Today was commencement at our college, as for many colleges in the Boston area. It is such a momentous occasion for the students and their parents. I have been at this college for 9 years now, so I have seen these students evolve from the first days of being an applicant for admission to the day they launch into the next phase of their lives. For some that means staying at our college for the masters degree program, but for most it means looking for jobs, moving home, going to college again somewhere else.
Our speaker was Marian Heard, currently the President and CEO of Oxen Hill Partners, a leadership development company. She also used to be the director of the United Way here in Boston. She gave a great speech, both moving and short. Short is key to any commencement speech if you ask me. One of the things she focused on was thanking the people who supported you and sacrificed so that you the student could get to this moment. She also challenged the students to be on the path of progress. One that leads to the next step, the next phase of their lives, and to strive not for perfection, but for progress.
I always reflect on my own parents and their role in my evolution through college. My father's side of the family has gone to college for many generations. My great grandfather was a doctor in the late 1800's and early 1900's. That side of my family has been in this country since the late 1700's. My mother's side of the family is more recent to this country, with my grandfather being the first generation on his side of the family being born here, and my grandmother came over from England when she was 4 years old. My father holds a master's degree in Aerospace Engineering, but my mother did not finish college. She started, but then met my dad, got married and started a family.
What is interesting to me is that I never think of my mother as uneducated. I have learned so much from both of my parents, but from my mother I learned things that you can't really learn in school. She is the ultimate problem solver. We were that family that owned a set of encyclopedia, and a set of of nature encyclopedia, as well as several dictionaries. If we were eating dinner and one of us would say something like "Where do dragonflies come from" my mother would say "Let's look it up" and we would spend the next 30 minutes discovering the life cycle of the dragonfly, or how cheese is made or who the Anabaptist's are. Now we might use Google search and Wikipedia to find these things out. I learned from my mother how to diagnose what is wrong with things before calling for back up or say something is broken. Which may explain why people are always asking me how to unjam the copier. Or when a baby bird was dislodged from its nest when they took an air conditioner out of window in the building one time, they called on me to figure out what to do about it. I relocated it under a bush nearby. I don't know ultimately what happened to it.
I appreciate that when I wanted to study psychology my parents supported me. My dad wanted me to study "a real science" or at least business, but I persisted and while I have never been a therapist, I feel on a daily basis that education has served me in my current job. My parents sacrificed for me to attend college. My dad said "you get four years on me" and while a private education cost much less then than it does now, it was a sacrifice.
So I am taking this opportunity to publicly thank my parents for all of their support, for the sacrifices, for the problem solving chromosome and for a love of learning. I can only hope I continue on my path of progress, continuing to grow and learn and evolve in ways that make them proud and leave this world a little bit better for my having been here.