Remarks from Cordelia Brady, Undergraduate Student Representative

Class of 2013 Convocation

Good morning and welcome. Class of 2013, congratulations. To our family and friends, faculty, administration, and honored guests, thank you for being here today for these Silver School commencement exercises and for all your support throughout our time here as students. My name is Cordelia Brady and it is my privilege to speak on behalf of the 47 undergraduate students, sitting in this cluster over here. To each and everyone of you, I’d like to express my sincerest gratitude. It has been an honor to learn alongside you and I wish you all the very best.

Despite laboring for weeks over more formal remarks, I’d like to simply share a story with you, which I think speaks to what we’ve learned here at Silver.

Last week I was on a train coming home from a visit for Mother’s Day. I’ll admit that, even though I love people, I was hopeful I would find an empty two-person seat so I could sit by myself. Once I did find one, I sat down and gazed out the window. Done with field work, done with finals. All I had to do on this journey was relax and day-dream, pondering the important things like: what it would be like to win an Oscar, or what is Oprah doing at this exact moment, and of course the old standby, what will I look on my wedding day? Alas, I was not alone for long, and at our first stop a woman of about my age asked to sit beside me.

The moment she sat down I knew something was wrong. She was speaking on her cell phone while quietly crying/weeping. Like any good social work student, I listened intently to her phone conversation. From what I could garner, a close family member had died suddenly and she was racing back to New York to be with her family.

While listening, I felt two very distinct emotions: the first was a genuine disappointment that she happened to sit next to me, but the second was a profound sense of empathy for what she was experiencing. I also knew that because of what I was about to do next, my would be peaceful train ride had the potential to become far more serious.

As she ended the call, I could feel all of you there with me, arms crossed, nodding assurances. I took a deep breath turned my body towards her, and softly told her my name. I asked her if she wanted me to move somewhere else so she could have more privacy, but also mentioned that if she didn’t mind me staying, I was happy to. I was not uncomfortable, and she should feel free to do or say anything during our ride together.

Well, you know how that went. I spent the next several hours engulfed in her life story, and the layered complexities of her journey home. I could practically recite her family’s genogram from memory for you all now! For non-social workers, that’s a just a very detailed family tree.

But my point is this:

I believe the experience holds various metaphors for social work. In so many ways, for so many of us, social work wasn’t necessarily a course of study or profession we chose. In many ways and for many reasons, it just chose us. But the choice becomes ours when we are faced daily with the decision whether or not to keep that metaphorical seat beside us open. To understand and to believe that every person we come across, be it professionally or otherwise, is worthy of being known, and learned from and supported.

We know it’s not always easy, in fact it can be very difficult, but today Silver congratulates us for our decision to dedicate our lives to that choice no matter when or where it presents itself.

Thank you.

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