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Graduation thoughts from Servatius

  • July 20, 2006

Jodi ServatiusGood Evening, President Rees, faculty, staff, guests and especially the graduates. It is you I wish to address personally tonight.

Graduates, you have shown that you have brains, organizational skills, motivation and tenacity - even as you have tested the limits of sleep deprivation, your bank account and the number of Hot Pockets which can be reasonably consumed in front of a computer. You have achieved the goal of completing your graduate program. Now it is your turn to make your mark – doing the work that you love.

Exactly 30 years ago, I was in your place. I had completed a multiple subject teaching credential, a single subject teaching credential and the MS degree in educational psychology here at Cal State, and I was in your chair. Like many of you, I was a married, working professional. I had spent six years in graduate school here, almost entirely in night classes, having eaten more than my share of soggy, shrink-wrapped vending machine sandwiches for dinner on class nights.

Unlike you, I had completed the research on my thesis using the library's card catalog and typed it on an IBM Selectirc – for those of you who cannot remember 1976, the major technology controversy of the day was whether BETA or VHS would dominate the world of video recorders.

What I did not know then, what I couldn't have known, and what you cannot yet know for yourself, is what the ensuing 30 years would bring. I didn't know what my professional accomplishments might be. I couldn't have imagined that I would adopt four kids from the Foster Care system. I could never have dreamed I would walk the Great Wall of China, or spend a summer in Paris studying French. I would certainly not have believed I would join the distinguished faculty of this university.

Today, I look out and wonder about your 30-year forecast …
Will you teach 1,000 kids to read?
Will you help a big accounting firm to maintain the highest standards of professional ethics?
Will you become America's poet laureate?
Perhaps you'll create a multimedia game that will help thousands of early Alzheimer's patients to improve their memories.
Will you become the governor of California?
Maybe, as superintendent, you will help turn around a failing school district.
Will you help develop renewable energy technologies?
Will you start a business which will make so much money that 30 years from now there will be a building over there with your name on it?
Will you write a symphony?
Will you manage a wildly successful mutual fund?
Maybe you'll run a Social Services agency that serves the needs of at-risk teens.
Will you create a new-and-improved Internet?
Perhaps you will help find a cure for Parkinson's.
Maybe you'll become a future head of the Federal Reserve.
Will you help hundreds of stroke victims to regain their speech?
Will you create a sculpture in Milan, a store on the Web, or an agency that eventually eradicates AIDS in Africa? Will you tango in Buenos Aires, surf in Kona, learn Italian cooking in Tuscany or help excavate an architectural treasure in Sumatra?  
Where will you be in 30 years?

Mary Olive, one of my favorite poets, tells us, "Happiness isn't a town on a map, or an early arrival or a job well done, but good work ongoing." Good work, ongoing. Can it be that this is the key to happiness? I suggest you ask the happiest people you know. My guess is that they will agree it is.

In another poem called, "What I have Learned so Far", Oliver asks us, "Can one be passionate about he just, the ideal, the sublime and the holy, and yet commit to no labor in its cause? I don't think so." Her admonition is worth our attention: If un your graduate program, you have learned how to make the world a little more just, more peaceful, more beautiful, more healthful or more workable, now is your time to translate that knowledge into action with your leadership. It is there that happiness lies – in that ongoing, good work. You work, absolutely, can change the world. I can' think of any better people to do that job! Congratulations!


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