On Friday, Jennifer called in to tell Dr. Laura about how she recently graduated as Valedictorian with a BA in pre-law. In her speech, she shares the wisdom she learned from Dr. Laura with her classmates and talks about how she made school work around her children and not the other way around. Read her speech below.
Good afternoon faculty, family, friends, and fellow graduates. When I got the call from Dr. Johnson informing me that I was the Accelerated Degree Program valedictorian, I cried. Not just because I was overcome with emotion, but because she told me I would have to give a 5-minute speech in front of thousands of people. I told her I don’t do well at public speaking because I get too emotional! Plus, it’s intimidating to figure out what to say for 5… whole… minutes, but then I thought, knowing me, I could factor in 4 ½ minutes for incoherent crying, meaning I would really only have to speak for about 30 seconds. I knew even I could do that.
As you are all aware, this very special day precedes another very special day that is near and dear to my heart…Mother’s Day. As the mother of two extraordinary young men, I asked myself, “What could I offer these young graduates getting ready to embark on life for the first time as truly independent adults?”, because as someone twice your age, and then some, I’ve acquired a lot of wisdom over the years. So as a mother, I’d like to offer you some advice that will help you in life. Now, if you’re anything like my kids, you won’t listen either, but if I’m anything like your mother, I’m going to tell you anyway. And even if you are a more seasoned graduate, like me, I offer you these words of encouragement as you continue your journey.
In asking my children what lessons I had taught them over the years that they found to be most valuable, they gave me several responses, the most prevailing of which was this…be persistent and determined in achieving your goals. Ten years ago, when I first stepped foot on a college campus to begin the journey that has ended with me standing before you today, I was 39 years old. In that time, I have moved twice, nursed my children through three surgeries, renovated a home, gone through a divorce, lost my father, and faced countless other challenges, all the while remaining a present mother to my children. I still cooked their meals, did their laundry, chauffeured them around, and watched their football games and track meets.
I spent many nights working on school work until 3 a.m. and was frequently unable to participate in events with my friends because I simply didn’t have the time. My education was my future and after waiting 22 years to get it, I wanted to prove to myself that I could not only succeed but excel. My goal was to graduate summa cum laude. I not only achieved it, I exceeded it because I was persistent and determined. There were times when I feared I would fail, like when I had to learn how to do legal research or how to do proper legal citations. There were several challenges that I thought would jeopardize my 4.0 average, but they didn’t, because I refused to let them beat me. The tougher the challenge, the more determined I became, and my payoff came every time I finished a class and was one step closer to reaching my goal.
I would not have been successful, however, without professors who were ready and willing to offer help, feedback, and encouragement. I will never forget a conversation I had with my Legal Ethics Professor, David Smith, who spent an hour on the phone with me one day teaching me how to do legal citations. I’d called him for help because I knew without it, I would never get an A in his class. He told me, “I don’t give A’s, you have to earn them, and I almost never give A’s.” I finished that class with a 97.8 and I can tell you, it was one of the most satisfying A’s I’ve ever earned.
There is also still somewhat of a stigma in people’s perceptions of online learning. My children thought it was funny to tease me that I went to Laptop University whose mascot was a mouse. While they are, in reality, my biggest advocates, I did have a lawyer condescendingly tell me several years ago that I would NEVER get accepted to law school with a degree that I had earned online. That sufficiently scared me enough to motivate me to call the law schools in my area and speak to the admissions departments. They all assured me that that lawyer was wrong, and I wish that he could see me standing here today. Tell me I can’t do something, and I will prove to you that I can. Be persistent and determined in achieving your goals. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give up.
I would like to take this opportunity to offer my gratitude to several people whose help and support meant a lot to me. Thank you to the many wonderful professors I have encountered here at Post, but especially Professor Marjorie Carson, Professor David Smith, and Professor Stephanie Dionne. The best professors are the ones that challenge you and make you want to rise to the occasion. I want to thank Dr. Johnson, and everyone involved in me receiving the honor of being valedictorian. I am truly humbled. Thank you, Tim O’Connor, for surprising me with spirit wear so that when people asked me where I went to school I could proudly show them I was a Post University Eagle. Finally, thank you to my boys, Daniel and Joshua, for your love, support, and encouragement over all these years. While today is a huge victory for me, you two will always be my greatest achievements.
Congratulations Class of 2018! We did it!