Building a Door
January 19th, 2009
Sunday, January 11th was not just another graduation ceremony. It was not just a day 6-years in the making, or just the day that I earned my Masters in Fine Arts majoring in Integrated Design from the University of Baltimore. It was not just the day when 6-years of working full-time, starting and running my own business while attending night courses, teaching university level courses while writing my thesis, came to completion.
And I was not just attending my graduation, listening to inspirational speeches, and moving my cap’s tassel from one-side to another. I was one of the people who spoke and tried to inspire an audience of 3,000.
Students and their families have general fears and anxieties over graduating but the state of our economy has heightened these fears and anxieties. I knew that I did not want to speak to state of the economy. I wanted to share a message of hope and opportunity. So I kept the commencement speech positive, I thought of my students who will graduate this year and what message I want them to take with them once they leave the security of the university setting. Below is the commencement speech that I gave.
Thank you to our distinguished guests, we are happy that you have joined us for this occasion.
And a very special thank you to faculty, staff, family, and friends who together have helped those of us who are graduating today to navigate the last few years of our lives and who have helped us to form a foundation on which we will build greatness in the years to come.
I am honored to share the stage with people who have made a positive impact on my life. An impact that runs both wide and deep. People who have drastically altered the course of my life. People at the University of Baltimore who are selfless, encouraging, and supportive.
One of the things I have learned is that I do not believe in luck. I believe that hard work leads to good fortune. That being prepared for opportunity and being ready to embrace it makes you seem lucky to those around you.
Every one of us who are graduating today has worked hard to be here. We have given our resources to continue our education in order to create meaningful opportunities. We are not here today because we are lucky. We are here because we wanted more, more opportunities. We wanted more from life and we were willing to put forth the effort to accomplish this.
Today we should celebrate our accomplishments and ourselves. It is a day of reflection, a day that we remember what we have sacrificed to be here and what we have gained through the process of earning our degrees.
It is a time to recognize that what we have learned goes beyond words we have read in textbooks. Our education has taught us many things. It has taught us to work with other people, to give to others, to learn from others, and to challenge the status quo. It has taught us that we can be more than who we thought we could be.
And now we have a responsibility to take what we have learned and share it with our community. Now we start a new phase in our lives and it is up to us to be prepared for opportunities that present themselves.
As Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
We are all faced with building our own doors, then taking the steps to open the door and cross over the threshold. In life we are faced with a variety of doors that we can walk through. Some are heavy. Really heavy and we cannot open them ourselves. This is when we need to call on our friends and family and let them know our goals. Let them know that we need assistance in opening a door, a door that will lead us on a new journey and bring more opportunity.
We need to remember that most people want to help and by allowing them to help us, we give them the opportunity to feel good about themselves. We allow them to make a positive difference in our lives. And these people should know that when they are standing at a door that seems impossible to open by themselves we will be there to help them open their door of opportunity.
So we need to be prepared to help ourselves, to ask and accept help from our support network, and to help others. Then when opportunity presents itself we are able to embrace it. We are able to take on a new challenge, to engage with new people. To allow ourselves the chance to work hard towards a goal that excites us. We are able to challenge ourselves to connect to life in a new way, to follow a new direction.
We are able to recognize that what we thought we wanted might not be what we really needed and that is OK because we are prepared, prepared for opportunity. Opportunity that will often take us on paths that we could not foresee but are paths that we should journey. We must say yes to this journey. Say yes life. Say yes to the possibilities. We must continue to work hard. Continue to be decent people. Continue to grow, learn, and give.
It is up to us to take what we have learned and apply it to our lives. To recognize when opportunity is knocking. And when it does not, we need to be wiling to take the steps to create our own opportunities. We should remember that change is often scary and that facing the unknown can be a task surrounded by fear. But rather than running away from those things that frighten us, we should embrace the change as something that will expand our field of opportunity.
We must recognize that we are not just lucky.
That we are people who work hard. We are people who desire opportunity. People who prepare for the unknown. Who embrace change, who learn from failure, and who celebrate success.
We work hard at being fortunate.