Saturday, June 11, 2011

My Speech for the PSU School of Social Work Graduation today

Dear friends, family, colleagues and mentors. I am so excited to be here today to celebrate with you, the end of this amazing adventure. As some of you witnessed on Facebook, I have been counting down the days for a few weeks now. Ok, maybe more like a few months. It wasn’t because I wanted out of class time or to be finished writing papers – well, maybe the paper part. But really, like many of you, I am eager to begin the next great adventure.

Like most of us, I entered this program eager about the possibilities of what was to come. I appreciated the exciting process of grappling with new ideas, trying on theories, and experimenting with who I wanted to be as a social worker. I feel grateful that throughout this experience I was able form relationships that I knew would nourish me personally and professionally for the rest of my life. Yet, during this same exhilarating time of personal growth and development, we experienced the heartbreaking loss of valued members of our social work community.

During the fall of 2008, we lost classmate Katie Nolan. She was a bright passionate woman devoted to grappling with what it meant to be apart of the social work institution while remaining committed to social justice.

Barely a year later, we experienced the tragic deaths of two well loved and respected social work professors. This horrifically unexpected act took the collective breath away from faculty, staff, countless students and the community at large. It left many feeling angry, confused and heart-broken. Yet during both of these very tragic events, something wonderful happened. Our community, together, was able to find hope.
Through the loss, confusion and anger we were able to come together. We were able to remember the goodness intrinsic in each other, create space for healing, offer ourselves authentically to each other as a means of support, and to remain hopeful about what life still had in store for us all. These were powerful experiences. They soften my edges a bit and reaffirmed for me that I had made the right choice in following my path to become a social worker.

As we leave here today and move on to our next adventures, I want to encourage you to remain hopeful. Never forget the unique and powerful compassion that you each possess. And even when the case loads may feel unmanageable, or the policies unjust – remember that we have the ability, as a social work community, to sustain the hopefulness that brought us to this work in the first place. For without hope, we have nothing.

In closing I want to share with you some words by Reverend Mark Belletini. These powerful words have guided my life for many years. Much like us, independently they are simple ideas. But together they create a powerful message of hope.

Live simply, gently, at home in yourselves.
Act justly. Speak justly.
Remember the depth of your own compassion.
Forget not your power in the days of your powerlessness.
Practice forebearance.
Speak the truth, or speak not.
Take good care of yourselves, for you are a good gift.
Crave peace for all people in the world, beginning with yourselves,
and go as you go with the dream of that peace alive in your heart.

Thank you and Congratulations Class of 2011

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