To the Graduating Class of 2013,
First of all: gratitude. Thank you for selecting me for the award of Cultural Diversity Professor of the Year. Your class has a special place in my heart, as we both came into Cal Lutheran together: you were my first students in Religion 100, and you bore with me as I got my bearings as a green-from-graduate-school professor. I’ve followed your paths on this campus with keen fondness, and congratulate you with my whole heart on all of your accomplishments.
Second: an apology. I’m sorry we couldn’t graduate you into a better world. Glance at the newspaper and you find too many stories of men committing evil acts out of their own parochial perspectives, and in deep self-centeredness. Our economy still struggles to provide opportunity for our neighbors, particularly those who are already the least privileged among us. From time to time Nature seems to show her indifference at our sufferings and blends saltwater into our wounded world.
But we’re in this together, we so-called leaders for a global society. What we’ve done here at Cal Lutheran is equip you with knowledge and skills to engage this world. Engage it, not save it, is all we ask you to do in return.
Sometime in the future, maybe even really soon, you’ll stumble across an opportunity to engage. It may be in the boardroom—when a million dollar deal is on the line—or in the lunchroom—where off-the-cuff conversations take place.
Don’t let yourself and those around you settle for surface-level analysis. Take questions deeper. Find the need in the community where you live, and rally your neighbors to help out in some small way. Stand up for someone who’s being stigmatized. Volunteer. Start a movement. Vote. Care.
Just take that one opportunity to engage the world. And maybe the next one. And the next one after that.
What I’m asking you to do is to take the mantle of global leadership by doing nothing more than being your self, your best self, your deepest self, your most prepared self.
The world will call. Clear your throat and answer confidently.
Finally: congratulations! I salute you and your networks of friends, family, and partners who provide a web of care so you can fall gently and rise valorously.
Your accomplishments at CLU will reverberate for decades, even as our campus continues to improve and grow.
On it, we all look forward to following your unfolding careers. Visit us from time to time and clue us in on what’s going on out there.
Keep in touch (@RahuldeepGill)!
Your fan and ally,
Rahuldeep Singh Gill, Ph.D.
Department of Religion Director-Elect,
Center for Equality and Justice