution you will continue to make.