Graduation Ceremony; BS in Human Services
Honored graduates and guests,
Who could have envisioned an educational partnership between a University in Nebraska and a non-profit agency serving the
developmentally disabled in the predominantly Chassidic Jewish neighborhood of Boro Park, Brooklyn. But here we are!
Despite this unusual affiliation, the university has taught and the students have learned, culminating in this auspicious commencement and celebration.
Thank you Rabbi Pesach Lerner for being the pre-eminent matchmaker between Human Care Services and Bellevue University. Thank you Bellevue University for taking a leap of faith and piloting a bachelor’s program for Human Care. Thank you graduates for your conscientious pursuit of knowledge. We are so proud of your accomplishments.
During commencement season this past June, the New York Times had an article which quoted many words of wisdom from commencement speakers given at various universities across the country. I made a point of saving the article as I figured it would come in handy for today’s occasion. Toni Morrison, a Nobel Prize winning novelist, spoke at Rutgers University in our neighboring state of New Jersey. She chided Thomas Jefferson for using the pursuit of happiness as the third right for every American in conjunction with life and liberty. She believed that a more appropriate right would have been the pursuit of meaningfulness. She understood that happiness is something we all strive to attain and that it informs most of our choices in life yet, it is not good enough. She posited that personal success devoid of meaningfulness and a commitment to social justice leads to a trivial life. It’s looking good instead of doing good. All our graduates are committed to helping the developmentally disabled live the life of their choosing, while living their own lives true to their faith and raising their families. They all look good but most importantly they all do good.
Another commencement speaker of note this past June was Chris Waddell, a champion Paralympics skier, who spoke at the commencement of Middlebury College. He told a most poignant story about going to get his mail from the mailbox at the end of his street. As he parked his car and pulled out his wheel chair, a little girl rode by on her small pink bike with pink streamers on the handlebars. She asked, “What happened to your legs?” He proceeded to tell her about his skiing accident while at college. She asked him, “so you’ll never walk again?” and he responded in the affirmative. As she rode away she proclaimed “that’s too bad.” He wished that he had stopped her to tell her that if he had never had the accident he would never have become a champion Paralympics skier. He never would have turned a hobby into a profession. He would never have met presidents and heads of states and probably would not be a commencement speaker at his alma mater. The little girl only saw the tragedy; she didn’t see the potential gift. Each of our graduates sees the potential in each of the individuals that they support and help.
Our graduates personify a group of women who work tirelessly to support the developmentally disabled even during the current climate of economic recession and decreased funding. This difficult environment only energizes them to look for and highlight the positive attributes of each individual leading to the most qualitative, person centered advocacy possible.
In Jewish tradition when something new and important occurs there is a special blessing that is pronounced. It is the blessing of the Shehechiyanu. This occasion most definitely would qualify.
Esther Lustig LCSW
Human Care Services