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President Stanback Stroud Delivers Stirring Commencement Address

Fri, 1 June, 2018 at 3:27 pm

President Regina Stanback Stroud called on students to use their education to take charge of the future. Her full remarks, delivered at Commencement on May 25, 2018, are below:

We all have a lot of celebrating to do—so my goal is to provide you with a few comments that are bold enough to get your attention and short enough to keep your attention. 

You see, I am hoping that there will be many more important milestones like this one in your life…so many that you won’t be able to remember them all…but do remember this:

You chose a wonderful, academically excellent, warm and welcoming college that embraces the diversity of people, languages, religions, perspectives, beliefs and customs of our community. You chose a college that values social justice and understands the importance of academically rigorous and excellent education in making this world a better place. 

Therefore, it isn’t the case that you simply were able to fit in - look at you.  You were able to thrive, to soar.

You are graduating at a time where there are those in some of the highest and most influential/powerful offices of the land who are literally debating what is known to be settled science. 

Many of them are educated but they allow ideology to override their educated selves.  Take care; value the science, the arts, the humanities, the social science that informs your thinking.  Recognize that education and knowledge is about much more than the utilitarian notion of getting a job.  Now do not get me wrong, we all want to be meaningfully employed, but become employed doing what you love and using what you learned to make the world better for all. 

You now have the ability to interrogate, critique, and listen for the creation of knowledge.  Be the person that creates the next driver of human advancement or solves the threats of climate change.  Be the person that develops the economic philosophy that minimizes the disparities and provides for the basic human rights of food, shelter and safety.  Be the person that unlocks the puzzles of so many phenomenon that create or sustain human misery around the globe.

Yes, you are educated.  You have the ability to construct and co-construct knowledge and the ways in which we understand this world. 

We are always building on accomplishments of those before us – contributing to the cumulative human efforts of our time and before.  You can use what you learned in the arts, sciences and humanities and technical fields to think critically and create beautiful things with your hands as well as your minds. 

All of it is part of the cumulative human effort. We all play a small part by participating in what will be known as history.

Moreover, you have the ability to articulate that knowledge in ways that serve you and others.  However, to do so, you have to have a critical consciousness and in this globalized context, some cultural, social and racial literacy. 

I want you to understand and acknowledge the power of language…and, I want you to understand and acknowledge the language of power.  That is what you must remember:
If you are to use your education to make a difference in this world… to make sure that it ever even mattered that you were on this earth in the first place… an intense understanding of the concepts of power and the socio-political underpinnings that impact our realities are a prerequisite not only for your success but for our survival. 

Here is another memorable part…. Look to your left/right… set your eyes on the faculty in all of their regalia… This is what it looks like when you dedicate your life’s work to something other than yourself.  This faculty have given a lifetime of work, commitment, scholarship and service to making sure that you have this moment in time, this moment in your life.   Take a moment to consider the sheer selfless-ness of this type of commitment.

Now close your eyes and imagine all of the little children who are a part of your life.  Your family, neighbors, friends…. You are the embodiment of their hopes and aspirations – you are the embodiment of what is possible for them. That means your success and their future are inextricably linked.  Take them to higher places.

Another thing—you did not get here alone.  You had help and support along the way – from someone…friends, family and strangers.  Now it is time for you to consider helping others.  Start a small scholarship even if it is just 100 bucks to buy a book or class materials for someone coming up behind you.  Pay it forward as you leave us behind.

Remember Skyline College. Think of us as you make career choices. Come back and be the professors and directors, the deans and coordinators, the vice presidents, the public safety personnel and facilities staff, the classified staff and auxiliary staff and even the President that we so desperately appreciate and need in order to stand up here the next year and the next and the next in service to you and those who will follow.

Finally, leave us with this idea in mind. This nation of immigrants is already great because people used their education, no matter what level, formal and informal --- to work hard, to challenge the status quo and stand up to injustice.  People looked at the issues of their times and gave their blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul so many could learn together, live together, walk, talk, eat, play together. 

Moreover, believe it or not, these rights and privileges herein are not set in stone.  If you fail to pay attention and act, you can lose the very thing lives were lost to get – your democracy and the freedoms so many of us take for granted. 

We are witnessing, first hand, what it looks like to deny the humanity of wholesale communities of people based on their immigration status.  In this nation, built by immigrants, great because of immigrants –  Let’s not forget what it looks like when we are kind, and caring, empathetic and compassionate to no end. 

Graduates please stand if you are old enough to vote.  Remain standing if you are registered to vote, remain standing if you voted in the last election. 

Look around, these are the heroes and heroines who are preserving the democracy. 

I’m going to give you a final exam. The great news is that I am going to tell you the answer. The answer is: “Vote.”
  • There are forces right now erecting barriers to make it harder for some groups of people to exercise their rights – but what can you do about it?
  • there are organized efforts to marginalize, oppress, disenfranchise certain groups but what can you do about it?
  • there are structural efforts that create and maintain income disparities that are unbelievable, but what can you do about it?
  • there is racism, sexism, ageism, discrimination based on ability, but what can you do about it?. 
  • there is anti-youth sentiment and anti-intellectualism, but what can you do about it?
  • our justice system is anything but just, but what can you do about it?
  • this wealthiest nation on the planet, people – human beings are homeless and hungry, but what can you do about it?
These seem like intractable problems.  Problems that people say can never be fixed, they are just too big.  But I beg to differ.  You can do something about every one of them.  Many of you can vote. 

Many can -- but many do not.  I am challenging you not to let another election cycle, large or small, 2 year or 4 year go by without you being fully engaged and enfranchised, lest you let others decide for you what is in your and your communities’ best interest.  Now please stand if you commit to using and not wasting your right to vote.

You have received many lessons here at Skyline College. You are educated.  

I hope you recognize this most important lesson.  Stand up and be counted. VOTE! 

I wish you all the success and happiness you deserve. Congratulations Skyline College Class of 2018!