Thank you Father McShane, Fordham University, Dean McPhee, the Graduate School of Social Service, staff, faculty and administration, friends, family, loved ones, people who supported us during higher levels of anxiety – midterms, finals and the first 20 seconds of registration, and to you, my fellow graduates. Welcome to the largest termination session I hope to ever be a part of!
In the beginning, years ago, when we applied to Fordham, we had to write our statements of purpose. I want you to think back and remember yours, your reasons for wanting to become a social worker, life stories about transitions, growing pains of fortitude or people whose spirits you carry with you. I hope you still believe in what or whom you wrote about, and that you feel more empowered by the lessons you learned and supported by the relationships you built during your time here.
Take a look around. Revel in this experience: the crowd, the joy and excitement of this moment. As we continue to transition from students to social workers beyond the holding environment of Fordham GSS and the bidirectional learning with inspiring professors, field instructors or clients. As we potentially face unknown adversity in the process and pursuit of progress, remember the compassion, resilience, and support that brought us here and filled this room. Know that they believe in what we believe in, that in all honesty, Humanity is the best policy. And the struggle may be real, but so is progress towards a better outcome.
Remember to take with you your stories of progress in your pursuit. Like when your entire class applauded you for patiently teaching a man to read Green Eggs and Ham. Or when a group of interns engaged 6th graders to collaborate and problem solve by using methods of research and presenting their findings in a school-wide assembly. Or that time you advocated to be seen and heard by calling out a flaw in the system via email over winter break, and a Dean engaged in the conversation because he heard you. YES! Clinicians! Researchers! Advocates! Love what you do. Reflect on how it gets done, and treasure why we do it.
When I was selected to give this invocation, I excitedly confided in one of my professors. She told me she looked forward to hearing my prayer. Her words, as usual, prompted some self-reflection, a little bit of anxiety and a lot of Googling. Because the Fordham GSS student body consists of followers of different faiths, I decided not to explicitly call on a higher being, but instead, I would like to acknowledge our being here for a higher calling.
Please let me implore you, my fellow graduates, to honor your self-selection into this profession and to continue to dedicate yourselves and your service…
To the love we have all lost, and the love we still have left to give;
To the dark isolating corners of our minds, and our undying courage to live;
To the promise and pursuit of progress towards a better outcome, and for whom we made it;
To the moments we stop acting like Goliath and start thinking like David;
To bearing witness to the tragedies of everyday life that seem to keep getting sadder;
To changing the discourse by advocating with questions like, “How can we collaboratively prove that ALL lives matter?”;
To our human spirit, sometimes bent uncomfortably, but never truly broken;
To the power of connectivity – sitting, breathing, listening – and communication unspoken;
To the wealth of humbling content from life stories that we will be privileged to see;
And to the bittersweet process of accepting who we are while becoming who we can potentially be.
Thank you again for sitting with us. Thank you for breathing with us. Thank you for listening. Congratulations Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service Class of 2015! Thank you for your service, your passion, your commitment and inspiration. And without further ado, my fellow social workers, welcome to graduation!
Christine Igarta, MSW
Graduate School of Social Service
May 17, 2015 Commencement Invocation