Graduation Speech Essay

Pages: 5 (1609 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies

Graduation Speech

Why should I or anyone else care about the education of African-American women? Are we of African-American heritage actually any different from anyone else? Well my answer is yes. I have spent many years contemplating the issue of what my personal role is in society. Having grown up aware of the impact that gender, race, and class on a person's psyche, I know that self-awareness is the key towards overcoming all obstacles.

As I stand here before you today, I am proud to tell you about who I am and where I come from, in the hopes that you will recognize that my dreams, hopes, and ambitions actually transcend race, class, and gender. When I was five years old, my grandmother told me stories that haunt me until this day. I believe that she told me these stories because she knew that they would make an impact on me. My grandmother operated a store and was relatively successful in her community. She gave to charity and helped anyone in need. Yet on a deeper level of understanding, she knew that my sharing her childhood tales with me that I would be able to take that knowledge to a new level. She, and her grandmother before her, experienced the darkest side of human nature you and I could ever imagine.

Growing up relatively poor, grandma had no knowledge of what she could be or become as a human being. Her creative spirit would be channeled into telling her grandchildren stories and occasionally embellishing them just so we would keep interest. And she overcame. She transcended the limitations of her race, class, and gender to become a powerful human being. I honor my grandmother because she represents the heart and soul of African-American culture. This is essentially why I believe that race and ethnicity and gender and social class and all the other environmental factors that make us who we are as human beings -- matter. It does matter whether or not African-American girls grow up to believe that they can aspire to be the next president of the United States, or president of a pharmaceutical company, or president of a technology corporation.

Why does it matter? Because we have now seven billion people on this planet as of a month ago. And among those seven million people, too many are poor and disenfranchised human beings. Too many of our world citizens grow up knowing that if they eat, they are successful. Too many of the citizens of the world will never be able to realize their creative potential because they are too busy fending off disease or hauling wood and water.

My grandmother's penchant for storytelling is a gift that few human beings have, but she was never recognized as a great communicator. When I see what people rise to the surface in terms of political, economic, or social power, I realize that it is access to education and related tools of self-development that can make or break a human being. This is why education is important. Education gives students the tools with which to communicate effectively with other human beings. With an advanced education, I have the frames of reference with which to discuss matters of foreign policy, of art history, and of architecture.

When I was a young girl, I recognized the power of education. To me, education is not confined to the boundaries of school. Far beyond those walls, we African-American women educated ourselves by communicating with members of our family and community, by reading books that speak to us, and by listening to music that speaks the language of our soul. I used to visit art galleries as a child, and I remember the feeling that would come over me when 'I set aside all preconceived notions of what knowledge constituted. According to my teachers, knowledge equaled the score on my test. I knew better. I scored well on my tests, but I always felt there was far more to life than filling in bubbles with a No. 2 lead pencil.

That was when my real life work began. I started my own talk show, because talking is one of the things I do best. Calling my show "Closer to my Dreams," I got air time on WGIV, 103.3 FM. The purpose of my show? To empower young people -- teenagers, mostly -- to recognize and reach for their dreams. This was one of the biggest steps in my life. Not only did I overcome the fear of speaking out in public, but I also recognized that I had tremendous power to help shape and change my community. The young boys and girls that called in to the show, and the speakers who were guests on the show, all converged on key points-of-view. Even though some of us were from vastly different backgrounds, we all shared in common a love for humanity and an unwavering sense of optimism.

The organization Youth Empowerment Solutions (the acronym spells YES!) is a nonprofit group that also advocates for youth in the local community. When I heard of YES! I immediately signed up to be a volunteer. There are a surprisingly few number of charitable organizations that recognize the contributions or potential contributions of teenagers and young people. I believe that we have sorely neglected young voices in our cultures and this is one of the reason for some of our deepest and most serious social ills. From gang violence to mass shootings, young Americans are unable to channel their creative energies in healthy ways. The schools are failing us. We need to empower our youth rather than dismiss teenagers as unworthy, immature, uneducated voices. Many teenagers are wise beyond their years.

James Baldwin said, "It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person." Although I have not yet reached the pinnacle of my educational attainment, I am dedicated to lifelong learning. My learning entails far more than scoring well on tests. I feel that a recognition of what my ancestors brought to the table will help me learn better, learn more, and grow on a personal level. More importantly, my acknowledgement of my background and culture helps me to make a difference in the world by helping others like me.

So why should I care about helping African-American women achieve their dreams? Because I am an African-American woman. I may be young. I may be idealistic. I may be bold and brash, and many other things that go along with being born with a name like Precious. But with all these things, I have a dream that I intend to fulfill in my lifetime.

That dream is to inspire young African-American women. This is no small dream. We might have our first bi-racial president but we African-American women have yet to see permanent and irreversible social, political, and economic changes in our communities. Our communities are still besieged by poverty, held hostage by broken dreams and lost hope. And a root cause of the problem is a lack of access to quality education.

Both men and women in my community understand that the road to success is sometimes so steep and so rocky that few will have the ability to succeed. I view the obstacles in our way as structural and infrastructural problems that can be changed with transformations in attitude and personal belief. Those shifts in attitude and personal belief lead to new voting habits, new consumer habits, and ultimately, in new political leaders and public policies.

Modern educators have a distinct role to play in making our society more truly egalitarian. I may choose to enter the field of education. Or I may choose to enter a public policy analysis field. Regardless of the specific road I may take,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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