May 08, 2012

Commencement Address - Commissioner Carole Cornelison

Commencement address – Carole Cornelison
Sunday, May 6, 2012

Good morning Wentworth Institute Of Technology

To President Pantic, members of the board of trustees, distinguished members of the Wentworth faculty, administration, parents, and friends -- and most of all good morning and congratulations to the two thousand and twelve graduating class of Wentworth institute. On behalf of our governor, the Honorable Deval Patrick, Lt. Governor Tim Murray and Cabinet Secretary Jay Gonzalez we join in congratulating you all. 

When I let my colleagues in state government know that I would be joining you today, they asked me to be sure and encourage each and every one of you to look to Massachusetts as a great place to begin a career and to put down permanent roots.  We believe that Massachusetts is at the cutting edge of technology and innovation.

We who work for the commonwealth of Massachusetts salute you in your achievement as graduates of this outstanding institution.

I am thrilled and excited that you invited me to deliver the commencement address to you the Wentworth class of 2012!

For me, this is a particularly sweet honor for several reasons.  First, I have the extraordinary privilege of acknowledging and sharing in the celebration of this crowning achievement for each of you graduates.  But it is also important to include that, it is also a proud achievement for your parents, your families, the faculty and other members of the community who have supported you during your tenure as a student here.

Second, it is also a notable honor because this graduating class for the first time in Wentworth’s history includes graduates who have completed a masters in construction management. 

In fact, I'd like to give a special shout out to those of you who have completed this degree -- are you in the house? Let’s hear from you, today, you make Wentworth history.

As commissioner of dcam, the State’s Vertical Construction & Facility Management & Maintenance Agency, I fully expect that many of you will be knocking at my door for a job soon!

I would be remiss without mentioning – and I know that many of the parents will appreciate this – I want to mention that dcam- my agency, has several job postings out right now. The jobs include regional energy planners in Boston and Springfield, mechanical engineers, building maintenance supervisors and we certainly use construction managers… public service has many benefits… not the highest salaries in the field, but you sure get to work at the highest level very early in your career.

And we do noble work in the public sector.  Ladies and gentleman, I love my work as a public servant. And I have the best job of my career. And it’s because the facilities that we at dcam build, maintain, and make more energy efficient are delivery platforms for critical state services that are now more important than ever.

Our state mental and public health hospitals form an important safety net for many of our citizens without other recourse. We’ve just completed building a new hospital in Worcester. Our public higher education facilities often represent the only affordable option for many families. Men and women in our national guard rely on our state military facilities to maintain readiness to be deployed overseas or mobilized to assist with emergencies or disasters here at home.

My work is not just about bricks and mortar. It’s about the people we serve. And you can’t get more satisfaction than that.

Massachusetts public sector employment can be a rich working environment, and keep in mind, of course, that there are ever growing opportunities in Massachusetts in the private sector too.

I know that this point in your lives is the very best time to explore quite a few places in the world, both in this country and abroad  – and I think that any time you do, you’ll enrich your lives – but you are always welcomed at any time to come back to Massachusetts and make it your home.

I know it is traditional to give a few words of advice to emerging graduates, but I also know that there is probably very little in the excitement of today’s celebration that you will remember.  When I think about it, I can’t remember one thing from my undergraduate commencement ceremony with the exception of holding my diploma in my hand.

And who am I to give you advice anyway you might say.  Well, here is a little bit about me: I am 66 years old, grew up in an adoptive household in Ohio. So early on, I found out that someone made a choice to help me.  My adopted family was not well off so, after high school I started college with the help of scholarships and grants. 

I attended grad school funded by fellowships, and along the way had my first child, adopted a second (as a single parent) and then married & had a third. I have two girls and a boy.  My children are all grown and I now have 10 marvelous grandchildren ages 3 to 20 years old—all in various phases of their own life journey.  As a graduate of two fine schools (George Washington University & Cornell University) and having earned two masters’ degrees, I think that I can honestly say that I've learned a few truths from my life’s experience that may be helpful to you as you begin the next phase of your life’s journey.

You are about to venture into a new world that needs, wants and welcomes your talents and contributions and so this is the time for you to begin to consider what you want your personal legacy to be.  What will that d-a-s-h between the year of your birth and the year of your departure from the planet say about you? 

As you begin to consider that legacy, I encourage you to live your life with passion and purpose and stay open to the infinite possibilities that can enhance your life and the lives of all whom you encounter along the way.

There are three questions that I would encourage you to continually ask and consider on your life’s journey:

  1. How does this experience or circumstance help me grow? 
  2. What can I give? And
  3. What can I celebrate?    

In my few minutes with you today, I hope that you remember one thing. As master teacher Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith reminds us….the answer is you!

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Dr. Michael, as he is sometimes called, he is a well-known thought leader and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles, Ca. In the hip hop world he is known to work with such artists as will i. am., Bone, Thugs-N-Harmony, Blaxmyth, Bigg Slice, and others.  You might otherwise have seen Dr. Beckwith on Oprah or his recent PBS special entitled “The Answer Is You.”

He says this: “discovering, activating, expressing and promoting your gifts, talents and skills, attunes you to the law of divine right action."

Basically, Dr. Michael tries to help us understand that each one of us is here on this planet with a purpose – understand and believe that it is on purpose that we’re endowed with tremendous capacities, powers, and qualities within ourselves.  And so, all that we really need is within us and it is up to us to get in touch with and activate our gifts.

So how do you grow in a world where often all you hear about is lack and limitation, conflict, and negativity? 

You can grow by keeping an open mind and an open heart.  Avoid becoming idea fixed in a way that shuts you off from opportunities and expanding your awareness. 

Be open and be flexible.  Not all career paths are linear; yours may not be a traditional one. However, it can still be incredibly productive, valuable and well serve your personal growth.  In fact it may allow you to have rich adventures that add zest as well as value to your life. 

In thinking about my talk with you today, it naturally gave me pause to think about my own career road—sometimes smooth, sometimes rocky, but always interesting, expansive and life affirming. 

So I began listing my various jobs over the past 40 years – just to take stock. While I have not been a butcher, baker or candlestick maker, I have been:  a college instructor of history; tax commissioner; community organizer; neighborhood development coordinator; executive director of a girls club; researcher and writer; grant manager and fundraiser; affordable housing developer; executive director of a trade association; town manager; of all things -- a call center rep for a mortgage company; I've been a financial feasibility consultant for major US airports; a housing official for a major city; superintendent of state office buildings for ma and now commissioner for the division of capital asset management. Phew.

And by the way I know that many of the parents out there can relate to odd jobs that aren’t on our resumes that we get involved with just to pay for music lessons, college and to keep the roof over our heads.

I believe I experienced the good, the bad and the ugly...but ultimately I realize that it was all good. It was all good because every day at work I draw on something from those experiences to help me manage the 300 people in my agency, overcome problems and achieve the goals set by the governor as we serve the public.

I had no idea what life opportunities would be presented to me and how they would impact my growth….but I stayed open to the opportunities. And the result is I believe that I have had an incredibly rich and full life. 

Your ability to go forth boldly where no one has gone before experientially requires that you free yourself from acting out of worry, doubt and fear.  Iyanla Vanzant in her book Acts Of Faith, Daily Meditations for People of Color gives some good advice when she writes:

And I quote “I surround myself with people who are good for me… don’t hang out with people who are where you don’t want to be. You won’t find support for your goals among people who whine and complain. You must know and believe that there are people waiting for you in places you want to be. They will nurture, support and encourage you to keep it moving.”

Every experience whether we label it bad or good, positive or negative has a purpose designed for your growth and expression.

Fantastic changes are happening on the planet.  Consider for a moment all of the changes that have taken place both here in the us and globally in the short 4 years since you came to Wentworth as a freshman in 2008. 

Between 2008 and 2012, America elected its first African American president; one year prior, by the way, Massachusetts elected its first African American governor; in the past four years, we have experienced dramatic climatic changes; there have been epic natural disasters such as the Haitian earthquake, and the Japanese tsunami affecting the lives of millions; there have been numerous unseasonal hurricanes and tornadoes in this country;

And in the business world 3 iterations of the iPad have been released; there are now more than 500 million people on Facebook and people in Egypt, Libya and now Syria are changing the political and social landscape at the intersection of social media and technology.

We are now truly a part of a global village and as Gov. Patrick says, “there is profound work to be done.”  Our global village needs your help and creativity to solve our biggest challenges from curing aids to ending hunger to stopping youth violence to taking us to a clean energy future and finding lasting global peace. 

None of these problems can be solved by quick fixes or microwave solutions.  They all require resolute determination, sustained focus, commitment and concentration.

Approach your journey from this time on with the confidence that your successes over the past four years at Wentworth – are only the tip of the iceberg for what you can ultimately achieve.  The answer is you.

Second, always look for opportunities to give—give of your time, talent and treasure as often as you can.  I have worked over the course of my lifetime and continue to serve on the boards of many nonprofit organizations from which I have gained valuable experience and leadership opportunities. 

I have gained insights into financial management, residential construction, youth programming, community development, and more. These opportunities help you to figure out who you are and why you’re here. You are wise to engage the community and contribute your talents.

Though my time is certainly limited, I currently serve on the board of three local agencies:  Casa Esperanza; Victory Programs And Youthbuild.  All three are engaged in the vitally important job of human development and they all need volunteers like you. 

In addition, I am an active member of my church board and I mentor several young women.

You have much more power than you might realize. Part of your journey is to unleash it in constructive ways. 

So..continue to ask yourself how you will grow in every life circumstance of your journey, continue to ask yourself how you can give to the global community and finally don’t forget to ask yourself what can you celebrate! 

This is really all about an attitude of gratitude and acknowledging your life and the lives of others. Take the time to count the blessings in your life. Make it a part of your daily exercise to run a mental list of all of the things you have to be thankful for. 

Your personal prosperity is a direct result of your ability to be thankful.  

In conclusion, I am deeply grateful for the honorary degree bestowed on me today from this institution; I'll hold it dear as one of my most valued gifts. I am so appreciative to you all from the bottom of my heart. Cheers to the class of 2012 – I'm so impressed with you. Congratulations and thank you one and all! 

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