The reality is, I didn’t even want to write this speech. I felt it was just another assignment out of the many thousands I had done before; and, yet another way to waste my time (and cramp my fingers in the process). I contemplated not even doing the assignment but, I couldn’t help but be intrigued with a school asking me to write a graduation speech before I’d even begun a single course. I’d been to many schools and none assumed I’d graduate…. it was different. In a way, it made me proud. So, a few hours before the assignment was due I settled down and decided to write this speech.
And today, you’re forced to listen…that was supposed to make you laugh, so if you didn’t somebody put a laugh track here now. I was the girl who had all the brains, all the creativity, and the drive to go and get it. I was supposed to have graduated three times over by now and this should have been my second or third PhD according to my 15 year old self. But life, and financial aid, have a way of taking you off course. So here I stand today, thirty something and getting my very first degree. You know what, for a long time I was ashamed of that it took me so long to get this …but today, I am proud because this signals how I refused to give up.
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And that’s what it’s really about in this life. You don’t have to run my race, just as I don’t have to run yours so we shouldn’t compete to finish above one another, rather we should run the race in such a way to ensure we all finish. Because the more of us who finish, the more we can pave the way for others to run after us and too finish their race. We need more of us to reach back and help others who have become disgruntled with the lack of resources available for them to continue their education and provide for their families!
We need to reach back and grab hold of our fellow brothers and sisters, no matter the race and begin to stand up and say education is a freedom that should be afforded to all and not the select few. This is what America was ideally built on, but it’s not often the reality we see. Why should this be important to any of you? You’ve gotten your degree and now it’s time for you to build your dream world and get that fabulous job and enjoy this amazing life! You could do that. In fact, you have every right to do just that. But what good would it do for the world?
What’s the benefit of going through all of this – studying, student loans, final exams and mid-term blues just so you can make a comfortable life for yourself? Will you walk out that door thinking only of your corporate, political, law, medical, or other career and the advancement of your family; or will you take a moment and remember the road you took to get here and how you can also help someone else? There were many people who passed me by in this race. Many who saw me struggling in the race and gave up and left me behind; but there were those few, who came along, saw me struggling and lifted me up to help me continue the race.
They saw the potential and realized the benefit of the entire nation if one more person succeeded rather than allowing her to fail. This made a difference in my life and you can make a difference in the lives of so many others who are just like me, just like you. You have the unique opportunity to use your personal experience and the education learned here to impact the lives of our family, friends, and individuals you don’t even know. People you’ve never even met, you can help them with their race simply by giving your time, talent and interest to someone who desires to sit where you sit today. The question is, will you?