Jennifer Wiggins-Kent Commencement

Good afternoon:

My name is Jennifer. Like those of you sitting out there in those uncomfortable chairs, I am graduating today just like the rest of you. Four years ago, even 3 weeks ago, I never considered or imagined in my wildest dreams, that I would be giving a commencement speech to a remarkably supportive group of educators and staff at Central Washington University, a highly capable student body and those loyal families and friends sitting in the auditorium waiting to celebrate and share today with you when this ceremony is over. I am so honored to be among all of you who worked so hard, tirelessly, and I do mean without sleep, quarter after quarter until today.

I am here graduating from Central Washington University because I somehow had the time and the opportunity on my side. It was not necessarily given to me, no silver platter, but yet it was something that other women and men in our community and our society did not have and may never have.

I am accepting my diploma on behalf of my mother, who passed away last year, and, my grandmother who died long, long ago. In spite of the fact that they were both very capable, intelligent, hard-working women, graduating from high school was not an option for my grandmother, who worked from a very young age in a woolen mill in Pennsylvania. As for my mother, she was empowered by my grandmother to make sure that she graduated from high school, although college for her was not an option.

As for those of you anxiously awaiting to take your place on this stage to be handed your diploma, before leaving here today and going forward in life, very proud of your accomplishment, consider this day as a marker---not as an end, but a beginning. This day is a preview of what you can attain with hard work and commitment.  As future opportunities come your way, think back to this day and the lessons you have learned and the knowledge and experience you have gained. It is those same lessons, knowledge and experience that will carry you forward for the rest of your life, enabling you to avail yourself of the many opportunities that will come your way, opportunities that would not otherwise be given to you or to those less fortunate than you and I.

As you venture out with the memory of this day with you, empowered as I hope you are, be mindful of who you are and what you want or don’t want. Take a personal inventory from time to time, get to know yourself, who you are, what you want and don’t want, look inside. It’s easy to get lost outside the safety of this environment. Life is fast, faster in every respect than ever before. It has an overwhelming tendency to divert our real aspirations and goals; it can lead us down the wrong path if we aren’t paying attention. Reach out to your friends, family, and the classmates you have come to know.  They are the support system that will help you to remain grounded as you go forward in good times and bad.

So, be true to yourself and others. Be conscientious, pay attention, and empower others to do the same. Remember this “walk” and know you can recreate it again and again in another fashion, in another place and time.