Sunday, May 18, 2008

Commencement


Thank you all so much for the kind comments you have left over the last several days. I think the nicest people in the world must read my blog.

The George Washington University graduation was spectacular on many fronts, but not the least was that 10 members of Sara's family were together in the front two rows of the crowd of 22,000.

The picture on the left is from the school's website

Below is the speech given by Sara Ray on May 18, 2008.

As a junior in high school, my mother told me that my best memories of college would be of staying up late with friends solving the world’s problems over leftover pizza. At the time, I thought that sounded like a pretty dim forecast of college. Now, however, six years later, I will very publicly admit that my mother, on THIS point, was correct. Today, I’d like to talk to you about this sentiment, how it relates to my experience at GW and how it assures me that the real world is nothing for us to fear.

First of all, I’d like to thank the remainder of my class for the faith you’ve given me in our generation. For years, people our age have been typecast as apathetic, selfish, close-minded and lacking a social conscience. Our late night discussions, arguments and strategizing over pizza boxes are what have convinced me unfailingly that this characterization is false. In our lives, we’ve seen our environment fade, politics divide our country and we’ve all seen friends sent overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. Our generation is not one that can afford to be passive and, over our years at GW, we have learned to incorporate that mindset into our studies, friendships and lives. We argue into the wee hours of the morning about what candidate will save our nation, we learn Arabic and Chinese and we innovate with administrators to make our corner of the earth at GW a more ecologically friendly one. Now, as seniors, I am humbled and amazed at the sheer number of my phenomenally qualified peers foregoing lucrative careers to go into the Peace Corps or Teach for America. Our social conscience is alive, and it’s pulsing.

Each one of us has a unique story, a different path through our university poising us to go different places to do different things. I came to GW wanting to be a physics major, a dream that lasted precisely one calculus class. It wasn’t my crushing failures in calculus that convinced me I wasn’t a physicist. Rather, it was the feeling I got when talking about language and culture and its role in building bridges between cultures with my peers that convinced me I was an anthropologist. Interning full time, unpaid with the State Department gave me a passion for education as a mechanism for foreign relations and a dispassion for office jobs. Working on Colonial Cabinet 2006 showed me how much I loved working as a part of a highly energized team. Those experiences now imprinted in my personal history, they’ve led me to the future of my dreams: going to Macedonia for two years to teach English with the Peace Corps.

Every one of us could tell a similar story. Each one of us has an issue or a cause that, no matter what the hour, ignites the deepest passion within us. And I believe many of us have realized that our true calling in life is to address that issue with action. Some of you are holding the solution to the medical crises that plague the planet. A remarkable number of you have been grabbed by the pressing need to help alleviate inequality in our domestic education system. Over four years, I’ve heard many visions of the ideal president and I am not doubtful that he or she sits somewhere in front of me today.

This is the last time that our paths are convergent. A ten-person trip to a restaurant will never again be as simple as a few phone calls and text messages. To this end, I’d like to give credit to my father on being correct when he told me that I would meet people in college who would remain my friends forever. Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2008, there’s nothing for us to be afraid of. In the past four years, we have honed in on the passions that drive us and found the people who will always hold us up. No matter where you go or what you do, you have found people, sitting with you somewhere here today, that will be there at your wedding, baby shower, bachelor party, retirement party and, if all goes well, will be there wreaking havoc in the nursing home right by your side.

Today is graduation. We are graduating from sitting with friends talking over pizza about how to make the world a better place. Today, everyone, is commencement. It is the beginning. We are graduating from talk and commencing to action to leave this world a better place than we found it. Take the lessons you’ve learned, the friendships you’ve forged, get out into the world and let’s make it work.

18 comments:

Thomas F. Ryan said...

Beth,

You must be very proud. What a speech! What a daughter. What a mother.

Weather Boy said...

"Make it work." Tim Gunn and Sara Ray are two of my favorite visionaries! Great speech.

rach :) said...

We are all very proud of you, Sara. Truly well done, on all fronts: great speech, great plan for your future, and a nice touch of acknowledging both your parents were right publicly. I always sensed you were aware of what matters most in life!

Beth said...

Thank you, Tom. She's a keeper.

Weather boy--Sara read that comment and laughed asking who you were--good catch on the reference? Do you actually watch Project Runway?

Rach, thanks. I'm in a hotel and glad to know that the house is still standing!

Jayne said...

Standing ovation!!!! BRAVO Sara! I know you all were simply beaming with pride.

LHHig said...

Beth I know you're proud. That goes without saying but I'm also proud even though Sara and I have never met.
Good luck in life Sara Ray!

SJ said...

I had no idea that Sara would be a Project Runway fan! She is always surprising me. What a wonderful way to put little Dixfield, Maine on the map yet again my Sara

beckie said...

Oh Beth, how proud you and C must be of this incredibly talented and passionate young woman. She will be a credit to what ever she does and wherever she goes. Praises to her and praises to the both of you for having given her the guidance and support to allow her to become such a fine human being!

TheElementary said...

This is marvellous. I especially liked Sara's closing paragraph. Very warm and hopeful for the future. That's the very best that parents can hope for and it looks like you did a super job, Beth.
What a proud day. This is a speech that everybody- not just students- just hear and read.
I'm definitely going to get Spouse to read this :)

Beth said...

Jayne, thank you so much.

Louis, you'd like her she's got the Higgins spunk

SJ, thanks for all you've meant to her--I think it's ok for smart girls to like Project Runway, don't you?

Beckie, we are very proud. C is her stepfather but still mighty proud.

The Elementary, Thank you--share it as much as you wish!

rach :) said...

Smart girls, and boys, can like Runway and hold their heads high. We are regular (and almost religious!) viewers.

KGMom said...

Beth--I am new here (I came upon a comment of yours at Jayne's).
So, I looked at your profile--interest include Africa (me too, grew up there); books liked--Don't Let's go to the dogs (read it, loved it--I grew up in the country she write about).
Then I came to your blog. Daughter went to school in DC--me too (mine went to Georgetown). Too too many things on the same path--so I will be back.
CONGRATS of Sara--finishing her college, sharing her passion for life, being commencement speaker--and most of all for her wonderful thoughtful speech. I loved it and could almost hear her giving it (without knowing what her voice sounds like, of course).

chamberpot said...

"lets make it work" I Love It!
I hope that your next adventures bring you happiness. I'm proud to a small part of where you are from.

Mary said...

Beth,

If I were there, I'd be on my feet. Sara is a remarkable young woman! I'm speechless.

Life has pulled me away from reading blogs for a long time, but in the back of my mind, I remembered that Sara is graduating.

Beth, you must be a remarkable person to have raised such a talented little girl. Always your little girl...And her father's girl, too.

She spoke honestly. Wow.

What a gift.

Hugs,
Mary

Beth said...

KGMom, thank you for your nice comment, we do have a lot in common--I've been reading your blog for quite a while and enjoy it very much.

Chamberpot, thank you for your kind words

Mary, thank you so much. It is hard to keep up with blogs when the weather is nice and outdoors is calling, you are very sweet to have remembered that Sara was graduating. By the way, I loved the baby bluebirds on your blog yesterday.

Nan - said...

Beautiful, wonderful. Gives one hope for the world. I like her cheerful outlook, much like her mother's, I think.

Beth said...

How proud are you ?
What a wonderful speech that was and how great of you to share it with us !

With my oldest being a junior in college, this gave me goosebumps !

Oh, the future...it's there even if we're not ready...but your daughter sounds amazing...and ready !

andrea_frets said...

Congratulations on raising such an insightful intelligent daughter. I'm sure you are so proud.